Monday, February 27, 2006

Despair in Bru IDP camps in India

From 2-4 January 2006, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights, Mr Suhas Chakma visited the Bru Internally Displaced Persons’ camps under Kanchanpur Sub-Division of Tripura State of India. More than five months have elapsed since the members of the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) surrendered on 25 July 2005 pursuant to the 10-point Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the BNLF and the Mizoram government on 26 April 2005. But not a single internally displaced Bru from Mizoram has yet been repatriated. The return of the Brus, also known as the Reangs, appears to have ended with the return of 273 Brus consisting of the BNLF cadres and their family members.
About 30,000 Brus fled from Mizoram State of India to Tripura to escape from a campaign of terror against them by members of the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (Mizo Students Union) and Young Mizo Association (YMA). From 15 October 1997 onwards, Reangs from Tungbagin, Kawnmun, Pheileng, Laxmicheraa, Kwartha, Rangdil, Fileng and Tuipuibari areas of Aizwal district of Mizoram fled to neighbouring States to escape from persecution and repression by the MZP activists. It was reported that sixteen people were killed and twenty women were gang-raped in the initial terrorizing campaign. The Mizoram Police remained mute witness as the MZP activists torched the Reang villages and committed these atrocities. The Mizoram Police reportedly also participated in the mass evictions of the Reangs.
Since then they have been housed in six relief camps under Kanchanpur Sub-Division of Tripura. Despite the directions of National Human Rights Commission of India in October 1999, Mizoram government refused to take back the Reangs.
The YMA and MZP systematically used voter list to identify the Reangs as outsiders. On the direction of the Election Commission of India, many were enrolled in the voter list. However, only 1733 out of 2406 voters in Kawrthah and 971 out of the total 1240 voters in Phuldungsei constituencies could cast their votes through postal ballots in the bye-elections held on 10 December 2005 as the YMA and MZP members physically prevented them from exercising their constitutional rights.
I. Failure of the MoU
After 13th rounds of talks, the BNLF and state government of Mizoram signed the MoU. It was clear from the opinions of the displaced Brus that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Mizoram government and BNLF has failed to resolve the Bru insurgency. It does not address the problems of displaced Brus who constitute the overwhelming majority of the Brus of Mizoram. It only attempts to rehabilitate the BNLF cadres.
There is no general amnesty for those living in the camps, guarantees for security, compensation for the properties lost and/or damaged, restoration of the lands to the original owners, and proper and adequate rehabilitation of the displaced Brus within a specific time frame. Nothing reflects more acutely the repressive policies of the Mizoram government than the murder of Hulendra Reang in August 2005 by Mizoram Police after entering into Tripura.
The MoU of 26 April 2005 does not mention specific number of Bru refugees in the Tripura camps to be returned or time frame for their repatriation. Rather, the MoU provides for the identification of the so called genuine Brus by the State government of Mizoram. It is nothing but a ploy not to take back majority of the displaced Brus and exposes Mizoram government's tacit support to the Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP) and Young Mizo Association (YMA) which first systematically deleted the Brus from the voter lists and then uprooted them from their hearts and homes.
The Brus are unlikely to be included in the voter lists on their return. There is no rule of law or due process of law as Mizoram government often abdicates its responsibility to the non-State actors like YMA and MZP to delete the minorities in the State from the voter list.
Yet, the government of India announced a Rs 28 crore package for the rehabilitation of Brus. It was unwise to declare the package without specifying the time frame for the return of the Brus from Tripura and the package for each family. Since the Mizoram government refuses to take back all the Brus, are we to presume that Mizoram government will take back all of them or is it a case that Central government has already accepted the number of Brus to be repatriated? Unless the displaced Brus are rehabilitated, new-armed opposition group such as the Bru Liberation Front of Mizoram (BLFM) will emerge.
II. Despair in the relief camps
During the visit to the relief camps under Kanchanpur sub-division in North Tripura from 2-4 January 2006, Asian Centre for Human Rights found the conditions of over 34,000 displaced Brus in the camps in North Tripura as sub-human. It is clear that Tripura government does not believe in "Athithi Deva Bhava".
The daily cash dole of Rs 2.90 i.e. Rs 87/- per month given to each adult Bru is extremely discriminatory considering that displaced Kashmiri pandits from Jammu and Kashmir are provided Rs 800/- per month.
Since 2001, the new-born babies have been included only in the census but not in the relief cards to make them eligible for food items. Those who have become adult in the last five years continue to be given rations as minor. In any case, the ration of 450 grams of rice is so inadequate that displaced Brus do not even report death as it means further reduction of the rations being provided. Although officials claimed that dal and coconut oil are being provided, it was a news to the Brus.
Medical facilities are non-existent and the expenditures of the State government do not show medical expenses. Doctors have allegedly not visited the relief camps from six months to one and half year now. Only when the death of the Brus takes epidemic proportion, the doctors visit the camps. The conditions of children and pregnant women are the worst. As there are no primary health care centers, pregnant women are forced to deliver at the relief camps. Maternity death is quite high and as are also the common diseases.
Most tube wells are out of order. The Brus are forced to drink water from the streams and ponds, thereby causing water-born diseases. Sanitation facilities are non-existent.
The Tripura government has made a mockery of the right to education, as it has not provided any educational facilities to the children in the camps. Even the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (Education for All) has not been extended to the Bru relief camps. Effectively, over 5,000 minors have been denied the right to education and an entire generation of the Brus has been kept illiterate in the last eight years. The policy of the Tripura government on denying the right to education to the Brus is no less condemnable than the practices of the Mizoram government.
III. Conclusion
There is no doubt that Reangs have been displaced essentially because of the xenophobic reaction. The refusal of the State government of Mizoram has also exposes negative sides of federalism where a State can allow non-State actors to perpetrate essentially a racist and ethnic cleansing programme and question bonafide of the victims.
As regard to the IDP camp conditions, India seriously needs a policy to improve the deplorable conditions of the conflict-induced displaced persons.
Hindustan Times, October 22, 2005 Saturday
New Delhi, Oct. 22 -- Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) today deplored continuing senseless killings of the Dimashas and Karbis in Assam.
About 88 persons have been killed till Friday, hundreds of houses gutted and about 20,000 people internally displaced who are desperate need for food, medicine, drinking water and physical security.
"Indiscriminate killings of the civilians and burning down of villages both by the Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) and United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) violate the basic principles of international humanitarian law standards and constitute crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court. Nothing can justify the killing of innocent civilians,"said Suhas Chakma, the Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.
"The issue is not only ensuring respect for cease-fire ground rules or disarming the armed groups as stressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs but also identifying the culprits responsible for the killings and leaders who have been organizing the carnage, and prosecuting them for crimes against humanity. Unless the culprits are brought to justice, such wanton killings will recur and the North East will become akin to the Great Lakes region of Africa," Chakma added.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights urged the Union Home Ministry and theState government of Assam to immediately provide humanitarian assistance tothe displaced Dimashas and Karbis at par with assistance given to the KashmiriPandits and ensure adequate security by deploying adequate security forceswithout any further delay.
Brus Bid Farewell To Arms, But What About IDPs?
Meera Sundar,Financial Times Information
The Mizoram government can finally heave a sigh of relief with the conclusion of a critical stage of a decade-long problem in the Mizo capital of Aizawl recently. It is not just about one more pact in Mizoram. It is the outcome of protracted negotiations between the state government and the Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) for over four years in which 12 rounds of talks finally culminated in a solution agreeable to both sides: the rebels surrendered their arms and ammunition at Tuipuibari Transit Camp in western Mizoram. The BNLF, headed by its president Surjaya Moni Reang and general secretary Solomon Prophul Ushoy, had formally laid down arms, consisting of AK-47s, M-16s and SL rifles, a small batch of nine weapons with more than 600 rounds of ammunition.At least 195 Bru National Liberation Front (BNLF) cadres and their families totalling 285 people were transported from the Naisingpara camp in Tripura in 30pick-ups and 10 medium trucks with police escort. The camp, now called Sidan Transit Camp, has 42 houses to accommodate all these families. Electricity, water supply and other household facilities have been provided. Senior doctors have conducted medical check-ups of the rebels on their arrival at the camp. Mizoram home minister Tawnluia declared that the state government would take all steps to accelerate the pace of development in the western belt of Mizoram covering Bru (also known as Reangs) settlements. A special development project will be implemented, depending upon the quantum of financial assistance received from the Centre, he said. Earlier, during the visit by Union home minister Shivraj Patil, it was announced that the Centre would provide Rs 28 crore for the rehabilitation of the rebels. But now an even bigger task confronts the state government, after the paper work of the peace accord: the repatriation process of the BNLF displaced, driven out by the Mizos in 1997 and who took refuge in neighbouring Tripura. The main difference between Tripura and Mizoram is over the number of Bru refugees, who had been displaced from their homes and villages. The Mizo government says 17,000 Brus had left for Tripura in 1977 (as internally displaced people or IDPs), while Tripura says some 33,000 people were sheltered in six north Tripura camps. In addition, there was no time frame for repatriation proposed in the peace accord between the Mizoram government and BNLF, signed in April. Already, the powerful NGOs in the state have sent astrong message to the state government that proper identification of Brus ofMizo origin from those in the Tripura camps should be prioritised. These groups also asserted that the 1995 voters list should be used to identify whether ornot the person was a Mizoram resident. But officials here say that the government would take effective steps to take back the bona fide residents ofMizoram and a special development project will be implemented, depending upon the size of the financial assistance from the Centre. The BNLF, floated in 1997,had demanded a separate autonomous district council for the Brus carved out from the northwestern parts of the state. After local tension, following the deathof a Mizo forest officer in the hands of Brus, many Bru families left forTripura in October 1997. Other Brus joined them later in 1998, swelling their numbers, and they were treated as refugees by Tripura and the Government of India and lodged in six different camps. Camp life was hard for the Brus despite Central assistance and resentment finally took the shape of the militant uprising, although the number of armed cadres and arms, as noted earlier, was small. But it was a blow to the Mizoram government, which had prided itself on establishing the most peaceful state in India after the end of the Mizo insurgency in 1986. Some church leaders were approached to act as intermediaries between the government and the BNLF. In its memorandum of 18 April 2001 to the Mizoram government, the BNLF again demanded the creation of an autonomous district council under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and listed another nine demands. In the first meeting, Mizoram government representatives’ rejected the demand for a separate autonomous district council. This was replaced with the demand for a regional council. Another meeting in 2002, where the demands were further toned down, also failed. (The author is a freelance journalist based in Mizoram.)

