Saturday, November 20, 2010

Compilation by Ishita Dey

Brasilia Declaration on the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons in the Americas

Eighteen South American Countries adopted a declaration in Brasilia at the end of a meeting to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the sixtieth anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. The document is being seen as the first step towards a regional protection approach on displacement and protection of refugees. According to UNHCR statement the declaration is significant because of three reasons: respect for the principle of non-refoulement, including non-rejection at borders and non-penalization of illegal entry; support for the incorporation of gender, age and diversity considerations into national laws on refugees and the displaced; and the encouragement of States to adopt mechanisms to address new situations of displacement not foreseen by the 1951 Refugee Convention, the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of States.

To read the Declaration:; Accessed on 14 November 2010For more details:; Accessed on 14 November 2010

Thatto Flood Victims: Badin Relief Camps Details

Thousands of people from different areas of Thatto are going to Karachi, Badin, Hyderabad, Tando Muhammad Khan and other parts of lower Sindh. So far the official registered figures by district Government Badin is in thousands but more people are expected to arrive.

Camps in Badin district
1.Taluka Badin : 400
2.Taluka Talhar: 88
3.Taluka Matli: 90
4.Taluka Tando Bago: 332
5.Taluka Golarchi 2002
6.Total: 2912


Violence in Kandhamal and National People’s Tribunal, Delhi

A.J. Philip in his article “Shame revisited: A relook at Kandhamal”, reports about the recently concluded National People’s Tribunal which was attended by sixty victims who travelled all the way from Kandhamal to New Delhi. The tribunal, a civil society initiative was headed by Justice A.P. Shah, a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court and other members present were eminent personalities from different works of life like Harsh Mander, Syeda Hameed and Mahesh Bhatt. One common problem that the victims faced was the non-cooperative attitude of the police and the administration. Most of them had a harrowing time to register FIRs (First Information Reports). And even when FIRs are registered, appropriate charges are not made against the accused, with a view to protecting them. What makes this article though provoking is the author’s comment on media coverage of “events far away”. Though the organizers had sent press notices to all media houses there was hardly any media coverage despite the event being held in Delhi. The author’s comment ponders us to rethink the way issues of violence, conflict and displacement in various regions are covered in national media. For details please visit the link below

Source:; Accessed on 10 September 2010.

USCRI Launches the Thailand Committee for Refugees

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) is pleased to announce that our field office in Thailand has become an independent national organization: the Thailand Committee for Refugees (TCR). The new entity will focus on building local support for refugee rights under the leadership of Veerawit Tianchainan, who has served as the Country Director of USCRI Thailand since 2009. USCRI will continue operating in Bangkok through a partnership with Asylum Access to advocate for refugee rights throughout Southeast Asia.

USCRI is a Washington, D.C. area-based nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide by advancing fair and humane public policy, facilitating and providing direct professional services, and promoting the full participation of refugees and immigrants in community life.

Southern Refugee Legal Aid Network

A useful resource for everyone concerned with protecting the rights of refugees, in particular those who are representing refugees seeking asylum in the global south. It is intended primarily to assist those involved in the provision of legal aid - lawyers, paralegals, NGOs - who are working from the global south, where access to information is often scarce.

For details visit :

Resource Centre on Forced Migration in South Asia

CRG has established a Resource Centre on Forced Migration in South Asia to enhance its research and training activities on forced migration and other related themes. The main objective is to develop first hand knowledge and experiences about forced migration and displacement in the neighbouring countries of South Asia. We have updated the website and details of our library and resource centre holdings are available online.

For details please register to access our holdings on forced migration:

Dilemma of Right to Property and IDPs in Nepal

Som Prasad Niroula
[Nepal Institute of Peace (NIP)]

During the period of these four years from April 2006 to present, the country has witnessed many political changes like abolition of monarchy, entry into the system of Republic, formation of constituent assembly by election and ongoing process of drafting new constitution but the major issue of transformation peace process is still in a weak position and the political crisis is continued till the date. The reintegration and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is one of the major part of the peace process but very little works have been done to the people displaced during the period of conflict. Reintegration and Rehabilitation project of Nepal Peace Fund Trust of Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction has identified only 52,160 persons (14,031 families) till the date which is very small number. Also it has allocated only 4.92 percent of its resource on the category of Rehabilitation. 1 As the National IDP Policy has not been implemented properly and the Procedural Directives 2007 of National Policy Relating to Internally Displaced Persons, 2007 is still in pending, various issues are yet to resolve. The IDPs who want to resettle at the present place of living are unable to receive compensation as it is only for returnees although the National IDP Policy clearly entitles every displaced persons have right to integrate in their current place of displacement of resettle elsewhere in Nepal.

Capture of Land and Property and the Right to Property

During the conflict, a large number of people left home due to threat and harassment by conflicting parties. They also did not get chances of even taking the tangible properties their houses were captured as well as destroyed by the conflicting parties Nepal Communist Party of Maoists and security forces. Moreover, some for the houses got destroyed itself because of not staying for long year.

The laws of armed conflict prohibit the destruction and capture of property was breached by both sides. Also the distribution of compensation for reconstruction and repair was ignored at the beginning and it is still prolonged. More than 10,000 cases of claiming for compensation were recorded by taskforce formed in 2007, but till the date only some 419 families had received support to reconstruct their houses and 2,468 repair of damaged house. 2

The lack of housing in the place of origin is as one of the main factors preventing the IDPs return. A survey report claims that nearly half of those interviewed reported serious land housing and property problems. 3 Many of IDPs are willing to return but the Maoist Cadres at local level still making threaten to them.4 Thus most of the IDPs with non-Maoist political affiliations have been prevented from recovering land and property.

The property right is one of the basic rights of human being. According to the preamble of the interim constitution, it guarantees the basic human rights to every citizen of Nepal. "Right to Property" under Article 19(1) provides that all citizen of Nepal are guaranteed by the right to acquire, own, sell and otherwise dispose of property. 5 The state shall not except in the public interest, requisition, acquire or create any encumbrance, on the property of any person, and this should be just, fair and reasonable and not by arbitrary but rule of law or by law only. 6 Other provisions under the Constitution include the right to earn and use one’s property, and the right to choose one’s place of residence. Moreover, the constitution enshrines that the state has a responsibility to conduct programs to rehabilitate the displaced and provide relief for damaged private properties. 7

Returning of captured land and property is one of the necessary parts of rehabilitation. According to the International Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (IDPs), competent authorities have the duty and responsibility to assist returned and/or resettled internally displaced persons to recover, to the extent possible, their property and possessions which they left behind or were dispossessed of upon their displacement. When recovery of such property and possessions is not possible, competent authorities shall provide or assist these persons in obtaining appropriate compensation or another form of just reparation 8. It is clearly mentioned in the National IDP Policy also that the state shall make necessary arrangements to return such physical properties which were forcefully seized at the time of conflict 9. However, the commitment of the peace process has not been implemented on the issues of returning the properties to the IDPs.

The unequal access of land is also one of the major reasons of conflict. Most of the lands were captured with a purpose of distributing to the landless poor. But, it is still unknown how many poor people received the land illegally distributed by Nepal Communist Party of Maoist. Now, it is challenge for the Maoists as well as government to return the captured land and provide to land owners.

The High Level Scientific Land Reform Commission (HLSLR) which was formed to study the land situation has recently reported that there are 1.4 million landless people in Nepal and they require 421,770 hectare land to get rehabilitated and there is some 492,851 hectare land belonging to the government which is not being used productively and it can be used to enable 1.4 million squatters to enjoy access to land 10.

The government of Nepal should return the captured land to the owner. The practice of illegal encroachment of land may further exaggerate the present crisis. The government may bring a law and look for a legal space to take excessive land from owner. The government may give minimal compensation for the owner / IDPs.

The Present Context

The capturing of land is still continued by various armed groups and political parties in different parts of the country. Unified UCPN(Maoist) and its sister organizations are continuing to capture private and trust-owned land in various places even as months have elapsed since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. 11 The rule of law is getting weaken and people are being unable to claim the right of land and property.

Source: INSEC, Human Rights Year Book 2010, p.7

The returning of captured land and property has become a political agenda at present. It has never been such a strongly raised. The returning of captured land and property is one of the major demands of the ruling government to end the deadlock of current crisis and initiate the formation of new government of consensus.


The right to property is widely debated topics. However, the Interim Constitution of Nepal – 2006 considers one of the fundamental rights. Moreover, the international documents recognized rights property is a basic rights of individual. In this regard, the government should ensure the rights to property to IDPs. The government and Nepal Communists Party of Maoists (CPN-M) may impose the land policy through legal amendment. The newly emerged groups also started to seize the property by following the precedent of CPN-M. The mutual solution has to be explore among the government and IDPs.


