Thursday, August 20, 2009

Update from Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) on Resettlement of Bhutanse Refugees


Almost after 18 years of refugee life in the seven refugee camps in two districts of Jhapa and Morang of eastern Nepal, the Bhutanese refugees heaved a sigh of relief of new hope to start a new life in new land when resettlement offer came from the core countries for Bhutanese refugees- USA, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, DENMARK, NORWAY, NETHERLANDS and NEW ZEALAND. With new hope, inspiration and aspirations of beginning a new and comfortable life away from a place where life was idle and environment was often disturbed by anti-social activities like murder, domestic violence, alcoholism, theft, rape, fight, threat of stoppage of facilities in the camps et al, Bhutanese refugees decided to take a new journey of life to make a new home in a strange land with diverse geography, climate, people, language and culture. Most of the refugees have consider the resettlement a windfall boon whereas few still remaining skeptic and few others holding strong conviction that one must fight for right and go back to ones own land. On the top of the refugees euphoria of resettlement, the UNHCR motivation and mobilization followed by documentary film of luxurious home with cars further bewilder the mind of refugees and their message of existence of peace and tranquility and absence of any violence and threat to life lured the most. Dollar dream, luxurious life and freedom led the refugees rush for application to the extent that some started postering at night of threat of their life and insecurity (a few cases cannot be ruled out)so that they should be given priority and process their case fast. Some sold off their landed properties. Not only that there are rumors even some refugees had bribed and bribing the officials in UNHCR and IOM concern with processing their applications to expedite fast as if they miss the opportunity of facilities there if they are late.

Perhaps those people who thought that nothing can scathe in the land of their destiny and choice must be wondering when hearing the news of murder of Bhutanese refugees, attack on Bhutanese refugees, robbing the Bhutanese refugees and mistreatment of school going children boarding or descending the bus or other places. Therefore, one must remember that everywhere, all is not well.

The news of murder of Hari Lall adhikari aged 22 years by a gun man on 26th July 2009 near his apartment has shocked the refugees here in Nepal and pondering why is such incidence taking place in the land of haven supposed to be peaceful with good people. Hari Lall Adhikari with his parents and two other members residing in Beldangi-II sector B2, hut no. 145/146 left the camp on 21st March 2009 and resettled in Jacksonville, Florida, USA. As heard he was working in a garment shop.

A few weeks ago there was news of attacked on Bhutanese refugees living in Bronx, New York in Syracuse. According to the news, eight men attacked Hari Rizal while walking on Syracuse North Side. He had to be taken to emergency room with swollen eyes and bleeding nose.

In another incidence six men attacked two Odari brothers, Ganga and Tara. One man pulled out a knife and other punched the duo. Surmising upon the incidences, the above cases are just the beginning and one can fathom what will be the consequences once all sixty thousand or more Bhutanese refugees are resettled. So far there is no such report from Bhutanese refugees resettled in other countries but will not be surprising as there is increasing racial feeling in every part of the world.

The Human Rights Organization of Bhutan (HUROB) requests the US government to provide security to the refugees and not let them become the victims of miscreants. It also expresses its deep condolence to the bereaved family of the deceased and sympathy to other victims of attacks.

World Refugee Survey Reports Millions of Refugees Spending 10-60 years in a Refugee Camp

In a recently concluded World Refugee Survey by USCRI, millions of refugees have been found to spend from 10 to 60 years -- an entire lifetime -- in a refugee camp. New statistics from the recently released World Refugee Survey show that 8,177,800 refugees are part of populations that have been trapped in limbo for 10 years or more. In some cases children are born, live, and die in a refugee camp. Often, warehoused refugees are confined to shoddy, degrading refugee camps, where they are unable to move freely, work to support their families, or live anything resembling a normal life. The international community, governments, and the media forget these refugees. Palestinians, Tibetans, Eritreans, Filipinos, and Angolans top the list of long-term refugee populations.

For the full report please visit:-

Appeal by Lavinia Limon, President, USCRI

Lavinia Limon
[President, USCRI]

Because of the quick action taken by people like you, 36,000 refugees in the Mtabila refugee camp in Tanzania are no longer in danger of being forcibly returned to Burundi where they feared they would face persecution.

As you may recall, I wrote to you in early June to ask you to help stop the Tanzanian government from closing this camp on June 30 and forcing the remaining refugees to return to Burundi, despite the danger.

Many people responded immediately and spoke out on behalf of these refugees. Subsequently, Tanzania's Home Affairs Ministry has decided to keep the camp open through the end of September and give the refugees the chance to plan their return. Those refugees who can return safely will be able to do so in an orderly manner. Those who cannot will be able to settle in Tanzania.