Umma not adequate for migrants in Malaysia

ACHR REVIEW, Embargoed for: 22 February 2006, Review: 113/06,
The recovery of dead bodies of five migrant workers from a lake in Selayang area of Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur from 11 to 13 February 2006 following a raid by the immigration officials belonging to the notorious "RELA," Malaysia's controversial baton-wielding volunteer reserve, once again exposes continuing gross violations of the rights of the migrant workers in Malaysia. Two of the five dead bodies were recovered from the lake - a flooded open cast-mining pit late on 11 February 2006 and the rest three on 12 and 13 February 2006.
According to eyewitnesses, in the early hours of 11 February 2006, the immigration department conducted a raid. The officers jumped from their trucks and headed for Selayang's large open market where many of the migrants work. Seeing the "Rela" personnel arrive, Hamzan Ali Abdullah, a Burmese Muslim migrant worker, who works in the market, ran away and hid behind the undergrowth near the lake. As he hid he heard screams and cries of migrant workers for "help". He could not see the Rela officers due to the darkness but he had heard them speaking in Malay, "Yes, there were, there were. Come out come out, if you run away we will kill you."
The Malaysian government disputed suggestions that anybody died during the raid or as a result of the raid. It issued a statement rejecting the migrants' account of events stating, "At 2 am on 11 February 2006 Rela carried out an operation to check documents of foreign workers in the open market at Selayang. Nothing serious happened and the operation went smoothly. However, many illegal immigrants were seen running away."
Autopsy on four dead bodies was conducted on 13 February 2006. One of the dead bodies identified to be of Zaw Oo, a Burmese migrant, was not taken to hospital and was buried quickly instead. While the bodies showed no signs of stab or slash wounds, a doctor said the bodies were too badly decomposed to be able to tell whether they had been beaten with batons, such as those carried by Rela volunteers.
The latest death of migrant workers is not an isolated incident of atrocities against migrant workers by the immigration authorities in Malaysia. There have been consistent reports of torture and other abuses against the migrant workers periodically which have been facilitated by country's legal and administrative system. The Immigration Act of Malaysia allows indefinite detention pending deportation. Undocumented persons in Malaysia irrespective of whether they are alleged illegal migrant workers or asylum seekers can face up to a five-year jail sentence, a RM10,000 (US$2,600) fine and six strokes of the cane under the Immigration Act, which was amended in 2002. About 75% of the prisoners in Malaysia are foreigners. About 18,000 illegal migrant workers were whipped in 2003.
The intensity of abuses against the undocumented migrant workers and the lack of training, command and accountability of the RELA and other immigration officials have been clearly proven by the case of illegal detention of a Malaysian citizen, 23-year-old Mohd Nazri Harris from Johor at the temporary detention centre for illegal immigrants for about two months since 23 September 2005 by the Immigration Department. Mr. Harris' illegal detention came to the notice of the authorities only after the daily Borneo Post carried his story. He was released on 18 November 2005 only after Suhakam Commissioner Prof Datuk Hamdan Adnan intervened after his meeting with Mr. Nazri Harris on his visit to the centre on 17 November 2005 to investigate a rioting incident a day earlier. Although previously Nazri had produced his birth certificate to show that he is from Kota Tinggi, Johor, immigration officers refused to let him go.
Atrocities against the migrant workers were perpetrated even when the amnesty was operative during November 2004 to February 2005. The "Operation Tegas" which was launched from 1 March 2005 targeted only undocumented migrant workers and not employers or recruiting agents. Many employers, especially the contractors in the construction industry, in the small and medium industries and employers of domestic workers do not renew the work permits and thus the labourers become undocumented. If workers, especially domestic workers, decide to run away to escape from abuse and violence they have their work permits cancelled and thus become undocumented. The Immigration Department refuses to issue legal documents to migrants with pending court cases. The workers are only issued special passes for a maximum of three months, though it takes at least six months to settle a case through the court process. During the period of hearing, they are not allowed to have new work permit and remain under threat of arrest and imprisonment. They too become undocumented migrants.
Asian Centre for Human Rights has maintained that the crackdown is unlikely to address the problem of illegal migrants in Malaysia unless it addresses the primary concern - the willingness of many Malaysian employers to break the law and employ foreign staff without work permits. In November 2005, Home Affairs Minister Datuk Azmi Khalid stated that only four out of 128 pending cases of employers charged with hiring illegal immigrants had been dealt with since 2003.
Malaysia needs foreign workers and around 11% of their workforces are foreigners. However, Malaysia's policy has been influenced by "Umma" or Islamic brotherhood rather than the rule of law. In February 2005, Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Azmi Khalid announced that Rohingyas would, in addition to having been recognised as refugees, be permitted to work in Malaysia and be given job-related training for that purpose. He also said that the Rohingya children would be provided with education. But over twenty Rohingya refugees were deported to Burma in 2005. Malaysia also allowed 131 Thai Muslims, who fled from Narathiwat province of Southern Thailand in August 2005 to stay in the country but their refugee status was caught in the diplomatic standoff between Bangkok and Kualampur.
So long Malaysia does not develop laws based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination in conformity with international human rights standards for protection of migrant workers, "Umma" is inadequate and the rights of the vulnerable migrant workers will be trampled upon. The recovery of dead bodies of five migrant workers from a lake in Selayang area of Malaysia's capital city of Kuala Lumpur is a clear testimony.
Malaysia's mystery migrant deaths
Jonathan Kent, BBC News, Kuala Lumpur,
Walk along the streets of Selayang, a suburb of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, and the phone shops tell you everything you need to know about the population. The shops sell discount international phone cards, posting the rates to Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam. Selayang is an area where the capital's migrant workers live, legally and illegally. For years Malaysia has been trying to contain a burgeoning number of illegal migrant workers.
In late 2004 it declared an amnesty allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants - mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines - to leave before launching a major operation to deport the rest in March last year. But illegal immigrants still make up a large population - hundreds of thousands of people, according to estimates - and the economy depends heavily on foreign workers. And they live largely anonymously, so anonymously that when five bodies were dragged out of a small lake in Selayang this week it did not merit a single mention in the media. Exactly how the five died is unclear. There are conflicting accounts from migrants living in the area and from the authorities.
But what is known is that in the early hours of last Saturday, 11 February, an immigration raid took place. The officers jumped from their trucks and made for Selayang's large open market, where many of the migrants work. Mohammad Shaiku, a Burmese with a work permit, was working that night. "I was inside the market," he said. "The police arrived after two that night and rounded up people. And after that some people ran off to the lake and after that I think the police beat them." I asked him whether it was the regular police, polis biasa, who carried out the raid, or Rela, Malaysia's controversial baton-wielding volunteer reserve, which was mobilised last March to tackle the immigration issue. "Rela," he said. "Rela, Rela." The use of Rela has been criticised by Western human rights groups who say its members are not properly trained or supervised.
Hamzan Ali Abdullah was another Burmese Muslim working at the market. I asked him whether he had seen the authorities arrive. "Yes we did see them and we had to run and hide very, very quickly," he said. He ran out the back of the market, through a nearby street and across the road to a lake - a flooded open cast-mining pit - about five minutes away at a jog. There he says he hid in the undergrowth and the dark. And through the blackness he heard screams. "We heard they were crying in their own languages, and some in Burmese crying 'help help'." He could not see the Rela officers in the darkness so I asked whether he had heard them speaking Malay. "Yes, there were, there were," he said. "The police were shouting: 'Come out come out, if you run away we will kill you'. "Those caught in their hands were beaten by two or three policemen. They treated them like cattle. Their voices were very haughty and arrogant. Their voices were like soldiers and policemen." The first of the bodies was found later that day.
Malaysia's Interior Ministry has said that police have confirmed the discovery of two bodies. But according to several local witnesses, five bodies were dragged from the lake over the days that followed. One was that of 29-year-old Thant Zaw Oo, the uncle of Mohammad Shaiku's wife. Mr Mohammad said the body showed signs of having been beaten. "It was half in the water and I saw his teeth, his two front teeth were missing". Black blood [was visible] in his mouth and on wounds on his head and neck, Mr Mohammad said.
Government denial
Other workers at the market also said Rela volunteers appeared angry and had chased migrants towards the lake. They produced pictures of Zaw Oo's funeral and of another dead man, who they said was a Sikh, being pulled from the water.“Nothing serious happened and the operation went smoothly” Malaysian government on the Rela crackdown Kuala Lumpur Hospital confirmed that four bodies had been taken there from the lake in Selayang. Zaw Oo's body was not taken to hospital, being buried quickly instead. While they showed no signs of stab or slash wounds, a doctor said the bodies were too badly decomposed to be able to tell whether they had been beaten with batons, such as those carried by Rela volunteers. Malaysia's Interior Ministry firmly disputes suggestions anybody died during the raid. It issued a statement rejecting the migrants' account of events.
"At 2am on 11 February Rela carried out an operation to check documents of foreign workers in the open market at Selayang," it said. "Nothing serious happened and the operation went smoothly. However many illegal immigrants were seen running away." The ministry statement referred to two bodies on which post mortems had been carried out and which it said exonerated the Rela team. "Based on the post mortem report made on 13 February 2006 the deaths occurred about three to five days previously, meaning on 10 February at the latest, proving that these deaths have nothing to do with the Rela operation on 11 February," the statement said. Human rights groups say the controversy about the incident shows that the government should not be using semi-trained Rela volunteers for such tasks. "Malaysia should withdraw this authorisation and reserve immigration enforcement for trained government authorities," Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued from New York. Amnesty International [AI] in London wanted to see tighter controls. "AI continues to have grave concerns about the training, command and control supervision, and accountability of Rela "volunteers" and Immigration Department officers," it said. Malaysia's civil liberties groups have taken a similar line.
Off the record, government sources said that Selayang was an area notorious for both organised crime and for gang warfare between rival foreign gangs. The same sources have suggested that the five may have been victims of such clashes - which does not seem to square with the Interior Ministry's statement that post mortem results showed no sign of any violence. None of which leaves anyone any clearer about why five bodies turned up in a short space of time in a small lake on the fringes of the capital. Still, Malaysians are certainly worried about crime and blame much of it on foreign workers. The economy may rely on them but there is limited tolerance for immigrants, illegal or even legal. And five foreigners can turn up dead in one small area and it does not merit a single mention anywhere in the Malaysian press. Nor did reports widely circulated last year that two migrants died after being struck by a Rela truck, also in Selayang. From time to time there the deaths of migrants workers does make the news, but it is written small, on the inside pages.

Politics of Rehabilitation

Source: IPCS Pakistan Alert, Article no.18; 2005
Seema Sridhar in her article "Earthquake in NWFP: Politics of Rehabilitation" highlights the exacerbated plight of the NWFP in Pakistan as it braves nature and an apathetic administration after the 8 October earthquake. Seema is a Research Officer at IPCS.
The 8 October earthquake has charted a new course in improving the cooperation between regional actors. It has implications not only for the Indo-Pak bilateral relations, but also for inter-provincial relations in Pakistan. The North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan has a history of alienation and lopsided development. It has been severely affected by the disaster. A section feels that the province received secondary treatment in terms of rehabilitation efforts. What measures are the provincial and federal government taking for relief and rehabilitation in NWFP? Are there any implications for the future of federal-provincial relations in this context?
Abbottabad, Manshera, Battagram and Kohistan are the worst affected areas in NWFP. According to government figures reveal that over 10,000 have lost their lives, with more than 15,000 injured and over 2,00,000 people rendered homeless. However, the opposition and the international organizations contest these figures. Towns like Balakot, Alie, Garhi Habib Ullah and Batal are the worst affected with more than 50 per cent of material damages. Children in particular are the most vulnerable; 93 per cent of the educational institutions are destroyed. Several volunteer groups played a key role in rescue and relief when both the provincial and federal governments were initially paralysed after the quake. The local administration and army formations are coordinating relief efforts with army helicopters surveying quake-hit areas in order to assess damage and identify areas that have been inaccessible. However, coordination with elected representatives has proved to be tougher. The provincial assembly indulged in irrelevant discussions during the crucial debate on how to tackle the catastrophe by focusing on Major-General Shaukat Sultan having breakfast at the time of the quake during Ramzan. The ruthless cold weather in Kaghan, Patan, Batgram and the neighbouring locations has hindered relief operations. Political groups like the MMA vociferously opposed the NWFP Chief Minister attending the National Security Council meeting specially convened to discuss quake rehabilitation. This only reiterates how parties have tried to put relief measures on the backburner for scoring political points.
The provincial discontent over the federal government was apparent when the NWFP Assembly unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the latter transfer all foreign and domestic donations to the former for relief work. The Assembly, in its resolution also asked the federal government to write off outstanding loans against people in the earthquake-hit areas. The federal government released Rs 500 mn and has pledged an additional Rs 1000 mn for the dead and wounded in NWFP. The provincial government has projected Rs 20 bn to build new homes and Rs 12 bn towards infrastructural reconstruction.
Many foreign rescue teams operating in NWFP include WHO, UNICEP, and teams from Iran, Jordan, China, Poland, Philippines, France and Italy. Substantial aid has been provided by the US, the World Bank and other foreign donors, but it has not reached the people in the province. Though the services of local, national and international NGOs, donor countries and common people are being lauded for their humanitarian work, the indolent attitude of the federal government has been condemned. Frustration over being marginalized in comparison to the relief efforts in Azad Kashmir and Northern areas has been quietly building up as international media attention has also been more focused on the latter area owing to the region's obvious strategic importance as a conflict area. The implications for the ongoing Indo-Pak peace process vis-à-vis movement along and across the Line of Control (LoC) and cooperation in relief operations has concentrated international attention mostly on Kashmir, though all affected regions have been facing similar obstacles.
A Provincial Disaster Management Cell has been set up to regulate relief activities in health sector in the earthquake-hit areas of the province. To get a fair share for the province is a crucial task and politicization of this key aspect could only make the inter-provincial divide in Pakistan sharper. The frontier province has been fighting for its share in the National Finance Commission (NFC) award for financial allocation, Indus River System Authority IRSA) for water distribution among other things. The federal government needs to wake up to this call and make use of this opportunity to win over the confidence of the frontier people with timely and equitable relief allocation. Disaster management needs to rise above provincial politics and apathy towards the province.