1.Four Monthly Progress Report, Report No.8, Nepal Peace Trust Fund, Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction
2.Four Monthly Progress Report, Report No. 8, NPTF, April 21, 2010, p.38
3.Nepal IDP Working Group, 15 June 2009, pp. 27-29
4.Rapid Assessment of Conflict Induced Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) for their Return, Resettlement and Reintegration, NHRC, December 2008, p. 81
5.The Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2007, Article 19 (1)
6.Id, Article 19 (3)
7.Id, Article 33 (r)
8.UN OCHA, Guiding Principles on InternaL Displacement, Retrived from
9.National Policies on Internally Displaced Persons, 2063(2007), 8.3.4, ‘1.4 million landless people need 421,770 hectares of land ‘, 15 May 2010, Maoists continue to capture private land, 7 March, 2010

The IDPs of the “Madhesh Aandolan’

Suman Babu Poudel and Anita Ghimire

Although, the definition of Madhes and Madhesi on the present political and social context of Nepal is highly contested, Madhes as yet, is geographically defined as the “Terai”-a flat southern region of Nepal. It stretches from east to west as part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The people inhabiting it are mainly of three types- the indigenous people, the people of hilly origin (the Pahades 1) and local people who share cultural similarities and close ties with the cross border Indian parts (the Madhesi).

The Madhesh Aandolan

Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) a political party in the cabinet was against the interim constitution that was made by the coalition government led by the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)-Maoist (Maoist hereafter) after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006. Their demonstration became the starting point of the conflict. It started in the two districts 2 eastern region of Siraha and Saptari and spread over the western region. It continued for 19 days and claimed the life of 29 Madhesi people. The major political demand was a regional autonomy with rights to self determination, proportional representation in constitutional assembly, provision of citizenship, and end to discrimination in hiring Madhesi in national administration, army, and bureaucracy.

However, the distressing part was that the conflict which started as a clearly political cause got mixed with unlawful activities like looting and kidnapping when other groups who were presumably taking benefit of the situation of loss of law and order joined it. However, they claimed it to be for the support of the conflict. Such activities were targeted towards particular groups who were forced to be displaced from the Madhesh. It is estimated that around 6000- 8000 people have been displaced due to the conflict (IDMC, 2008). However, as is the common case, the numbers are much more higher- in this case precisely because the agencies involved were led by the misconception that IDPs are only poor the people, so they enumerated only those who were living in forest or in tents and squatters. However a large number of people displaced by this conflict have settled in urban areas and are able to support themselves. This article describes the nature of the persons displaced internally due to the conflict. Their issue is crucial to the federal structure that Nepal is envisioned to take, yet they are neither recognized by the state and its policy procedures nor other national and international actors. These people can be classified into the following three broad types.

General Hill People

There are people who were living in Madhes but are of hilly origin and share language and most of their cultures with other people of hilly origin. Some of them had been living in Madhes for many generations and have no houses, property or immediate relatives outside the Madhes. Occupationally, most were involved in the business and agriculture and professions like law and teaching. At first, they were distinguished as Pahadi- thus not belonging to the place. They fled because they frequently faced threats of kidnapping, forced donations, unreasonable taxes and ransom, confiscation of the land and other forms of property and misbehavior and attacks on their women and children. These attacks came from different armed groups 3 that are claiming to support the conflict.

Besides these, the conflict has bred communal hatred. Purely personal issues of misunderstandings were interpreted as propaganda against the whole Madhesi community and revenge was taken on any available Pahadi. Similarly, non Madhesis living in Madhesi majority community were attacked if anything happened to any Madhesi living elsewhere. This made life insecure for the Pahadis also.

These groups are among the first to be displaced. A large number of these IDPs have settled along the northern part of the east west highway where there are communities with the majority of hill origin people. Others have moved deeper into the urban areas.

Government Employees

The displacement of government employees also started from the very beginning of the conflict. The leaders of the conflict propagated a sentiment that the government employees were the agents of the central hilly government, whom “the colonizers” sent to the Madhesi homelands to monitor and dominate the Madhesi people. Their displacement was seen as a victory by the Madhesi forces.

There are three kinds of displaced government employees based on their living in Madhes.

•Those local level government employees who are living in the Madhesh since many generations. They are permanent settlers of the place and employed by local government bodies. They shared a long relation and social and cultural understanding with the local Madhesi. These have no property elsewhere.

•Those who have been living in Madhesh since few years- after undertaking the job there. These mostly lived in and around district headquarters or amongst the Pahadi- majority community. They lived on the rent houses or had built their own houses in recent years. They have their relatives and extended families in different hilly parts of Nepal.

•The third group comprises of government employees like Chief District Officers, Local Development Officers, government engineers and lawyers who are in higher posts and are assigned to those districts for a shorter tenure. These are generally in constant fear of being attacked from both sides. The Madhesi activists attack them blaming them to be corrupt and insincere on Madhesi people. They get threats of kidnapping, killing and demands for ransom by people who call them from the Indian cell phone numbers but claim that they are Madhesi. Incidents of murder and extortions targeted to these groups have augmented considerably. Most of such employees of hilly origin now decline to get transferred to these areas.

However, these people do not have their land and property in those areas. Mostly they live in government quarters. Upon displacement, these people generally seek their transfers to the capital or to other hilly districts.

Industrialists, businessman and landlords

Another group of displaced people are the Madhesi elites themselves, landlords, industrialist and businessman. This kind of attack on industrialist, businessman and landlords are increasingly seen in Birgunj, Biratnagar and Janakpur. Interestingly these belong to the “Madhesi” group in the local understanding. These are people who have their extended families and marriage relations both within India and Nepal. Most of them have been living in Nepal since generations and have their investment and extended families settled mostly in the Terai region.

The displacement of such groups has no connection to their ethnicity or belonging to the place. They are victims of the criminal activities taking place in the name of the Madhesi conflict and the government’s inability to distinguish and deal with the problem. These people are under constant threat of kidnapping, asking for ransoms or donations by the armed groups.

On displacement they either move to the nearby urban cities, or to Kathmandu. A large numbers of these people have bought houses and land and shifted their business in India. However, they have their property and investment in the Terai and are unable to either sell their properties or get their investment back.

All the categories of the IDPs have been displaced together with their families in most cases. However if they have not been able to sell their property or procure their investment, the male head of the family have come back after arranging accommodation for their remaining family members.

Acknoweledgement: The research is embedded in the NCCR North-South (Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research North-South) and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation (SDC). The authors acknowledge the support of the centre.


1.The term “Phahadi’ and “Madheshi” used here is according to the understanding of the term by the local people as found in the fieldwork in Mahottari district by one of the authors.
2.Nepal is divided into 75 administrative parts, each called districts.
3.The home ministry of Nepal has identified over 109 armed groups, a vast majority of them formed after the Madhesh aandolan.

Contesting Statelessness: Comparative Perspectives of Tibetans and Rohingiyas in India and Bangladesh

by Nasreen Chowdhury,Assistant Professor in Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh, 13 August 2010, Venue: CRG Seminar Room
[Report by Rajat Kanti Sur and Sucharita Sengupta]

Statelessness is a complicated issue and has serious impacts on human rights, liberty, job opportunity, and property rights of individuals who have been uprooted from the state. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, everyone has the right to nationality; no one shall be arbitrarily deprived from this. This has also been reinstated in the 1961 and 1964 convention on statelessness. Statelessness is therefore the denial of the link between individual community and the state. In this lecture she addressed a comparative study of the Tibetans and Rohingyas in India and Bangladesh. She argues that experiences of statelessness in postcolonial states of India and Bangladesh with multiple histories of partition and state-formation posits certain significant questions with particular reference to the need for regional protection mechanism, bi-lateral relations and importance of legal status and identification documents.

The statelessness of Tibetans is different from the Rohingyas. Her discussion geared around three vantage points, in the first section she sketched a brief historical context, in the second, a theoretical framework and finally, a variation between the two groups.