The Home Affairs Minister has even given assurances that no refugee will be forcibly returned and reaffirmed that his government’s commitment to upholding international laws and standards established to protect refugees.

On behalf of these refugees I want to thank all the USCRI supporters who contacted Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and other international leaders to stop their forced repatriation. People who speak up for refugees around the world often make all the difference.

I am so grateful that I can call upon caring USCRI supporters to act when refugees are in danger.

You can learn more about refugees in Tanzania and other countries.

Please ask your friends to join our Action Network so they can help refugees too.

Poles are the Fall Guys of the Immigration Debate

Denis Sewell in “Poles are the fall guys of the immigration debate” seeks to make an analysis of the impact of migration in England over a period of time. In contrast to the earlier reluctance of the English political class to talk of immigration for fear of being branded racist the taboo no longer exists. The change of attitude has been undoubtedly prompted by the popular pressure which recognized the issue of immigration as one of their primary concerns. The arrival of migrant workers from East Europe has provided a further fillip to the recent engagement with the various dimensions of immigration. However this new attitude of openness is not without its share of ambiguousness. The unilinear perspective with which the politicians and the media seeks to address the issue of migration makes the problem unidimensional and the migrants an undifferentiated whole. Such an approach naturally does not provide solution nor answers. This can be illustrated by the media’s continuous portrayal of the east European as the culprit. The need of the day is for the government to devise a realistic sensitive immigration policy which will successfully address the divergent strands of an essentially complicated problem.

To read the full article please visit:-

Rehabilitation of Sri Lankan Tamils

Priyanca Mathur Velath

Rehabilitation, more often than not, from a human rights issue, largely converts into a political one. The rehabilitation of the internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils after the end of the recent military offensive against the Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam(LTTE) in the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka has become one such bandwagon that every political/non-political actor wants to jump onto. The Lankan northern districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Trincomalee and Jaffna are currently where nearly 35 government camps are situated for more than 300,000 civilians, who were fleeing the fighting between the government forces and the defeated LTTE since the past twenty years. The Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, pledged on July 10, 2009 that 60 per cent of these IDPs would be resettled by November 2009.

On July 26, 2009, the PMK reportedly appealed to the United Nations to take steps for the proper rehabilitation of the internally displaced Sri Lankan Tamils in the island nation with the PMK President, G K Mani alleging that there were inadequate food, shelter and medical facilities for the displaced Tamils who had been lodged in camps. (The Hindu, 26.07.09)

Just a few days before that the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) voiced its opinion on this issue when its senior leader M Venkiah Naidu, urged the Sri Lankan government to accord equal rights to both the Tamils and the Sinhalese and to take immediate steps to ensure that the internally displaced Tamils were resettled in their original place of habitation, lamenting that there were reports of people suffering from lack of basic amenities in the camps they were living in.

What was most notable was the fact this was also the only foreign project that found outlay in the Union budget of India this year. The Indian Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee announced that the Indian Government would give 500 crore for the rehabilitation of the IDPs (Tamils) and for the reconstruction of the northern and eastern areas of the region as “the government was committed to ensuring that the Tamils enjoy their rights and legitimate aspirations within the territorial sovereignty and framework of Sri Lanka’s constitution.” (The Hindu, 07.07.09) Obviously this move was much appreciated by the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) party in the south-Indian state of Tamil Nadu as it appeased the Congress’ largest southern ally, with Chief Minister, M. Karunanidhi, lauding the Union budget as one that had “placed priority on social justice and thus will be beneficial to all sections of the society.” Though this move was largely welcomed, some opposition MPs from Tamil Nadu were insistent that there should be accountability for the fact that the money was being rightly spent in only rehabilitating the affected Tamils and others wanted to ensure that the money was not misused by the Rajapaksa government to acquire arms and ammunition for enhancing the nation’s military capability.

As it did in Afghanistan, India has decided to play a significant role in nation-building in Sri Lanka to put the country back on its feet after nearly three decades of civil war, and India’s foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon was quick to point out that India had a clear plan for the rehabilitation of the IDPs which had total support of the Sri Lankan leadership. (The Times of India, This is exactly what the
UN has also officially stated that clear and detailed plans and timelines for people to return are crucial to sustain the donor assistance in resettling the 300,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka currently. Rajapaksa has outlined that, “we have a 180-day 180 days we want to settle most of these people..its not a promise, it’s a target.” But as Neil Buhne, the UN country head warned, while speaking to IRIN in Colombo, its not going to be easy to sustain the financing for the relief measures over such a long period of time for so many displaced people. He rightly pointed out, “the first stage in reconciliation is how IDPs are treated. I think the government recognises that, we recognise that, but it is a huge challenge.” (