USCRI Anti-Warehousing Campaign

Merrill Smith, Editor,
World Refugee Survey,
U. S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
1. Egyptian Rights Groups Call for Investigation of Refugee Massacre
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), along with more than 44 opposition and independent Members of Parliament, other civic groups, and former UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Adel Imam, called for an investigation into the pre-dawn police riot December 30 that left some 30 or more Sudanese demonstrators dead, half of them children, which the government rejected. The UNHCR itself, however, which had reportedly called for the authorities to disperse the refugees, has not joined in. The Government still holds nearly 500 of the demonstrators in detention, although it has backed away from earlier threats to deport them. A government spokesman said UNHCR would have three months to review the cases of the remaining detainees. Police in Yemen broke up a similar demonstration earlier in the month, killing at least one.
Many of the refugees were seeking third country resettlement—an option available to less than one-half of one percent of the world’s refugees—but those in Yemen also asked UNHCR to register them so that they would be allowed to work and to send their children to school and those in Egypt sought refugee status determinations which UNHCR had ceased in 2004. Egypt and Yemen are both parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention but neither has implemented it with legislation. EOHR called upon the legislature to pass such legislation and to amend the restrictive 2003 employment law that makes it virtually impossible for refugees to get work permits.
2. Thailand to Educate Refugees; Might Allow Work
Thailand’s education ministry decided in mid-December to provide education including Thai, English, and vocational skills, to 140,000 refugees from Myanmar confined to the country’s nine camps along the western border beginning in 2006. The Thai office of the Non-formal Education Commission will also provide computers, textbooks, and TV. Until now, vocational training has been restricted to activities such as candle- and soap-making, weaving, sewing, and agricultural projects.According to UNHCR. This new Thai initiative may also help with prospects of employment for refugees as they wait for the situation to improve in Myanmar and return home. Currently, refugees are not allowed to work in Thailand, which is a source of frustration for an energetic refugee population. However, as government is now reconsidering this policy, refugees with Thai language and vocational skills would be able to contribute to the growth of the Thai economy should working restrictions be eased.
3. “Abuse without end: Burmese refugee women and children at risk of trafficking”
Excerpts from the January 6, 2006 report from the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children:
Refugee camps are referred to as "temporary shelters" although many refugees, such as the ethnic Karens and Karennis, have been warehoused in border camps for decades. The majority of Burmese who have not been designated as refugees under that narrow interpretation are deemed "illegal" by the Thai government, regardless of the person's reason for entering Thailand. …
Regardless of their status, moreover, the vast majority of Burmese residing in Thailand have extremely limited means to support themselves and their families. … They live in fear of detection by the Thai authorities, not only because they are vulnerable to deportation back to Burma but also because the authorities will often exploit their lack of status to extort bribes from them.
Refugees who live in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border also face specific risks. … [Thai policy] requires prior written approval to enter or leave the camps, people leave surreptitiously to work on nearby farms for less than the wages paid to Thais; many simply abandon the camps permanently to seek relatively better wage labour in urban or semi-urban areas. Refugees who leave the camps are vulnerable to arrest, harassment, extortion and trafficking.
Forced into an underground existence by their lack of status and precarious living conditions, Burmese in Thailand are at strong risk of being trafficked. …
[T]he fear of deportation haunts people living without status. Even workers who were registered for employment with the Thai government stated that some employers held on to their registration cards despite Thai law stating the workers must keep the card with them at all times. … [T]he capacity to report abuses they experience is an inseparable issue from their insecure status in Thailand. …
The long-term stay of refugees in camps exposes an at-risk population to further exploitation… Traffickers take advantage of the lack of viable income generation options for refugees in the camps.
4. Unregistered refugees, untapped potential in Kenya
Dann Okoth and Maore Ithula’s “The pains and gains of hosting refugees” ran in the January 8, 2006 Standard. Excerpts:
The presumption is that every refugee involved in business in Kenya is registered and therefore liable to pay taxes — but this may not necessarily be so. …
Agatha Munyaka of Domestic Income Department at [Kenya Revenue Authority] … says that for a refugee to legally be involved in business, they would have to hold a Kenyan Identity card. That is only when they would be able to acquire a PIN number, which qualifies them to pay taxes.
Last May … [the] Refugee Consortium of Kenya … claimed that the more than 60,000 refugees in urban areas did not rely on any institution for their upkeep and instead relied on small and medium-scale businesses worth millions of shillings as well as lots of money remitted from abroad without the exchequer levying any taxes.
The foregoing brings into focus the issue of regulating the refugees in order to tap into their potential. The pending Refugee Bill would be a good starting point. If passed, the bill would enable asylum seekers to have employment opportunities including engaging freely in trade and other income generating activities. … Until the Bill is made law, most efforts the authorities are making are geared towards herding all refugees into the camps in the north.
5. ECRE: Warehousing is not “Effective Protection”
In its December publication, “Guarding Refugee Protection Standards in Regions of Origin”, the European Council on Refugees and Exiles finds that “Many [refugees] are ‘warehoused’ for many years in unsuitable camps or struggle to maintain an impossible existence on the margins of society in their host country” and declares that “Any state restricting the economic rights of refugees is not providing them with protection that is effective.” It cautions European powers against using minimalist conceptions of protection to justify forcible readmission or transfer of asylum seekers and recommends they share responsibility more equitably.
Other findings and recommendations include:
In order to address the issue of lack of political will within host countries, capacity-building actions need to include training in public education and advocacy.
European states should undertake concrete measures to help refugee hosting countries provide a better quality of protection to refugees.
European governments should ensure adequate funding is available to NGOs to enable them to support the strengthening of protection capacity in refugee hosting countries. [and]
[T]hey should ensure increased and better targeted development funding for host countries. This funding should facilitate the integration of refugees into the host societies, when this is a dignified and appropriate solution, and refugees’ self-reliance, independently of the availability of any durable solution.
6. “UNHCR as Catalyst Rather than Sovereign - Host Governments as Primary Agents of Protection Rather than ‘Implementing Partners’”
"Excerpts from Amy Slaughter’s Ending Refugee Warehousing” in the latest EMM [Episcopal Migration Ministries] Messenger (Winter 2005, No. 8; originally submitted to the North-South Civil Society Conference on Refugee Warehousing):
Breathing life into the Convention in terms of actual state practice requires political will and sufficient resources and infrastructure. Whether the rights in question ask that states actively provide something or refrain from certain actions (so-called “positive” vs. “negative” rights), there are clearly both political and financial costs for the host states that must be acknowledged, without backing off of advocacy for a fuller deployment of refugee rights.…
[A] paradigm shift is needed, namely a return to an emphasis on the host state as the primary agent of protection. This is not to back away from burden-sharing, but rather to more clearly identify what role each party can most productively play, among the host state, donor states and UNHCR. Particularly muddled is the division of responsibility between host states and UNHCR in many refugee-hosting areas.
Therefore, as a precursor to any approach to end refugee warehousing, it is necessary to strike a better balance between UNHCR and host state responsibility. This would involve reversing the trend that has placed UNHCR in the role traditionally played by host states as the primary agent of protection, and has cast host states in an increasingly minor supporting role. …
The presence of UNHCR in countries of first asylum, though vitally important and often indispensable, can inadvertently serve to buffer refugees from a direct experience of their local hosts, allowing misunderstanding and mistrust to foment between the two. Ultimately, this can hinder integration opportunities, as refugees and their hosts view one another with suspicion rather than finding commonalities and converging interests. …
When refugees can avoid dealing with their host government directly, they often will, for many reasons, both political and of convenience. This undermines possibilities for local integration and keeps refugees segregated during their stay in exile. If instead refugees were encouraged to learn the local language and customs, it is likely that options outside of the refugee camps would organically present themselves. …
[A]mong other factors, warehousing is both a result and symptom of UNHCR’s increasing protection role in many host states, and the move away from state responsibility and national ownership (to borrow a development term). In order to reverse this trend, the incentive structures will need to be revised, as the current incentives clearly perpetuate the status quo: namely, protracted camp-based protection.
7. Refugee Voices
Nepal: Bhutanese Women Organize
After 15 years in exile, a group of Bhutanese women refugees in Nepal have formed an organization called Voices for Change to share their stories.
Excerpt from Ganga’s story:

When I was a student, I had high hopes to become a great person. The aims of my life have been scattered. Just because of being a refugee, opportunities never knock at our door. When we go around looking for opportunity, many doors remain closed.
Life in the camp is very difficult particularly for women. Life is so uncertain that we have to live each day as it comes. Day by day the problem is getting more complex. Fifteen years have passed now since the problem began. …
When I see people of my age making a significant contribution for the community, I get inspired and try to make my mind to do the same. But as a refugee, I have come across so many limitations and restrictions to implement the ideas into reality. Slowly the spirit vanishes and I loose hope and give up. I have to look forward for others to do. …
I along with my friends are striving to look for a practical solution for all of us. We also want to live and progress in life. We intend to work together for finding practical solution (relief package) the people need now and want to contribute something to our society as a whole. We do not want to be burden to other people. We have formed a small working team named as “Voice for Change”.
Message to all the human rights activists around the world I strongly feel that the refugee camp is not a place to live all our lives. Human rights should be made accessible to all.
Excerpt from Pingala's story:
Personal perspective on the impact of long stay in the refugee Camp;
It is no good at all to keep human beings in the refugee camps for so long. Due to the prolonged nature of our problem the people are divided and loose faith on each other. The development process of life is decreasing. People forget to desire for better life. …
The innocent people keep dying everyday due to the lack of fundamental rights, while the stakeholders of the human rights keep themselves busy organizing human rights program and seminars. We are always made experimental tools. When we hear of human rights it sounds so good but it only reflects on paper for us. Our hope rises up when people talk of rights but at the same time it becomes difficult to convince us when it is not realized in practice. …
Meetings with leaders
I started meeting our leaders personally and expressed interest to contribute/get involved in the movement. Some encouraged, some discouraged and while some expressed to have legal background. I felt doubly discriminated, first being a challenge in a male dominated society and second being a refugee. All my freedoms are severely restricted…
I started searching for a platform for women like me to raise our voice and to extend support in searching solution to the problem. I attended many meetings with senior leaders and listened [to]them. It has become clear to me that they talked only about politics, i.e. democracy and human rights in Bhutan but they never talk on the day-to-day problem we are facing. Humanitarian problem[s have] no place in their agenda and are largely ignored.
My friend Ganga also had similar opinion and we agreed to share our idea with others friends. Friends like Uma and Rupa were very encouraging. We all felt an urgent need of a platform to highlight our day-to-day problem and seek for practical solution to the peoples’ problem. Therefore we agreed to form Voice for Change with a vision “to lend strength to the search for a solution to our problem”.
Recent visit to the camps in 2005
Recently during the festival, I visited many of our organizations and their heads and even went around the camps meeting our friends and relatives. I talked and listened to what they feel now, after fifteen years in the camp. The people are so frustrated and desperate with the situation that they feel very difficult to express their problems as they now feel that nothing will happen even if they share. The young boys and girls are really at risk without any opportunity at hand. The dormant nature of our movement has further annoyed the people. There are no opportunities to the people. The old people are seen praying for their early death.
UK: "We don't want support from the state, we want to be given the chance to work for ourselves"
Asylum seekers from Zimbabwe are not allowed to work in the United Kingdom, despite a court ruling that it is unsafe for any of them to return. Several testified before Parliament December 14, 2005, as reported by the British Refugee Council. Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council backed the call for the right to work saying "It is inexcusable that we are still forcing vulnerable people into destitution." For more on Council's campaign against destitution and for the right to work. Following are excerpts from the asylum seekers' resumes:
Tendai Williard Chinhanhu
One day I would hope to return to Zimbabwe with the experience I have gained from British coaches. I also wish I could help train young British athletes, and the young runners from my club (Poole Runners) in Dorset are already reaping the benefits from having trained together with me, but when I was released from detention on 7th July 2005 I was given a letter telling me I was not allowed to work or volunteer. I would love to be able to earn my living as a carpenter.
Nkosinathi Ndlovu
As a doctor I feel it is my duty is to save lives and to help the sick to recover. Also I would like to carry out research in the field of cancer and would like to be a positive influence to young children my volunteering my time in community projects.
Harris Nyatsanza
As a teacher I would like a chance to contribute to the society in a positive and meaningful way. I would like to take back to Zimbabwe the skills that I will get from working inside the British education system.
8. JRS Surveys Detention of Refugees in Commonwealth Countries
Jesuit Refugee Service presented the results of their survey on “ Detention of Asylum-Seekers and Refugees in Commonwealth Countries” in November 2005. Excerpts:
All refugees in Zambia are required to reside in one of 5 refugee camps or settlements, unless they have got a work or study permit, a self employment permit, or have been given permission to stay in an urban area on medical or security grounds. For a refugee to obtain a self-employment permit, he/she must have US $25,000 in assets. A work permit costs US $400 and a study permit is US $100. It is quite obvious that most refugees cannot afford to pay these amounts of money. Consequently, most refugees who move out of the camps into a city are technically living there illegally (without authorisation from the government) and are at risk of being arrested and detained. It is easy to see that the system is open to being abused by immigration and police officers who frequently round up and detain refugees and asylum seekers for unspecified periods of time. Cases of these officers soliciting bribes from their victims are very common.
The vast majority of the refugees and asylum seekers who end up in detention in Zambia are not there because they have committed criminal offences, but simply because they have violated the administrative requirement that they remain in designated areas. …
In Tanzania, there is a strict policy of encampment. The refugees are required at all times to be in their camp; otherwise they risk being arrested. JRS Tanzania reports that in the Ngara area refugees are regularly arrested for being outside the camp without a travel permit; often just for collecting firewood outside the designated areas. They need to collect firewood in order to cook their food, so they are being criminalised for fulfilling their survival needs. … Once the refugees are released from the prisons, which are very far from the camps, they are required to return to the camps on foot. In many cases they again get rearrested by the police during their long walk back to their camp and get charged again with being outside the camps…a vicious circle.
In Nairobi in Kenya, again most of the refugees in detention are people arrested for lack of valid documents and being illegally in the country.
JRS Uganda reports that in practice Uganda does not detain asylum seekers while their status is being determined. This is mainly due to the intense training on refugee issues of immigration officers and the police throughout the country by an NGO called the Refugee Law Project.
However JRS Uganda reports that there are incidents where refugees in Uganda have been unjustifiably arrested and even tortured. And there is a problem with the distribution of asylum seekers’ identification papers. In Kampala, these are usually given to the head of the family. This means that children are left without any kind of identification, and they live in constant fear of being arrested for “being idle and disorderly” (a major cause for arrests) and for illegal entry - since they are foreigners without documentation. Both men and women are supposed to be given ID documents, but in practice only the men are given them. Many refugee women in Uganda are in business that involves them in traveling long distances selling items like clothes, and this leaves them vulnerable to unjustifiable arrests when they cannot prove their identity. It is particularly hard for them to explain themselves to the police when they don’t speak the language, as is the case for so many refugees around the world.
Refugees in Uganda are provided with settlement areas less restrictive than the refugee camps in many other African countries but their freedom of movement is still restricted to these settlement areas if they do not have a permit. …
There’s more on detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, Jamaica, India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka in the full document.
9. Warehousing in the New Yorker
John Lahr’s review of Ariene Mnouchkine’s play about refugees in the August 1, 2005 New Yorker refers to warehousing. Excerpts:
In hide-and-seek, it's a tragedy if you are not found: this turns out to be the existential predicament of the refugees who populate Ariane Mnouchkine's pageant of the uprooted, "Le Dernier Caravanserail (Odyssees)." … Set in notorious detention camps in France, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia, the story is played out by thirty-six actors onstage, and, around the world, by the twelve million people who are trapped in a ghost life of detention centers and legal rigmarole. … Mnouchkine improvised the piece in six months from stories that she and two of her actors had collected from refugees between 1999 and 2002. … Through the caprice of history, these emigres find themselves with no rights, no voice, no place. (Half of the world's refugees are under the age of eighteen, and, as Caroline Moorehead writes, in "Human Cargo," "almost five per cent of these are unaccompanied minors, travelling the world on their own." Another seven million refugees have been, according to the World Refugee Survey, "warehoused for ten years or more.") … Most of the action takes place in a sort of Rubic's Cube that Mnouchkine has devised to give isolation angularity and insight: from almost every angle, the refugees are caged…