For instance, the Rohingyas are one of the major ethnic communities of the Northern Arakan region of Burma, which borders Bangladesh. With the end of the World War two, they suffered a history of abuse and faced their first exodus in 1962. In 1977, they again faced obstacle due to the new Government. A large number of refugees entered Bangladesh at that point of time. They were repatriated in 1977. But the situation again changed in 1991 &1992, following another exodus. It was during this time that, SLORC assumed power in Bangladesh and the Burmese policy towards the Rohingyas changed drastically. Most of the Burmese Muslim refugees took shelter in Coxbazar area within Bangladesh. They were a minority back then. They were repatriated in 1992. However it was involuntary and forceful repatriation, which ended in 1995.Whoever remained in Coxbajar are refugees but stateless. They are not treated well in terms of mobility, hygiene and live in camps. Around 21,000-30,000 Rohingyas live there and are now known as IDPs

The story of the Tibetan stateless persons is slightly different from the Rohingyas. They entered India in around 1950. They were able 2 gain political recognition which allowed them to be part and parcel of the Indian society. The Indian Government has recognized them as ‘refugees’. They are one of the most successful cases in India, where we have statelessness with a difference. They have made their own establishment, enjoy the freedom to practice religion of their choice and the freedom of speech and expression. They have also established their government on exile, in the Indian soil. The only condition Indian authorities seem to have set down is to do their activities peacefully.

The reason behind the contestation of the two different stories of statelessness is the different historical formation of states. The two basic ideas that deal with the attitude of the states towards the stateless persons in the postcolonial era are: culture and policies of citizenship. Culture of the state is very important regarding this issue. The policy of multiculturalism makes a state more sensitive towards those sentimental issues without denying the territorial integrity of the state.

[To listen to the full lecture text, please go to -]

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ethnic Conflict: Heal the Victims of Conflict in Sri Lanka

Anuradha Gunarathne

Sri Lanka suffered from an ongoing conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam for more than 30 years. It resulted in economic, social, cultural and political devastations. After two decades of fighting and three failed attempts of peace talks, on 19th May 2009, the Government declared victory and the protracted conflict ended.

Continuous displacement took place in the North and the East making at least 1 million displaced throughout the conflict history. It is to be noted that some of them are still living in camps or with friends and relatives waiting to be settled. It is progressing with settling the IDPs and bringing them back to normalcy and having provided them a life with dignity through resettlement, rehabilitation or reconstruction. According to reported incidents and reports of protection monitoring teams has proved that even after been settled in a permanent residence and even after fulfilled of their basic rights, the grievances of these displaced community is remaining.

In order to bring back to their normal life, the grievances that are swept under the carpet have to be addressed. Unless the grievances are handled properly, a durable solution for the displacement cannot be provided. Hence, it is strongly felt that “reconciliation” should be a compulsory component in the check list of durable solution for the displaced community.

Internally Displaced Persons in Sri Lanka: Catering for their Special Needs for Protection and Assistance

Ms. Wasantha Senavirathne
[Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka]

1. Introduction

Forced displacement of people is a human tragedy at the international, regional and domestic levels. When people are forced to flee from their homes many of them choose to remain within their own community and familiar surroundings, rather than crossing national borders to seek refuge in a foreign country. Persons who remain displaced within the boundaries of their State of origin are called internally displaced persons (IDPs). They prefer to remain in their home territory for numerous reasons. They are reluctant to abandon their familiar surroundings, and it is easier to return and resettle when conditions permit them to do so. Living in a foreign country is a relatively new experience, to which many of them have an aversion. They may also lack the means 1. Nevertheless, internal displacement may entail conditions of severe hardship and suffering; it may break up families, cut social and cultural ties, terminate stable employment relationships and disrupt educational opportunities. It also limits access to the basic necessities of life, and exposes the displaced to acts of violence such as armed attack, rape and killings 2. Especially in the context of armed conflict, IDPs are more vulnerable because they generally end up in camps or other places under the control of one of the parties to the conflict, and as a result become easy victims of the atrocities of war.

Originally, the problem of internal displacement was considered an entirely internal matter for sovereign States to handle, as the displaced persons were their citizens and continued to live within the national borders. However, because of its massive impact on international peace, security and stability the phenomenon of internal displacement has also become an issue of serious international concern. Unfortunately, the response of the international community and responsible sovereign authorities has on many occasions been inadequate. Francis Deng states, “While refugees have an established system of international protection and assistance, those who are displaced internally fall under the domestic jurisdiction and responsibility of the state, without there being specific legal or institutional bases for their protection and assistance. For the same reason, internal displacement poses a challenge to the international community to develop norms, institutions, and mechanisms for preventing it, addressing its consequences, and finding durable solutions, with the responsibility of sovereignty as the starting point 3.” IDPs are not included in and protected by the well-established refugee regime 4; they are only covered by general principles of international law and ad hoc measures. Therefore their need for protection and assistance at all stages of internal displacement, at both international and domestic levels, is absolutely essential.

2. Tragedy of Internal Displacement in Sri Lanka

During the last three decades, Sri Lanka saw a multiple waves of population displacements, due to the recently ended thirty years internal armed conflict broke out between the Government armed forces of the country and the resistant movement named Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); and the massive natural disaster, tsunami, occurred on the 26th of December 2004. Between October 2008 and June 2009, in Sri Lanka, more than 280,000 people fled to government-controlled territory, and as of October 2009, the vast majority of these IDPs remained in camps in the districts of Vavuniya, Mannar, Jaffna and Trincomalee. Camps, set up as temporary shelters for these IDPs in a short period of time are complained to be lack of amenities with severe overcrowding. The worst situation has been at Menik Farm camp which in June 2009 was holding 220,000 IDPs 5. There are also thousands of IDPs in Jaffna in the north and Trincomalee in the east who have been displaced since before 2008. Over 60,000 Muslim IDPs displaced by the LTTE from the North and North-West have been living in the town of Puttalam since 1990. However, now the situation is much better and the resettling these IDPs are processing. There are numerous practical problems still hindering the smooth resettlement of these vulnerable populations.

Throughout the conflict no Ministry has had overall responsibility for the welfare of IDPs and there are no comprehensive policies or guidelines on displacement. In 2004, the Government adopted a National Framework for Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (Triple R) to provide a common strategy for needs assessment, planning and delivery of assistance. The Triple R Framework adopted the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement of 1998 as official policy for assisting IDPs affected by the conflict and required Ministries to bring their policies and programmes into alignment with these principles 6. Though, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights is the nominated focal point in relation to the protection and assistance of IDPs in Sri Lanka, the overlapping mandates and responsibilities of Ministries and agencies have led to delays, poor coordination and duplication of activities. Legislators were drafting a national IDP law at the end of 2008, but it has not yet submitted to the parliament for adoption. The IDP Protection Unit of the National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka is taking steps to promote IDPs’ rights, for example on forced returns. Over the past years, UN agencies also have taken the lead in providing protection and assistance to these vulnerable people but their activities are limited due restriction imposed by the Government limiting their access to IDPs and returnees in various parts of the country 7.

Due to the recently held Sri Lankan presidential elections on 26th January 2010, large numbers of IDPs from the north and the east are being returned to their districts of origin, where they face severe difficulties rebuilding their livelihoods. People’s original homes are still severely damaged, and many return areas have not yet been demined according to UN security standards, putting returnees at risk. As a result, many people have not been able to return to their precise places of origin and so remain displaced, staying with host families or in transition camps 8. Accordingly, finding durable solutions for Sri Lankan IDPs remains a daunting challenge for national authorities.

As observed above, the problem of internal displacement is still threatening to the peace, stability and sustainable development of the country in different forms. However, Sri Lankan government is working hard to achieve long lasting solutions for IDPs by resettling them in the most effective way. Further steps yet to be taken to reintegrate them into the society and to protect and promote their basic human rights needed to live a dignified life.


1.Francis M. Deng, The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, ‘Compilation and Analysis of Legal Norms’, E/CN.4/1996/52/Add.2, 5 December 1995, para.9.
3.See Francis M. Deng, ‘Flocks without shepherds: The International Dilemma of Internal Displacement’ in Wendi Davis (eds), Rights have no Borders: Internal Displacement Worldwide, (Norwegian Refugee Council / Global IDP Survey, 1998), .
4.1951 UN Convention relating to Refugees and its Protocol of 1967 provide the legal framework for the protection of refugees, while the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has the direct mandate to look after their needs for protection and assistance.
5.See Sri Lanka: Continuing humanitarian concerns and obstacles to durable solutions for recent and longer-term IDPs,, accessed on 18.02.2010.
6.Paula Banerjee, Putting IDPs on the map: achievements and challenges, Forced migration review, Special Volume,p.18 December 2006, p.
7.See Internal displacement in South and South-East Asia, p.55.
8.See Sri Lanka: Continuing humanitarian concerns and obstacles to durable solutions for recent and longer-term IDPs,, accessed on 18.02.2010

“Pura Handa Kaluwara” (Death on a Full Moon Day) a film by Prasanna Vithanage

Anuradha Gunarathne 1

Sri Lanka is a country which has the experience with the three decades conflict between the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam. The civilians both in the North and the South were suffered due to this protracted conflict. Thousands of civilians died. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, children, wives and relatives were suffered due to the lives of their sons, husbands, fathers and relations. No one was there to talk to the hearts of the suffered. Some of them were psychologically affected.