There are also other equally critical challenges that confront the R&R process of the IDPs in Sri Lanka. The UNHCR reported that on June 9 nearly 2,000 IDPs displaced from the Musalai village in the southwestern Mannar district were ready to return but before that their villages needed to be de-mined and this de-mining was unlikely to happen due to insufficient funding available to mine action organisations. As the World Food Programme (WFP) head in Sri Lanka, Adnan Khan told IRIN, “even after their resettlement, IDPs will continue to require some sort of food assistance as they lack resources and will not be able to resume normal agricultural and income-generating activities like fishing and farming for several months after their return.” ( Countries like the U.S. and Japan have contributed majorly to the financial aid supporting this process. While the U.S. announced USD 8 million for assisting the Tamil displaced persons in the north, Eric Schwartz, Assistant Secretary, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration of the US State Department was quick to point out that prompt return is the key objective that needs to be kept in mind throughout this process. (The Hindustan Times, 28.07.09)

It’s also important to bear in mind that the process of return occurs in conditions of safety and dignity. There may be many who may not wish to go as their original homes may now be totally destroyed. For the second generations, who have known no life outside these camps, the change may seem overwhelming. Thus the process is in now way going to be a simple one for one of the largest conflict-induced IDP populations in the subcontinent.

Residence Permits for Refugees in India: Ad-Hocism, Confusion and Lack of Clarity within the Government

Sahana Basavapatna

Some refugee groups in India, notably, the Burmese, Afghans and Iranians, can be said to be recognized by the Government as they provide for acquiring of the same on formally being recognized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For reasons still unkown, and perhaps telling of the Government's ad-hoc approach to refugees, other refugee groups do not possess these permits, such as for example, the Somalis.

This article intends to give an overview of the Residence Permit policy, the changes that have been made in the recent past and in doing so, understand the confusion with the Government circles on this matter and the consequences this has for refugees and the larger constitutional provisions that claim to protect refugees.

Procedure to be followed by a Refugee to Apply for Residence Permit

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs (as per information received in response to the RTI application to the Ministry of Home Affairs dated 23 March 2009), the procedure for obtaining residence permits applicable to foreigners is also applicable to refugees recognized by UNHCR. In case of refugees, the procedure of acquiring Residence Permits (which are issued under Rule 6 of the Registration of Foreigners Rules, 1992) involves application to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office on the basis of a letter issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs together with submission of identity documents such as Residence Proof, Identity Proof and a Police Clearance Certificate. In the past, no fee was charged to the refugee either during a fresh application for RP or during renewals.

Until December 2008, when this policy is believed to have been implemented, recognized refugees did not have to pay any "visa fee" or "penalty fee" to acquire a fresh Residence Permit. In case of a foreigner, the visa fee depends on the length of stay of the foreigner and the class of visa the individual possesses. The penalty fee is calculated as the difference between the date of entry of the foreigner in India and the date of making the application before the concerned FRRO. Thus, while refugees did not have to pay either the visa or the penalty fee, since December 2008, they would have do so. For a large number of people who have recently been recognized as refugees, this has meant the practical impossibility of holding a valid permit during their stay in India.

The Advantages of Refugees Holding a Residence Permit

The residence permit constitutes recognition of the “refugee” by the government and is a legal document that extends essential protection to the refugees and protects them from harassment. It also enables them to avail of assistance and protection in India under the laws. Given that there is no refugee management policy or law in India, this is a positive step and a recognition of refugees' distinct status in India. Seen from this perspective, the applying of this fee without notification or offering a reasoning has an adverse effect on the refugees' legal status and protection and is also a violation of Constitutional Law as well as International Human Rights Law.

The sudden change in the policy is detrimental to the refugees as they are unable to pay the large sums of money for the Permits to be granted. As a party to the International Human Rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), India is obliged to honour the principle of non-refoulement. In India, this has been translated into the domestic law where in numerous cases the Supreme Court of India has upheld this principle under Article 21 of the Constitution, notably NHRC vs State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996 SCC 742) and Dr. Malavika Karlekar vs. Union of India (criminal) (1992). A comprehensive reading from the above indicates that refugees are a distinct category where the general rule may not apply As persons who seek the protection from the Indian Government, it is not fair to ask refugees to pay for the same.

Ramifications of the Policy on Refugees in Delhi

In this overall scenario, the Government of India's policy of imposing the "visa fee" and "penalty fee" does not help a large number of refugees as most of them do not have the economic means to pay this fee. Further, this decision to implement the fee as part of the legal regime amounts to virtually withdrawing the protection available to them. Further, levying of a “visa fee” and a “penalty fee” on a distinct category of individuals who arrived in India seeking the protection of the Government of India defeats the very purpose of granting them the “protection”.