Time for the United States to Honor International Standards in Emergencies

Roberta Cohen, Co-Director
The Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement
The Brookings Institution, September 09, 2005
The Congressional Black Caucus is right. The more than one million Americans so painfully uprooted by Hurricane Katrina are not refugees as the media often mistakenly call them. Rather, they are internally displaced persons? IDPs for short. A refugee is someone who flees across borders because of persecution, and once over the border, benefits from a well-established international system of protection and assistance. For those displaced internally, their governments have the main responsibility to assure their well being and security.The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, introduced into the United Nations in 1998, are international standards for persons forcibly uprooted from their homes by conflict and natural disaster who remain within their own countries. Given the disastrously inadequate initial performance in dealing with this catastrophe, our government would do well to become familiar with these guidelines both for the current rescue effort and for future emergencies.
The guidelines, in the words of the UN Secretary-General, are "the basic international norm for protection" of internally displaced persons. Although not a binding treaty, UN resolutions regularly call them a standard." The US Agency for International Development calls them "auseful tool and framework" in its 2004 policy on assistance to internally displaced persons in foreign countries.
It is now time for the U.S. government to apply these standards to displaced Americans here at home. The UN Secretary-General's Representative on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, is available to advise governments on how best to put the guidelines into practice. To begin with, governments have a responsibility to prevent or mitigate the conditions that lead to displacement. In natural disasters, this means heeding early warnings, developing adequately funded and effective disaster preparedness plans at the local, state and national levels, ensuring that there are means to carry out the response, and evacuating people who cannot leave on their own and are inharm's way. Such steps should be seen as the fundamental right of populations living in high-risk areas. When public officials fail to take reasonable measures to protect them, claims for compensation need to be considered.
In distributing aid, fairness is essential. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, national, ethnic or social origin, social status, political opinion, disability or similar criteria must be prohibited. This means that the poor, who in the Gulf Coast are mainly black and Hispanic, should also have received help in being evacuated, while the most vulnerable? Children, expectant mothers, the disabled, sick, and elderly? Should have been attended to with the least possible delay. A review process should be set up to hear charges of discriminatory treatment and ensure remedial action.
The guidelines also address protecting and assisting the victims of disasters. Those uprooted have the right to expect to receive humanitarian aid in the form of essential food, potable water, clothing, medical services, sanitation, and basic shelter and housing as well as assistance later in rebuilding their lives. They are to be protected from acts ofviolence, rape, and lawlessness. When governments are not able to fulfil these responsibilities, they must promptly call upon the international community for assistance. In extreme situations, if governments refuse outside help yet fail to fulfill their commitments; the international community has the responsibility to intercede.
Consultation with the displaced is of cardinal importance. It may not be practical in the immediate aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but in the recovery and reconstruction phases, when people begin to decide whether to return to ravaged Gulf Coast areas or resettle, and homes, businesses and local economies begin to be rebuilt, consultative mechanisms are essential. Exclusion from the decisions that affect their lives will not only heighten helplessness but undermine the effectiveness of the aid provided. The government must also help the displaced to recover, where possible, their property and possessions or provide or assist the persons in obtaining compensation or some form of reparation.The UN guidelines are a valuable tool for federal, state, and local government officials. They are being adopted in one form or another by a growing number of countries. Were the United States to follow the guidelines, it would find itself on firmer ground for reacting to the current emergency and planning for future ones.