In 1997 the famous film producer Mr. Prasanna Vithanage produced a film named “Pura Hada Kaluwara” (Death on the full Moon Day). It explores collective life of the island the ethnic conflict that has engulfed Sri Lanka during conflict. The movie does not portray the conflict directly. Instead, it focuses on the trauma brought about in the lives of a few chosen people by the ethnic conflict.

The film tells the story of Vannihamy, an elderly blind farmer from one of the Sinhala villages in the northern dry zone of Sri Lanka. He has two daughters and a son. The elder daughter, Sumana has married and moved away from home. Sunanda, the younger daughter, lives with Vannihamy in expectation of her marriage. Vannihamy's only son Bandara has joined the army. Bandara, resolved to join the army with the aim of earning enough money to build a small house and take care of his sister's forthcoming wedding.

In the opening sequences it shows land purchased by a long drought, and the villagers, including Vannihamy, undergoing great hardship due to the scarcity of water. Vannihamy, even though he is blind, is an experienced farmer and predicts that rain can be expected within few days.

A few days later, on the Buddhist full moon poya day, the body of his soldier son's is returned by the Army in a sealed coffin. He refuses to recognize the fact that the sealed coffin bearing the body of his son was brought back and buried. The officers of the army had intimated to him the fact that his son was killed in battle. However, he stubbornly believes that his son will return alive. The contrast between the father's unshakable faith in the return of the son from the battlefield and the brutal realities of life fuels the narrative.

Sunanda, the younger daughter, silently accepts her father's decision and finds a job in a garment factory. But her boyfriend Somay, her elder, married sister and the local Government officer pressure Vannihami to sign the papers which will entitle the family to the Government's compensation payment for his son's death in action. They thought that, that is the only way to earn for decent living. The customary alms giving period of three months, after bandara's death is fast approaching and money has to be found to pay for the food. The local Buddhist monk wants to construct a memorial in the name of the valiant son of the soil who gave his life for his country.

Faced with this pressure from villagers and relatives blinded by desperate poverty, day to day hardships and empty glories of being nothing more than canon fodder, Vannihami retains the clarity of vision, which gives him the wisdom that reaches far beyond what the eye can see.

He pick up the mammoty (hoe) to dig up and open his son's sealed coffin by doing this he knows he will invalidate the compensation claim, but his greater purpose is to believe that the war cannot kill his son. This is the most emotionally powerful moment in the film. A young woman who comes to the village tank to fetch water sees Vannihamy and informs the villagers. They rush to the scene and take on the job of unearthing the coffin themselves clearly with the intent of laying to rest the doubts assailing Vannihamy. They retrieve the coffin, break the seal and open it. Vannihamy, who is alert to everything going on, eagerly fingers the contents. All that is in the coffin are some pieces of wood and a large stone nothing that could prove the death of Vannihamy's son. As he leaves the graveyard Vannihamy is neither a defeated man nor spiritually broken. It is clear that he still believes his son is alive.

The old man's refusal to believe in his son's death becomes completely plausible only when it is viewed as the result of an unconscious protective mechanism operating against the unbearable reality of his son's death.

In the final sequences of the film Vannihamy as confident man as he was at the beginning comes to the village tank to fetch water, and listens eagerly to a ripple of laughter coming from the children bathing in the river. A scarcely perceptible smile comes to his lips perhaps he remembers how his son used to play in the river.

In this film face of Vannihamy represents the soul of a nation suffering 30 years of civil strife as the state and Tamil fighters continue their war of attrition. It's an observational realist movie which uses a spare medium concerning the grievances of the poor due to the civil conflict.

1.The author works as a National Coordinator of the National Projection and Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Unit of National Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and independent consultant for several human rights events.

Resettlement of IDPs and Challenging Road to Peace and Economic Recovery, 14 April, 2010, by Dr. Palitha T. B. Kohona , (Asian Tribune. com).

Comment by : Sucharita Sengupta

There are so many disasters that result into catastrophes in our lives, and displacement in itself is one such instance. Sri Lanka has remained a hapless witness and victim of a number of displacements till now, stemming out of a varied number of reasons. In the editorial column of the Asian Tribune, dated April 14 2010, Dr. Palitha T.B Kohona, ambassador and representative to the United Nations, traces briefly how despite several displacements, the state of Sri Lanka has recovered its economy and overcome other grave challenges with a fair amount of success. The article is an appraisal of the efforts by the government in rendering aid to the internally displaced and provide basic amenities to the camps where the evicted took shelter.

Starting from December 2004, when Tsunami has wiped away more than a million lives and displaced so many more, to 2007, when almost 187,000 people were displaced from the Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka in process of combating the LTTE, the country has faced tremendous devastation. The victims post 2007, were accommodated to camps with food, water and health care. The UNHCR, ICRC and WFP along with some other international organizations have played active roles in providing aid, specifically, in terms of resettlement of the internally displacement persons (IDPs). The government has been able to provide the people with food, shelter and also medical assistance in the camps. Even after Tsunami, most of the victims have been able to either return or reconstruct their houses. The article mentions that in some areas reconstruction has exceeded 110%.

The author claims that this post displacement situation is in exact contrast to the western countries. The way Sri Lanka has been able to ride over the traumas caused after the Tsunami had lashed out, has not been exemplified there. Similarly, people who were evicted from the Eastern Province after the bitter battle that ensued between the government and the LTTE, most of the victims have returned back to their respective homes. The abandoned villages have been reconstructed, roads have been repaired and the economic progress has also been remarkably well. Those displaced from Vanni have also started coming back.

The challenges ahead for Sri Lanka would be to ensure peace and security for its citizens. Since the defeat of the LTTE in May, 2009, the government has promised a speedy recovery of the losses which have accounted from a conflict spanning over twenty seven years. The return of all the displaced persons to their homes and restoration of the economy are the major priority of the government. Right to return of the people to a normal life again has also been mandatory for the government since providing relief to the displaced in the camps is costing the government millions. The author expresses his hope of a ‘nation building’ and further development of Sri Lanka, now that the LTTE has been uprooted. It has to be well equipped in order to combat tragedies like Tsunami so that the plight of displacement can be avoided. It would pursue its policy of non- alignment and remain committed to dealing with global concerns like terrorism.


Local Initiatives in Bridging & Strengthening Relationship among IDPS and the Host in the District of Puttalam, Sri Lanka

Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen 1

This article highlights the conflict transformation and peace building initiatives in the District of Puttalam, where local initiatives have facilitated the building up of relationships among existing communities as well as facilitating the process of integration of the Northern Muslim IDPs in Puttalam. Even though the District of Puttalam remained somewhat away from the main macro conflict area, the issues of forced migration of IDPs from the North in 1990 as a result of the conflict, and the Muslim political issues in this context were constantly highlighted in the Sri Lankan conflict related literature. Existence of this long term IDPs have resulted in a complex situation between the IDPs and the host community. Competition for limited resources as well as political differences has brought about tensions in the IDPs and host relationships2.Integration as a durable solution has posed varied issues resulting in conflicts, especially between the IDPs and the host community3. The area has been prone for conflicts. The article grounds on the art of peacebuilding as propounded by Lederach. This includes conflict transformation and peacebuilding initiatives that had an impact at all levels of the society through individual or group initiatives that have been a part of the process of transforming conflicts into positive relationships. These initiatives may be small, but have had an immense impact on the longer run. Most of the initiatives are initiatives that took root within the communities, nurtured by the community and remained a part of the community as Lederach emphasized as ‘moral imaginations’- based on imagining new possibilities, creativeness and being developed within particular contexts.

Local initiatives have been in existence throughout the District of Puttalam and have played a key role in addressing conflicts/tensions within their respective communities. Some of these initiatives have been facilitated by NGOs and INGOs in trying to respond to conflict/tension situations thereby easing out such situations which could otherwise have escalated into higher levels. NGOs and INGOs led initiatives have been implemented through the creation of peace committees, forums for discussions and multi-ethnic development projects for peacebuilding within communities.

Local Interventions in Facilitating Relationship Building among Communities

Conflicts in the district of Puttalam were understood in the context of; i) conflicts between the locals and the IDPs. ii) conflict between different ethnic/religious groups within the local communities. iii) intra-family conflicts, and iv) intra-group conflicts.