The imposing of this fee also needs to be seen from the perspective of the undue delay in the Refugee Status Determination by UNHCR in India. In recent times, refugees who approach UNHCR for registration are given an appointment that is approximately 6 months from the date of approaching UNHCR and another year from the date of registration for the interview in the first instance. Thus, in most cases, refugees are forced to wait for nearly one and a half to two years before applying for Residence Permits, which is granted only to a recognized refugee.


Confusion still prevails, with the inability of the bureaucracy to explain clearly the reasons for introducing this policy after years of not imposing a fee on refugees. On the other hand, this could be a simple case of Government ad-hocism and the culture of not finding it necessary to explain its own position.

It however needs to be clear as to the objective of the Government in introducing this policy and undertanding its effectiveness. While this only means that a large number of refugees are unable to get the Permits, it is not clear as to what the Government seeks to achieve. This is clear also from FRRO which seems to just implement the policy, with no clarity as to why this is being done now and why not earlier. While the debate still goes on, on whether it is best to have a legislation in India or a different way in which forced migration may be understood, managed and regulated, what is clear is that such a confusion will not exist were India to adopt and pass a Refugee law.

Social Networks Essential for Wartime Migrants in Afghanistan

Ksenia Glebova

It is better to have a hundred friends than a hundred roubles, claims a popular Russian proverb. In times of war these words sound as true as ever. Afghanistan, a country that has been at war with others and itself for over thirty years now, social networks have gradually acquired a whole new meaning let alone dimension. The war has displaced thousands of Afghans who used their social networks making decisions to escape, return, integrate in exile and reintegrate at home.

In his Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan recently published by Palgrave Macmillan Norwegian scholar Kristian Berg Harpviken seeks to show how people’s networks are crucial for their responses to ongoing war. Berg Harpviken addresses wartime migration on his quest to explore the role people’s social networks play under the extreme circumstances of war.

Earlier research suggested that social networks help to maintain or mobilise new physical resources, to provide security and to gather information. Social networks theory has not yet been widely applied in the civil war setting. There has previously only been limited debate on whether social networks disintegrate or strengthen in the face of war. Berg Harpviken tests the network analysis framework in the wartime migration setting drawing on his empirical research in two villages in Afghanistan’s severely war-affected area on the outskirts of the city of Herat. In the first village most people fled to Iran, in the second village majority chose to collaborate with the government.

His network analysis approach is systematic and comprehensive but what makes it stand out is the connection made to other disciplines. In particular Berg Harpviken draws on sociology of economics and organisational sociology and their tools for social network analysis. This comparative method adds a valuable perspective to the study of human responses to war going beyond the traditional debate on the metamorphosis of social networks in times of war. The book’s appendix on researching migration in war is a useful resource for migration scholars.

Three decades of war translate into three decades of wartime migration and a second generation of wartime migrants growing up. In great contrast to numerous macro-level studies of war and peace building in Afghanistan, it is these people who are at the heart of this book that questions their one-sided image as victims of the conflict. Their escape decisions, integration at exile, return decisions and reintegration at ‘home’ were based on and executed with the help of their social networks and resources available through them.

The book is based on Berg Harpviken’s fieldwork during the period of the Taliban's domination of Afghanistan (1996-2001) and since the arrival of US-led coalition forces. Doing fieldwork in Afghanistan is in itself a test of perseverance and Berg Harpviken has spent more time researching Afghan villages during the Taliban regime than most of his fellow scholars. This first-hand experience of the context empowers Berg Harpviken to give agency to his informants. He emphasises the importance of agency and network resources in responding to unpredictable and extreme social environments, of which war is an example par excellence.

Afghan refugees make use of the evolving social network resources to make decisions to leave and to return. Berg Harpviken demonstrates how social networks are formed and how they evolve in the absence of state. Most notably, he succeeds to show on the example of the world’s largest refugee displacement of modern times that during wartime social networks are not only maintained by the people in the network but may be even strengthened in order to facilitate migration and return. More precisely, Berg Harpviken shows that individuals become dependent on a small circle of ties, which partially confirms the assumption that networks contract in wartime. At the same time, armed conflict provides an opportunity to strengthen some of the old ties and build completely new ones.

Berg Harpviken’s study of wartime migration strategies in Afghanistan makes a solid contribution to the field of migration studies and social network analysis. In addition to its thorough empirical evidence and theoretical engagement, Social Networks and Migration in Wartime Afghanistan is also a valuable and timely resource for national and international policy makers who engage in the understanding of this currently failed state. Berg Harpviken’s research paves the way to future scholars of migration and social networking to build on the scholarly understanding of wartime networks – in Afghanistan or elsewhere.