Barbara Harrell-Bond talks to Aditi Bhaduri

Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, American University in Cairo (AUC), Distinguished Adjunct Professor and Advisor to FMRS, is credited with being one of the architects of the field of forced migration studies. Since founding the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University in 1982, Dr. Harrell-Bond has been working ceaselessly in advocating for the rights and needs of refugees and forced migrants, helping to establish legal aid programs for refugees, including Africa Middle East Refugee Assistance (AMERA) in Cairo. Dr. Harrell- Bond combined her advocacy with scholarly research and prolific writing, much of it focused on holding governments and inter-governmental agencies accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities towards forced migrants. Her book Imposing Aid broke new ground by providing critical analysis of the refugee aid regime. Her most recent co-authored book, Rights in Exile, has just been published. In June this year she was awarded title of Officer of Order of the British Empire (OBE) in rightful recognition of her many years of service to refugees.A few days before that, in Cairo, she shared with Aditi Bhaduri some reflections on.
How she got interested in refugee studies:
I got interested in refugee studies. In 1981 I was writing about the war in the Western Sahara and I went to Algeria and visited the Saharan refugee settlements and I was so impressed with how they were managing in unbelievably hostile environment, very cold in winter and very hot in summer. So when I came back I talked to Oxfam, which was the agency that sent me. And I asked how come the Sahara refugees are so well organized - they do not have any NGOs helping them and they are so different from other refugees that you assist. Because I had read some literature and someone said, "Oh, we're so busy saving life in emergencies that when we get around to help I think its too late, we make too many mistakes." So I just got curious how humanitarian agencies operated in the midst of emergency. So I got a fellowship from a college in Oxford and so went to study an emergency and the emergency that I found was Ugandans coming across the border into Sudan where they started coming and settling down when Idi Amin was overthrown and when the military launched the war against the north. So that was the emergency that I studied and then the college suggested that I start a refugee centre and so that's how it happened.The refugee studies centers that she got started.
I was the resident Director of our program in Oxford; it was to stimulate academic programs in other countries that have refugee situations. So over time a lot of programs got started - there was the Masters Program in South Africa, a Refugee Study Centre in Tanzania, in Kenya, in Uganda and also one in Bangladesh. I was never successful, while I was directing the Refugee Studies Centre, to get the Indians interested but during that time UNHCR also gave some funding in India. I think Calcutta was one of the places that got started and they came to a conference in Bangladesh and we encouraged them to start off a multi-disciplinary program, because the course's appeal is multi-disciplinary - the laws, psychology, social sciences, politics etc. In the meantime there was also a program at York University in Canada in 1982. But it dealt with re-settlement and since that time there were programs at Tafts University, at Columbia, on health and forced migration and I think it spread to a lot of places in the world. We have a list. And in lots of places they were teaching Refugee Studies but before 1982 it had never been seen as an academic subject. There were people who had written books and articles but they were scattered around the world so if you visit Oxford you will see the library where we tried to put together all this material from all the disciplines, historical this material as well as books. In the beginning we had a hard time spending our budget on books because there were not so many books but now of course its hard to keep up with the literature because so much is coming out.On what brought about this change....
Well, it was obviously the right idea for the time because in Oxford we started with almost no money and I realized that no one would fund an idea, they needed to have real things going on. So we started lots of activities including an academic course and so people came from far and wide and also London was a good base for people who came from the field. People from UNHCR, people from humanitarian agencies so they could always come and in the beginning I couldn't have started it growing unless I closed the doors because people were so concerned that there was no place where people thought about these issues. People went out and did humanitarian work whether they knew anything about it or not. There was a real need that people underwent training so we started a summer school. So I think we were good advertisers for this field as well as the fact that people were hungry for an academic program.
On an increase of forced migrants
Yes of course, unfortunately the numbers have vastly increased and the big issue of migration as the world gets more unequal and as populations grow, and as unfortunately wars increase. I don't like the phrase low intensity conflict because I think if somebody is bombing your house it doesn't feel very low intensity. But these kinds of wars have greatly increased since we began the program in Oxford. Of course there are more.Regarding the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), of course there are a huge number of IDPS, particularly in India, from development project, people who are forcibly displaced. And so although we were saying that we are going to work ourselves out of business with a better world where there was no persecution, unfortunately that world does not seem to be very much on the horizon.
On UNHCR's work: With refugees and IDPs...
I for one do not believe that UNHCR should be involved at all with IDPs. I think it dilutes the concept of a refugee for which it has provision in international law and UNHCR's mandate is specifically about people seeking refuge from persecution and its my view that IDPs are a problem for other agencies. If we had a strong UN organisation on human rights it should be definitely involved in the IDP issue It should be criticizing governments for how they are treating IDPs, the Red Cross should be involved with victims of war inside and outside countries, UNDP should be involved in terms of funding projects which would allow people to go home or re establish themselves. It's not an UNHR job, but unfortunately the UNHCR is an inter-governmental body and it has to respond or feels it has to respond to the pressures from governments. Of course pressure from governments would make asylum go out the window and make UNHCR into the world's largest welfare agency, which unfortunately it has become with its emphasis on repatriation and not on protection and integration. And I think it's a terrible mistake in the direction that UNHCR has taken and Mrs. Ogata's recent book is a reflection of that. So I feel very strongly that we should protect the institution of asylum. There are always going to be people who are persecuted by their governments so they should be protected.
UNHCR has done commendable work with regard to IDPs in some places like in Sri Lanka but there was really no need for it to be involved. Some other institution could also have done that. There was no reason for UNHCR to be involved. UNHCR was involved in some very dubious repatriation of Sri Lankans and that’s the problem. The problem the pressure from the donors, the pressure from governments, that make up the majority of UNHCR's contributors to its budget are all concerned about keeping refugees in and of course Bosnia became the worst case scenario where UNHCR had messed it up with the right not to be uprooted. But what that meant for the Bosnians was the right to stay where they would be killed by the snipers and of course Serebrenica all showed what an absolute failure that policy was. Southern Sudan is another case in point where all kinds of agencies led by UNHCR are doing the operation likewise in Sudan, which forces the refugees to stay in the country. And in my view when there is a civil war the best thing for all to do is get out because civilians are used to feed the war and the humanitarian aid is used to feed the war and wars keep going because humanitarian aid is there to supply soldiers inadvertently, or purposely. What I mean for example in Sudan the SPLA demanded that the agencies pay them for being there, food is diverted to the military, so we keep wars going with humanitarian aid.
On ensuring "protection"...
UNHCR does not adequately protect refugees who are outside their countries - I mean we have just written a book "Rights in Exile: Janus-faced Humanitarianism" which I wrote with the lawyer Guglielmo Verdirame. UNHCR does not protect refugees adequately, so it cannot protect IDPs, where it has to confront the Government directly. What's forgotten is that there are usually human rights organizations in these countries, for example in India, you have many very strong human rights organizations trying to protect the rights of internally displaced people uprooted by dams and development projects. There should be much more funding to strengthen these organizations. UNHCR always argues that feeding people, setting up camps etc. is part of their protection but in fact that argument falls because camps are not ways to protect people - camps become seedbeds for political ferment. For example, in Uganda, where I am going to go this afternoon, there is a recruiting officer from SPLA in every camp and every refugee who came to us in Uganda was fleeing the SPLA and not fleeing the Khartoum government, because of the grossly bad human rights record of the SPLA. So to think that you can protect them in camps is ridiculous when you have recruiting officers entering them, when the Ugandan government was sometimes actively, sometimes tacitly supporting the SPLA against the Sudan government. So it's a very complicated situation but UNHCR should concentrate on the protection of refugees in my view.
On repatriation