Conflicts were bridged through local informal dispute resolution mechanisms. The motivation to seek redress for their issues or conflicts depended on the informal dispute resolution mechanisms available. The factors that determine which mechanisms aggrieved parties approach for redress depended on the type of disputes, mandate and strength of the peace committees or village committees, ethnicity and religion of disputants, access to law enforcement and judicial authorities and the impact of the conflict on the local socio-political environment4.

Religion and the ethnicity are factors that determine to a larger extent on the mechanisms used to resolve conflicts. In Kalpitiya, the Grand Mosque played a key role in resolving disputes. Kalpitiya had the most of the IDP influxes since 1990. As most of the community members belonged to the Muslim community, the Mosque played a vital role.

Development initiatives formed to uplift the community have been an integral part in the development of the Puttalam District. These initiatives that are conflict sensitive, which take into account the multi-ethnic and multi-religious composition of the communities and gender, have been more successful in bridging communities.

Local initiatives were also dependent on local leaders. The local leaders played a dominant role in an individual capacity or as members of community base committees5. Usually these leaders were prominent, educated, wealthy, or are religious members. They are usually elected by the committees on the acceptance of their status in the communities that they served in.

In many instances political influences have impeded the work of local initiatives. These influences have prolonged the conflict resolution process. When local initiatives have been unsuccessful, resolving conflicts have gone beyond the local level mechanisms and turned to the state justice systems.

Issues such as the mandate, impact and sustainability remain key issues in donor driven village or peace committees. This does not mean that donor driven initiatives are unsuccessful. Many of such initiatives have been successful, where initiatives were emerging within the communities that they serve in. In some cases such issues posed challenges in the community. Donor driven initiatives with a specific mandate limits the activities of the initiatives. It may limit to the process while not focussing to the impact into the society. There is also the lack of sustainability. With the project ending, the committees formed too can end. Hence this requires a proper assessment of the local needs, available local resources such as knowledge and skills, coupled with realistic peacebuilding expectations. Hence there is a need to strengthen local development initiatives that are already in existence and proven (Mosque committees/village committees), which can have a greater impact in bridging communities). These initiatives are not only cost effective but also long lasting and sustainable.


1.The article is based on the paper, ‘In the pursuit of peace in Sri Lanka - through conflict transformation and peace building initiatives: A study on the role of local initiatives in bridging and strengthening relationships among different communities in the District of Puttalam’. The paper was prepared to be presented at the conference, ‘Enmity and Amity in South Asia’, The Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge (23rd-24th June, 2010). The author works as an Independent Consultant for Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding Projects in Sri Lanka.
2.An insightful analysis on the Northern Muslim IDPs in the District of Puttalam is elaborated by Hasbulla (2001), Thiranagama (2007) and Brun (2008).
3.For an analysis on the provisions of durable solutions to end displacement, see: Badurdeen (2010), ‘Ending internal displacement: the long term displaced persons in Sri Lanka’, Paper presented at Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford for an analysis on the provisions of durable solutions to end displacement.
4.See the study on Informal Dispute Resolution in North East and Puttalam for a more elaborated study on mechanisms used for redress by community members.
5.Cejka And Bamat (2003), ‘Artisans of Peace: Grassroot Peacemaking among Christian Communities’, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, USA.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Protection Regime for Refugees in Pakistan

Atta ur Rehman Sheikh
[Development Consultant, currently working with National Disaster Management Authority, Government of Pakistan]

Pakistan has been host to millions of refugees and illegal immigrants. Following Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan accommodated over three million Afghan refugees on humanitarian grounds. There were several subsequent influxes of Afghans into Pakistan owing to internal fighting and wars in Afghanistan, particularly following the War on Terror in 2001, combined with intermittent droughts and the volatile security situation. Prior to Afghan refugees, Pakistan successfully managed seven million refugees from India at the time of independence in 1947. Currently, illegal immigrant population residing in Pakistan stands at 3.5 million. In terms of the treatment they receive, their situation is not dissimilar from that of internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are the product of development projects, natural disasters or internal conflict. Currently, the total number of IDPs in Pakistan, as per UNHCR figures, stands at 1.23 million.

However, in spite of continuing experiences of such magnitude, Pakistan, like other developing countries, has not been able to evolve comprehensive policy or laws to effectively address its refugee problem. Nor, despite being member of the Executive Committee of the UNHCR, is Pakistan a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. So far, therefore, the measures undertaken to manage refugees have, in general, been ad-hoc and on a case by case basis.

The constitution of Pakistan does not contain any provision for refugees or externally displaced persons. There is no policy regarding refugees, asylum seekers and displaced persons. Thus under existing laws all refugees and displaced people have the de facto status of illegal aliens, subject to the Foreigners Act of 1946, which does not allow any refugee or asylum seeker to be the citizen of the country.

One exception to the ad-hoc treatment of refugees was the management of the seven million people who migrated to Pakistan following the partition of India in 1947. At that time the government had established a refugee rehabilitation agency, namely Refugee Rehabilitation Finance Corporation, which performed the job of settlement and resettlement of displaced persons fairly well. All in all, that may be considered a success story.

Afghan refugees have generally been welcomed in Pakistan, both at the government and public level, ever since they began to arrive in Pakistan in late 70s. They were taken in on humanitarian grounds but, to date, ambiguity remains as to which law should be applicable to different issues and problems encountered in the course of their management.

During their time of residence, which now spans over 30 years, different arrangements have been made to manage them. Initially, their management was delegated to relevant provinces. Subsequently, the office of Commissioner Afghan Refugees, attached to Ministry of State and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), was created in 1980. It was delegated powers over the administration and management of Afghan refugees, which included registration of refugees, camp management, distribution of relief goods and channelization of international aid.

The total recorded entry of Afghan refugees in Pakistan has been 4.4 million and there are still 1.7 million registered and nearly one million unregistered Afghans in Pakistan. According to UNHCR, there are at least 84 Afghan refugee camps (refugee villages) in the country including 71 in NWFP (now Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), 12 in Balochistan and one in Punjab province. Out of 2.1 million, one million live in camps (refugee villages).

Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops and end of the Cold War, Pakistan government adopted ‘closed door policy’, which included closure and relocation of camps as well as repatriation of refugees. The Pak-Afghan border was officially closed in November 2000. Prior to that, when international aid ceased in mid-90s, Afghan refugees were allowed to move out of camps to earn livelihood for themselves. As a result, population of Afghan refugees in urban areas, as per official figures, rose to 1.44 million.

The repatriation of Afghan refugees has been a complex issue in view of the 1400 KM long porous border and unstable situation in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the massive repatriation in 1992 and subsequent spontaneous and planned return, most of the refugees were reluctant to go back because of the volatile security situation and limited economic opportunities. Given the situation, Pakistan, Afghanistan and UNHCR reached an agreement in 2002 to support the gradual and organized return of the refugees through the voluntary repatriation program. Under the program, 1.6 million refugees returned in 2002, 340,000 in 2003 and more than 380,000 in 2004 from Pakistan. This was attributed to presence of ISAF, which established some kind of peace and security, which thus created space for economic activities. Besides, decreasing opportunities of employment in Pakistan also encouraged them to repatriate. The process of repatriation slowed down afterwards, as many Afghans again began migrating to Pakistan, because of increasing insecurity and lack of basic facilities in their home country.

The tripartite commission reviewed the situation and, realizing the stark realities on ground, decided to take a census of refugees in order to formulate a comprehensive future strategy for Afghans living in Pakistan. Conducted in 2005, the census provided some reliable figures about Afghans living in Pakistan, estimating them to be over 3 million, with 42 per cent living in camps and 58 per cent outside the camps. Over 81 per cent were Pashtuns, with much smaller percentage of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Turkmen and other ethnic groups. Other findings of the census indicated that a significant proportion of the refugees were born in exile and that a majority, 82 per cent, of the registered refugees, did not want to go back to Afghanistan because of lack of security, shelter and livelihood.

In view of the situation, the Pakistan government and UNCHR signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2006, according to which the refugees were to be issued identity cards, valid for three years. Those who did not get themselves registered would be considered illegal immigrants. At the same time, UNHCR would continue to assist voluntary repatriation. After the passage of this period of three years, remaining Afghans would undergo screening for identification of those who might be in danger on their return and after assessment they would be provided with security and protection. Proof of Registration (PoR) issued under the agreement were to expire on December 2009; however, the government extended the validity till December 2012, though it continued to press for their repatriation.

