Monday, September 08, 2008

Displaced Lives

Debdatta Chowdhury

‘Once a displaced, always a displaced’. Instances are abounding as if to hold the phrase true. Lebanon is just another story in the already full plate of displacement and re-displacement stories. The report on 23 July 2008 by Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) put the figure of displaced Palestinians and Lebanese to 24,000 from Nahr el-Bared camp in Lebanon following three months of fighting in 2007 between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army. The camps having been hard-hit by the fighting is not being able to accommodate its dwellers. The displaced lot is living a life of perpetual displacement. For those who have returned to the camps, life is all the more miserable due to the lack or rather absence of the minimum living facilities or livelihoods. Twenty-five years of instability and occupation have destroyed the basic socio-economic fabric needed for return of the refugees.. Most of the displaced Palestinians still have to rely on the humanitarian agencies for the supply of food and shelter. With increasing security measures in Lebanon since June 2008, the refugees are concerned about their own safety. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Government of Lebanon launched a comprehensive three-year plan to rebuild the camp and the surrounding areas.

But these humanitarian actions are not able to raise hopes. And not without reasons. Though the Taif Agreement of 1989 declared the return of the displaced necessary for reconciliation and sustainable peace, most of the displaced people after the hostilities between Hizbullah and Israel in 2006 were unable to return to the camps due to continuing instances of sporadic attacks, cluster bombs and lost livelihoods. Unresolved cases of property disputes also make the process of returning of the refugees complicated. Life threats coupled with inflation in building materials make the process of return difficult by delaying the process of compensation payments and rebuilding. Most of the cluster munitions are planfully dropped around 72 hours before the ceasefire to create a prolonged atmosphere of threat and inhibit the process of return. Thus, surveillance measures and humanitarian efforts are no signal that the displaced are soon to return to their camps. With bombings and attacks being a constant fear-factor around the camps, the refugees continue to live a displaced and thus, uncertain life.

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