And in my view also, which is controversial, UNHCR should not be involved in repatriation. If you look at the (Refugee) Convention, it does not even mention repatriation except that host governments are bound not to refoul. However, the General Assembly allowed UNHCR to become involved in repatriation. For example how can UNHCR protect me, an Afghan in Pakistan when it’s inside Afghanistan helping so-called "returnees"? How can it agrees with me that it’s not safe for me to go back to Afghanistan? It's a contradiction in roles and the temptation has been to become the largest welfare organisation in the world, not the protection agency. And again if you look at the 1950 statute its very clear that UNHCR was supposed to lean on NGOs to do the necessary emergency feeding and so on and not do itself. Of course it does not do itself in theory because it has been implementing partners, but the emphasis is on relief.
There is another huge structural problem for UNHCR, for every agency, and that's the relief budgets, the emergency budgets are always easier to get than development. So you can get the emergency money with hardly any trouble. Development funds are much more difficult to get. So, the temptation is to keep everyone in a perpetual emergency situation rather than to work towards their integration and I think that the contrary example of a good government policy is again India with its policy towards the Tibetans in which they are allowed autonomy in the country and they are not forced to go to camps by the government. Its another question whether they are encouraged to live in Tibetan villages by the Tibetan government but that's another matter. But they are free to make a life for themselves and where the funding has been for education, for development, rather than for some kind of emergency rations for some camp.
On the UN Convention on Refugees...
(Smiles) One would hope that India would sign that convention though one of the Indian professors, Prof. Chimni argues that India should not sign the convention, but he argues in a very coherent way about the failure of UNHCR to uphold the convention. So, I'll let him comment on that issue but the big problem in India is for the refugees who are not Tibetans and I will hope that he has read the studies done on refugees in Delhi, which must be true of refugees all over India. Of course, India has great poverty, it will be very difficult for the Indian govt. to devote funds to these refugees but that's what the international assistance should support the Indian govt. to expand its health, social services and so on and of course India should protect these refugees from refoulement and give them some kind of a legal status in India.
There was an attempt to modify the convention by adding Article 2 to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention and with the Carthagena declaration which talks about massive human rights abuses and the OAU convention which talks about civil disorder as aresult of foreign occupation. The UNHCR in the 1970s was trying to push the OAU definition of a refugee on to the convention for the whole world to recognise and they were moderately successful. For example in Europe there has been what's called a B status or class II refugees but the point is that it makes absolute sense that refugees flee for all kinds of reasons.
On what Governments need to do…
For example, Europe is aging so it needs workers so how ridiculous it is to spend millions to keep people out. I think Spain's recent act is a good one of giving amnesty to groups who come in anyway. And the USA has done that on a regular basis, they have given Guatemalans amnesty for example, and allowed them to stay and legalise them. I think that's the direction in which we should go because as I said if there were free movement eventually we wouldn't be swamped. For example, Britain, which has put up its barriers as high as possible but has to accept others from new European countries, and is accepting thousands and thousands of Poles for example. But somehow these Polish people are finding jobs which the British could not do and their economy is thriving, though Britain is one of the most expensive places to live in and I know because I lived there for some time but nevertheless it needs these people so why it is so restrictive of refugees? Amongst the Afghans it discovered so many who are doctors and at the same time Britain is going around in the so called third world scooping up doctors and teachers that it needs in its schools. Amongst the Zimbabwean refugees it wants to send back there are many teachers. I mean how ridiculous not to use the talent that comes into your country and give these people an opportunity to retrain if necessary, which is what they did with Afghan doctors and let them work. There are all these niches in the market.
If you look at Egypt, Egypt does not give the refugees automatic right to work, but we recently had someone do a study about Sadat City, and Sadat City which wasbuilt for a million and a half people but only has a hundred thousand but nevertheless there are many factories, training course and the whole agro-business around it and they longed to have the refugees come in and take these jobs. Unfortunately, its 70 miles from UNHCR so refugees have no idea about how to get there but if someone managed their migration to a part of the country where there is employment and where they need employment how much better it would be for the country and for the refugees. I don't think people think enough so instead of recommending any policy every country has to really review its own policy and see what needs to be done for itself, but guided always by the rights of refugees under the convention.
When I talk about bogus asylum seekers, well maybe there are lots of them but that's because the door for immigration is so closed like in a country like Britain, there are countries like Spain that cannot escape people getting in because people can keep trying, sometimes drowning to get across the Mediterranean so they get in and of course Spain realizes that it needs them.
Ireland, which is always thought of as a country of out-migration, has benefited greatly from the fact that it received refugees and other migrants. There is a book called "More People, More Trees" about Kenya, a particular place that was almost desert and for some reason ppl started migrating there and they reclaimed all the land. Its amazing what more people can do in a desertified area if they are given more rights.
On Imposed AID
My first book on refugees was on "Imposing Aid"...India has been quite good in warding off but of course aid is imposed. The aid policy of UNHCR in Southern Sudan and its partner NGOs was an imposed one. The camp policy was an imposed one.On Darfur…
Darfur problem has been going on for hundreds of years it has its roots. The government, of Khartoum is not constrained and I think we have a situation of that horrible word called ethnic cleansing. I am given to understand that as they uproot the farmers who also happen to be black Africans they are also importing Chadeans to take over the land. Because it is a customary land situation - people without written titles of land and so on - it's a horrific situation and I don't see it being resolved.
It has been brought to light now because journalists went. Journalists went, you are key to any situation being covered but you don't go to Bangladesh for example, where there are Rohingyas pouring out of Burma and there have been three attempts to repatriate them with great loss of lives and they are still coming but UNHCR is not registering them and journalists don't go so in Bangladesh. Dr. Abrar Chowdhury is head of the migration program there and all his efforts to get UNHCR to take notice of Rohingyas go unnoticed because there is no press there. And we are so dependent on journalists and unfortunately not too many journalists do their homework before they go to a situation but at least when they do go and there is some kind of press coverage then people know. But unfortunately there are many emergencies where journalists don't go for example; we hardly have any coverage of the Congo crisis, which is just immense.
I don't really know why journalists suddenly descended on Sudan, perhaps we don't have many journalists or freelancers and of course politics has to do with it. Perhaps these (allegations about highlighting Darfur to distract attention from Palestine and Iraq) are true. Of course it would be very hard to ensure that every emergency was covered. I remember Southern Sudan in 1982 - it was an emergency that you cannot imagine, the scale of it. The Ugandans wanted to stay home, they moved a little further from their homes to protect themselves, a little further, they would think that they can go back and they stayed in the bush unless there were literally thousands starving. It was a horrific situation and the UNHCR Programme Officer with whom I was working was doing his best to get journalists there and that's against the rules of UNHCR - you are never supposed to contact a journalist. But he was trying to get someone there to cover the situation. I finally got so angry and I wrote a letter to my husband in oxford to get in contact with the British Refugee Council and to do something about it and unfortunately my telex got leaked. But in fact UNHCR came (they don't like any negative press coverage) and when they saw what was happening, heads rolled, planeloads of supplies came in and that's unfortunately how the process works. If there is no witness on the ground to make international coverage of a situation it just doesn't happen.
On bringing the condition of bad roads in Sierra Leone to the notice of its Government....That was a pretty different but good situation. That was a village in Sierra Leone where the village built a road and linked it with the main road. But the best lesson of that incident was to ask people what they really need and then to deliver what they really need.On "good practices" of states regarding refugees…
Regarding refugees, I'll talk about Malawi. Malawi had a good UNHCR official who went there when UNHCR was finally allowed into Malawi and said lets do it differently. He proposed that the money be put through the Ministry of Health and the Govt. decided to put it through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and they didn't confine refugees to camps in the beginning, it was only in the extreme when they had a million Mozambicans in a country of 4 million that some camps were established. But mostly people were freely settled amongst the locals.