Besides the Afghan refugees there are, according to official figures, 3.5 illegal immigrants in Pakistan. The illegal immigrants belongs to 76 different nationalities, majority includes Bangladeshis, Burmese, Arabs, Iranians, Africans, Chinese, Tajiks, Uzbeks, etc. Given its limited success in deporting or repatriating them or in providing them any kind of legal status, the government created a separate mechanism with the establishment of the National Alien Registration Authority (NARA) under the Foreigners’ (Amendment) Ordinance of 2002. Currently headquartered in Karachi with eight branches within the same city, NARA is in the process of expanding its outreach by setting up branches in other provinces as well. The authority has been mandated to register the aforementioned non-Afghan immigrants and to provide them with PoR, entitling them to reside and work in Pakistan. Since its establishment in 2002, over 150,000 illegal immigrants have registered themselves with NARA. The response to register has been slow because of distrust among communities of illegal immigrants, who fear that registration may ultimately lead to deportation.

Since 1947 numerous policies and laws have been formulated and enacted for different sectors, but legislation concerning refugees, displaced, asylum seekers and migrant workers has never been a priority. Absence of a clear policy, legal framework and effective and consistent management of refugees by the relevant institutions remain critically unresolved issues for Pakistan. Given the complexity of the problem and the millions of human lives involved, there is a dire and urgent to find effective measures to cope with it. The establishment of NARA is but one step towards the solution. A great deal more yet remains to be done if we are to effectively resolve the predicament of Afghan refugees and illegal immigrants. The establishment of effective ways and means of managing refugees is necessitated not only by the existing problem but also by the very real possibility of future influxes, whether caused by conflict or natural disasters.

Friday, June 18, 2010

World Refugee Day Special June 2010

Priyanca Mathur Velath
[member of IASFM, APRRN and an active researcher-writer on policy & politics of forced migration. She is completing her doctoral research at CLSG, J.N.U, New Delhi]


Huerta Muller, the German-speaking Romanian Nobel Laureate, in her 2009 Prize acceptance speech titled ‘Every word knows something of a vicious circle’ had said, “What can’t be said can be written. Because writing is a silent act, a labor from the head to the hand.” The Swedish Academy described her as a writer “who, with the concentration of poetry and the frankness of prose, depicts the landscape of the dispossessed.” Muller, in her prize winning novel of ‘Land of the Green Plums’ described stagnant daily life in a dictatorship and the silent cruelty and terror of Communist Romania under the repressive Nicolae Ceausescu. To protect her freedom of speech she was able to emigrate to Germany in 1987 after years of persecution and censorship in Romania.

But there is a difference in being ‘able’ to flee and being ‘forced’ to flee. Millions of people across the globe continue to face persecution and are forced to flee their homes to save their lives. While ability to prove ‘persecution’ grants refugee status, being forced to flee for economic reasons gives one only the tag of an ‘economic migrant’. While crossing a national border makes one a ‘refugee’ and grants one access to the international refugee protection regime, the inability to do so leaves ‘internally displaced persons’ at the mercy of the state that displaced them. Labels and legal frameworks, state policies and international systems all operate with huge gaps and grey areas. Muller’s silent act of writing is perhaps the only way to continuously push forward the rights agenda in forced migration.

So, to commemorate ‘World Refugee Day’ on June 20, 2010, Refugee Watch Online has compiled a special issue with writings from eminent researchers, activists and journalists from across South Asia that highlight the plight of those without a ‘Home’ in this region. The Indian subcontinent that witnessed the world’s largest refugee flow ever across the borders of India and Pakistan in 1947, has also been home to refugees from Tibet, Burma, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and even Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Sudan and Eritrea. Refugee issues in South Asia are not just challenging in their varied geographical nature but also in diversity and multiplicity of causes and politics associated with them. The challenge to try and bring them all together under one canvas was huge. Nonetheless this Special Issue has tried.

While M. Peter Jayprakash elaborates on the diabolical ‘Antithetical Power Relations’ in India, Sudeep Basu reflects on the Tibetan ‘Paradigm of Exile’. Bertil Lintner has discoursed widely and deeply on ‘Conflict and Displacement in Burma’, while Subir Bhaumik has deliberated on the ‘Nobody’s People in Noman’s Land’ i.e. the Rohingyas. The UNHCR Office in New Delhi has also sent us a write-up highlighting their operations and the ‘Protection Challenges and Emerging Opportunities’ of refugee urbanisation. Incidentally the UNHCRs Urban Refugee Policy of 2009 has been criticized by much of the NGO and activist community for merely containing UN-speak on gender-mainstreaming and not particularly addressing the specific concerns of women and children at risk. Uttam Kumar Das also critiques the operations of the UNHCR in Bangladesh while elaborating on the refugee situation in that country that he labels as ‘Managing Refugees in a Mess.’ We are also expecting two more articles from Sri Lanka and Pakistan which we hope to upload over the weekend.

This issue along with events and news highlighted also has a review of the book ‘The Politics of Forced Migration: Conceptual, Operational and Legal Analysis’ edited by Nitza Nachmias and Goldstein Rami by Sucharita Sengupta.

The recent refugee crisis in Kyrgyzstan has yet again highlighted the growing regional ethnic disparities and dictatorial actions that continue to separate man from mankind. While current developments in forced migration research suggest that state fragility and forced migration, the economics of forced migration, environmental displacement, displaced groups with specific needs, and durable solutions are the areas for immediate relevance, the only overriding and essential emotion that can assuage any hurt and begin bridge any gaps is an acceptance of and tolerance towards the ‘Other’. It is only then that refugees around the world will truly begin to celebrate World Refugee Day themselves.


1 See upcoming report of the 2nd Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network’s Conference that was held in Bangkok in 2009.

Report Released on Crimes Against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas

On 17th June, in Dublin, Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin officially launched the report on, which has been prepared by the Irish Centre for Human Rights. For those representing Rohingyas in asylum proceedings around the region, the report may be very useful.

Speaking at the launch of the Report, Minister Martin commended the work of the NUIG research team, stating that they have presented ‘compelling and credible evidence suggesting that crimes against humanity have indeed been committed by the Burmese authorities against the Rohingya minority group’. Noting the recommendation in the Report that the Security Council establish a Commission of Inquiry to determine whether there is a prima facie case that crimes against humanity have been committed, as well as similar recent comments by UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, Minister Martin said that he fully supported these calls for all such alleged crimes to be formally investigated.

The Report is based on extensive open-source research and on a fact-finding mission to Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh conducted by experts in international criminal investigation. As well as interviewing organisations working in the region, investigators met with Rohingya victims in and around refugee camps in Bangladesh. The Rohingyas’ plight has been overlooked for years and the root causes of their situation still remain under-examined. The Irish Centre for
Human Rights’ Report identifies and discusses some of these causes. The team that prepared the report was headed by Nancie Prud'homme and Joe Powderly

For more, see the press release and the full report:

In Search of My Home

[A film by Sushmit Ghosh & Rintu Thomas || DV CAM/ 16:9/ 30 Minutes/ 2010]

In the world’s favorite democracy, live thousands of men, women and children with lost homes and forgotten names. Sheltering one of the largest refugee populations in the world, India still lacks a comprehensive domestic refugee law that could guarantee them their basic human needs and a life of dignity.

In Search of My Home is a journey with a Burmese and an Afghan family, as it explores the complexities in their everyday battle for survival. Weaving their emotional stories of hope and despair, love and loss, the film uses live-action, photography, music and text narratives to tell a story that is absent from India’s collective conscience and its mainstream media.

The film is being screened on 20th June, World Refugee Day at Vikaspuri for the Burmese community in New Delhi. The film is simultaneously being screened across many cities in North America, Europe and Asia.

Trailers, photographs, information and other interesting stuff on the film are on the film's Facebook page at:

DVD copies of the film are available at a nominal Rs. 100/ $2 and all funds raised are being shared equally between the two refugee families who are a part of this film.


‘Yordam, yordam’ or ‘help’ in Uzbek are the cries renting the air from the Kyrgyz side of the Uzbekistan-Kyrgystan border. Ethnic Uzbeks make up about 15 per cent of Kyrgyzstan's 5.5 million people but ever since ethnic riots broke out in southern Kyrgyzstan, particularly in the cities of Osh and Jalal-abad, more than a quarter million of them have been forced to flee.

•Kyrgyzstan's 5.3 million population is mainly made up of Kyrgyz (70%) ethnic Uzbeks (15%) and Russians (8%).
•About 50% of the Osh region's 1.2 million inhabitants are ethnic Uzbeks.
•About 40% of a population of one million in Jalal-abad region is ethnic Uzbeks.