'Don't Forget Us': The Education And Gender-Based Violence Protection Needs Of Adolescent Girls From Darfur In Chad

By H. Heninger and M. McKenna,
Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children, July 2005
This document examines the conditions in a number of refugee camps for people from Darfur in Chad, focusing on education needs and protection from gender-based violence for adolescent girls.
The findings include:
  • all refugee camps had education programmes. In most camps this included primary grades 1-6, some adult literacy classes, and some preschool
  • however, at the time of the study UNICEF had not provided adequate shelters for schools, school supplies or guidance to teachers or camp management due to a number of contingencies
  • a major problem is the inadequate incentives given to teachers by the UNHCR. School headmasters lost teachers who left their jobs to make more money in other ways, such as selling firewood. The few women teachers in the camps teach only the lowest grades.
  • thousands of girls and women have been raped and/or beaten in Darfur and in Chad. In most camps there were reports of women who had been raped by the members of the janjaweed militia
  • in some camps programmes were being developed with refugee communities to integrate and support mothers and their children born as a result of rape. However, very little psychosocial assistance was available to girls and women victims of gender-based violence

Recommendations from the study include:

  • NGOs and United Nations agencies need to keep pushing for girls and young women to take part in decision-making in camp management, youth committees, women's groups, and in schools
  • all health care providers should immediately establish and implement care for the survivors of violence following established protocols
  • semi-permanent classrooms need to be built to protect students from heat, wind, rain and sandstorms
  • a programme of providing incentives to parents so they send girls to school should be developed and implemented
  • literacy classes should be available for all refugees regardless of age or gender

Bhutanese refugees call for UN intervention

Source:, September 09, 2005
Bhutanese refugees have renewed their call upon the United Nations (UN) to intervene immediately to resolve the 15-year-old refugee saga.
In a petition sent to UN Secertary General Kofi Annan through UN office system in Kathmandu on Thursday, the refugees have urged Mr. Annan to take note of the unresolved and prolonged human rights situation and initiate urgent actions to resolve the crisis before it goes out of hand.
In the petition, Peoples' Forum for Human Rights and Development (PFHRD) - an organisation floated by Bhutanese refugees has urged the UN Secretary General to "ensure uninterrupted and adequate relief assistance to the Bhutanese refugees until the problem is resolved, and they return home with dignity and guarantee their human rights."
"The state of statelessness of over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees must end now," the organisation said.
Meanwhile, Bhutanese refugee groups in eastern Nepal have warned the Nepal government not to fall into trap of Bhutanese government and raise the refugee issue at the forthcoming general assembly of the United Nations.
Referring to the telephone conversation between Bhutan's Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuk and his Nepalese counterpart Ramesh Nath Pandey, spokesperson for the Bhutan Peoples' Party, Gopal Gurung, said: "Bhutan has expressed willingness to seek an amicable solution to the refugee problem keeping in mind the upcoming 60th UN General Assembly, and there is no way it can be trusted given its past behaviour." Refugee leaders have asserted that the problem could no more be resolved through ministerial-level talks and that intervention from the international community is a must.