While the Red Cross pegs the figure of flight higher at 80,000 refugees, according to the UN 75,000 have fled to Uzbekistan. It is also held that nearly 15,000 are still crowding around the border areas. Meanwhile UNHCR has also admitted that about 200,000 people are displaced inside the country. Unable to bear the burden of any more refugees, Uzbekistan has said that it is shutting its border with Kyrgystan. Meanwhile there are figures of at least 170 people who have died in rioting in Osh and Jalal-abad. The UNHCR is mounting an emergency airlift of supplies to assist Uzbekistan in dealing with the increasing refugee load. The situation is growing more serious as along with the fleeing ethnic Uzbeks there were also reports of Tajiks flocking to the border. Providing humanitarian aid is of utmost priority to these people.

More than four days of rioting has created tumult in this region that had last seen bloody ethnic clashes during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Survivors in refugee camps in Uzbekistan narrate how first mobs of Kyrgyz men roamed around streets of Uzbek neighbourhoods in cars with no numbers, followed by the military in personal armoured cars, firing and attacking ethnic Uzbeks and torching their houses. In a statement the office of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said that "It seems indiscriminate killings, including of children, and rapes have been taking place on the basis of ethnicity". Besides, according to UNICEF, 90 per cent of the refugees fleeing the violence were women, children and the elderly. Most of the women and children are also suffering from war trauma.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the deposed Kyrgyz President, in exile in Belarus, is largely accused of orchestrating this campaign of ethnic conflict. Bakiyev’s younger son, Maxim, had fled in a private plane to Britain where he claimed asylum and was held. The Kyrgyz interim government, that assumed power after overthrowing the President in April, has initially requested Russia for peacekeeping forces but later rescinded the request. The Russian President Dmitri Medvedev condemned the violence and said ‘tough action’ must be taken to stop the violence and bloodshed. Meanwhile the US has promised Kyrgyzstan’s interim government $800,000 in emergency aid funds and has dispatched Robert Blake, its special envoy, to the country.

The UN believes that these clashes were deliberate and claims that there is evidence that the violence was co-ordinated and began with five simultaneous attacks in the city of Osh. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said "it might be wrong to cast it, at least in origin, as an inter-ethnic conflict”.

Refugees and Antithetical Power Relations of India

M. Peter Jeyaprakash
[former Voluntary Repatriation Specialist UNHCR, Chennai. At present he is working as Individual Contractor for UNHCR, Chennai]


Refugees in India are a victim of a stalemate between the Government of India and the international community for a long time. It is imperative that we recognize the immensity of the situation, decipher the inhibitions, examine internal inconsistencies in the present context, and find new grounds for policy design in the humanitarian field.

The Present Refugee Situation

“There are new trends in forced displacement which are challenging for us all. The 1951 Convention responded to displacement due to persecution and war... These several trends are reinforcing and exacerbating each other, accelerating instability and displacement. While we have no plans to amend the 1951 Convention, we do need to discuss how we deal with the human rights impacts of these new forms of forced displacement. I hope that the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention next year will enable us to be the catalyst of such a debate”.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres - European Parliament, 28 April 2010
The High Commissioner, while acknowledging that there are new trends in forced displacement very clearly states that there are no plans to amend the 1951 Convention. He stressed that “we do need to discuss how we deal with the human rights impacts of these new forms of forced displacement”. Though this is a double bind situation for India, it is essential that countries of asylum like India form organized responses to refugee situations in view of ‘new trends in forced displacement’ without any coercion from outside.

We must note here that responses to refugee situations have changed in many countries with a record of restrictive measures towards refugees. In view such developments we cannot carry on with the status quo on Model National Law of Refugees. Recently, countries have started to speak in favour of refugees. The Archbishop of Canterbury during the CARA lecture (May 2010) on the topic “Enriching the Arguments: the Refugee Contribution to British Life”, argued in favour of regarding strangers as a gift rather than as a threat. Concurrently the High Commissioner in his recent address to the European Parliament spoke about the “resilience and resurgence of conflicts”. These two indications require that India take a fresh look at its policies towards refugees.

Refugees are not a Liability

The Refugee Council of Australia, in a report on the Economic, Civic and Social Contributions of Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants (February 2010), states that “Refugees make substantial contributions to their new country...... Refugees are often entrepreneurial as they face the need to set up and establish themselves in a new environment. One illustration of this was evident in the 2000 Business Review Weekly’s annual “Rich 200” list which showed that five of Australia’s eight billionaires were people whose families had originally come to the country as refugees” .

The report also cites that positive impact of refugees has been felt in the regional and rural areas of Australia which experience large scale “departures” in population and with it lose of skills, and business closures. Successful regional and rural refugee resettlement programmes helped to stimulate the economy through refugee labour. The report states that studies have failed to find a link between immigration and unemployment among the existing population (Productivity Commission 2006). This demonstrates that the world is gradually beginning to view a refugee as an asset than liability.

The State and the Humanitarian Blind Spot

There is something in the daily grind of the government machinery that is inhibiting the evolution of these experiences into an organized response. It is not the fear of the stranger but the fear of intrusion of the “outsider” (in this case the UNHCR). India has been under the grip of this fear since the days of the Bangladeshi crisis of 1971 which was evident in its reply to UN Secretary-General’s Aide Memoire (2nd August 1971) refuting reports that it was obstructing the return of refugees.

That was way back in 1971. Consider the recent foreign policy engagements by India. It has gradually disengaged from the large southern groups and become part of new groups like the G4, G15, G20 and G33. Besides these new developments India has allowed six international bilateral donors to assist NGOs directly. In all these foreign policy engagements India has upheld its national interest and had diametrically opposed positions to the agreements without fear of international interference in its internal matters. Being a member of the EXCOM of UNHCR since 1995, signing the 1951 Refugee Convention cannot be beyond the strengths with which India engaged with the rest of the above.

Incidental Statements and Perceived Threats on the 1951 Convention and Model Law

India is said to perceive six threats from the Convention. It should be noted that these threats were not outlined by the Government of India but expressed by various officials during various seminars and conferences on refugees. However, India would do well to sign the convention and make it non-Eurocentric and give way to Rights regime as it is the right regime: there is no means to circumvent that and negative reports should not be a deterrence towards this end.

UNHCR cannot intrude into matters that do not concern refugees as the convention is about the protection and safety of refugees and not about national security interests. And finally, a safety record of giving assistance to refugees cannot “guarantee a legal framework that would ensure that refugees and asylum seekers’ rights and duties are based on legal and humanitarian considerations” .These reasons formed the façade for India to keep out the ‘North’.

Perdre le Nord

Since the colonial times the south Asian countries have been vary of infringement on their sovereignty by the ‘northern countries’. Owing to this divide numerous South Asian countries have neither signed the 1951 Convention nor adopted any regional or national standard legal humanitarian approach to the evolving refugee situations. The recent attempt to bring the Refugees and Asylum Seekers (Protection) Bill before the Cabinet this March was also marked by skepticism .

The north-south divide is a reductive coupling and is fraught with hierarchical and ethnocentric connotations. It is a herd behavior which has blinded us from executing our responsibilities towards those who sought asylum from us. As Amartya Sen observes,
“There is something deeply debilitating about denying choice when choice exists, for it is an abdication of responsibility to consider and assess how one should think and what one should identify with. It is a way of falling prey to unreasoned shifts in alleged self-knowledge based on a false belief that one’s identity is to be discovered and accepted rather than examined and scrutinized” (Sen, 1999).

Therefore, we have to recognize that the choice exists, examine and scrutinize India’s stand on refugees and act upon it constructively.

Progress towards a Comprehensive Model Law

Plenty of arguments for adhering to the 1951 Convention and for the formulation and implementation of Model refugee Law exist and will continue to crowd our mind in the future. However, there is a studied silence on the part of the Government. This is not strange. Government has this kind of approach towards people displaced due to (besides forced displacement) development activities, environment degradation, real estate rural sweeps, communal atrocities, shifting borders of West Bengal, and many other resilient and resurgent conflicts. That is a huge case load and the present Model Law of Refugees is sketchy and lacking in detail on some of the provisions already outlined to engage with them.

Some of the missing features for serious consideration are non-discrimination, refugee seamen, movable and immovable property, artistic rights and industrial property, right to association, access to courts, transfer of assets, specimen travel document . The fact that these are lacking in the proposed Model Law brings to light the dichotomy suffered by the Government between love for humanity and hatred of human beings as noted by Ranabir Samaddar –
“We have here the classic problem of Dostoevsky; we love humanity, but we hate human beings. The system that builds up on convention, protocol, office, role of special rapporteur, budget, grants, relief-rehabilitation-resettlement allocation, inspection, determination and repatriation, is one of love for humanity and often of hatred of human beings” (Samaddar, 2001).

Therefore, let us prove that our system which is strengthened by tradition, culture, freedom and diversity can decimate the myths of implausibility of engaging constructively with the refugees on the Indian shores. Refugees are special and through them we have greater lessons to learn. The resilience and resurgence of human spirit is greater than the resilience and resurgence of conflicts. Ceteris paribus, we only need to be ready with the professional means to be of assistance towards that end.


1 Literature review - Economic, Civic and Social contributions of Refugees Humanitarian Entrants by Refugee Council of Australia, February 2010.
2 The statement within quotes made by Montserrat Feixas Vihe, Chief of Mission, UNHCR, India –
4 Convention relating to the status of refugees, 1951.


Chimni, B. S. (2007). International Refugee Law, A Reader. New Delhi: Sage Publications.
Samaddar, R. (2001). Power, Fear, Ethics. Refugee Watch .
Sen, A. (1999). Reason Before Identity. Oxford University Press.
Zutshi, R. T. (Ed.). Refugees and the Law. New Delhi: Human Rights Law Network.

Reflections on the Tibetan Paradigm of Exile

Sudeep Basu
[Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion, National Law School of India University, Bangalore]

Articulating Exilic Tibet

In the introduction to the edited book, “Exile as Challenge: The Tibetan Diaspora,” Bernstorff and Von Welck remarked that the Tibetan Community in exile since 1959 has performed three remarkable feats, notwithstanding the historical fact that they had remained secluded from the rest of the world during the period known as “The Great Game”1 in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These are “First, individual Tibetans and their families stand on their own feet economically and are able to maintain themselves. Second, a school system has been built up which has transformed a large illiterate society into a fully literate society within two generations-a testament to the political will. Finally, the Dalai Lama introduced democratization and reduced his own power step by step, so much so, that in 2001 the Prime Minister of the Government in Exile (Chief Kalon) is no longer appointed by the Dalai Lama but directly elected by the Tibetan diaspora” (Bernstorff and Von Welck 2004: 1).

The general perception about the Tibetans in India is that they are hardworking (Saklani 1984). The decision to create settlements where the refugees could rebuild their lives has been exemplary (Bernstorff and Von Welck 2004: 1). This contrasts with other refugee groups who have lived in provisional camps for decades entirely dependent on assistance.2 Such commendations are not uncommon and have been a consequence of the general tendency to take sides in writing about Tibet and the Tibetan Diaspora at the expense of a critical assessment of the Tibetan issue. Such a tendency has arisen partly from the importation of the functionalist model to the study of refugees (Stein 1981 and Keller 1975). What is recurrent in this literature is the assumption that to become uprooted and removed from a national community is automatically to lose one’s identity, tradition and culture (Malkki 1995). This has had a marked categorical effect upon the study of Tibetan refugees wherein any cultural reemergence or the presences of past cultural practices is interpreted as evidence of cultural continuity that gives an image of a refugee society that is supposedly stable and orderly. The presumed linearity- of then and now; of tradition and modernity in the use of these concepts to understand social change among Tibetan refugees has often led to unexamined conclusions. The generally uncomplicated celebration of political solidarity, economic success and cultural preservation in exile in much of the works on Tibetan refugees is in accord with the romantic image of Tibet. Such public representations of Tibetanness have tended to smoothly gloss over the striking unevenness of experience encompassed in Tibetan refugee lives in the diaspora. Keila Diehl’s book is an exception in this regard. She asserts that it is crucial to explore the “not-saids” in this exiled community and reiterates that her intention is “not to dwell on the negative aspects of the Tibetan refugee community; rather, it is to make more believable the accomplishments of this group by complementing those accounts with the tales of disillusionment, in-group tensions and change that make those accomplishments meaningful” (Diehl 2002: 20).

Generating Meaning of Life in Exile

For Tibetan refugees, the dominant framework for thinking about and attempting to understand exile is the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation and its promise of eventual release through good action and compassion. The idea of “taking refuge” is also, in addition to beliefs in reincarnation, a cornerstone of Tibetan culture. Since the 1950s, the idea of “taking refuge” has taken on a highly politicized level of meaning for Tibetans. Inspired by the Dalai Lama, many Tibetans therefore work hard through focused spiritual practice to regard the predicament of exile as a source of inner strength, which Kiela Diehl sees as an approach reminiscent of what Edward Said calls the “redemptive view of exile” (Said 1984: 47-55). In an effort to characterize how Tibetan refugees deal with the experience of exile, it is not sufficient to stop at the formal Buddhist belief and practice. While the Dalai Lama asserts that when you are a monk, any place that is habitable becomes your country, most lay Tibetans in exile, as Diehl has observed in her study feel deeply out of place and often fearful in India. The Tibetan refugee case is no exception to this tendency since the orientation towards homeland has dominated most scholarship and discourse about Tibetan exiles. Few studies grapple with the Indian context in which the exile experience takes place. Focused as Tibetans and their Western supporters are on preserving and gaining access to an ideal Tibetan way of life, India must it seems be suppressed and reduced to a temporary and unfortunate backdrop for the struggle with the result that a blind eye has been turned to the myriad ways in which India and Indians are in fact integral to any understanding of contemporary Tibetan culture or identity in exile (Diehl 2002: 110).

Since 1959, Tibetan refugees have been engaged in an ongoing confrontation of representations with Chinese officials in which the two sides compete to legitimize their own representations of Tibetan history as well as current events in Tibet. In recent years, a new dimension to the confrontation has emerged with the display of culture becoming one of the most important means through which Tibetan and Chinese claims to legitimacy are contested. Tibet activists’ use of cultural and religious performances for political purposes reflects the global emergence of “culture” as a favored idiom of political mobilization for indigenous, minority and diasporic groups. The narrative of Tibetan culture put forward by Tibet House is congruent with this traditional Tibetan religio-political framework and with the diasporic self-consciousness about Tibetanness, which emerged after 1959. From the earliest years of exile, Tibetan refugees were aware of the need to preserve Tibetan Buddhism not only as a valued set of practices but also as the basis for reconstituting a collective Tibetan identity in exile. The Dalai Lama constantly emphasized the need for refugees to maintain their traditions not only for their own sake but for the sake of Tibetans living in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly claimed that for him, the Tibet issue is not a political matter but a spiritual struggle. By equating the Tibet issue with the preservation of Tibet’s spiritual heritage, a particular construction of Tibetan religion and culture itself becomes the object of political action.


1 The “Great Game” involved the countries of British India, Russia and China.
2 One is reminded of the refugee camps in parts of Africa, such as Sudan and Tanzania, where refugees have to live out their lives for decades in camps.
3 Tibet was for many a “forbidden” land, by virtue of its vague political status nestled among three great empires, its naturally enclosing topography and conscious efforts by Tibetans to remain uncontaminated by the outside world.
4 Kiela Diehl arrives at this conclusion despite the results of one of Saklani’s survey questions to which 75% of the Tibetan refugees who responded chose “India Only” as their choice of country of domicile (Saklani 1984: 356).


Bernstorff, Dagmar and Hubertus Von Welck, eds. 2004. Exile as Challenge: The Tibetan Diaspora. New Delhi: Orient Longman.
Diehl, Keila. 2002. Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Refugee Community. California: California University Press.
Keller, S.L. 1975. Uprooting and Social Change: The Role of Refugees in Development. Delhi: Manohar Book Service.
Malkki, Liisa. 1995. Refugees and Exile: From “Refugee Studies” to the National Order of Things. Annual Review of Anthropology 24: 495-523.
Said, Edward. 1984. Mind of Winter: Reflections on Life in Exile. Harper’s Magazine.
Saklani, Girija. 1984. The Uprooted Tibetans in India: A Sociological Study of Continuity and Change. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.
Stein, Barry N. 1981. The Refugee Experience: Defining the Parameters of a Field of Study. International Migration Review 15, 1: 320-30.

Conflict and Displacement in Burma

Bertil Lintner
[former correspondent with the Far Eastern Economic Review and the author of ten books on ethnicity and politics in Burma and other countries in the region. He is currently with the Asia Pacific Media Services]

Decades of civil war, insurgencies and counterinsurgency campaigns as well as gross economic mismanagement by successive military-controlled regimes have driven millions of people from their homes in Burma, either as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) or as refugees or stateless migrant workers to neighbouring countries. The total number of IDPs is impossible to ascertain, but refugee organisations which are engaged in cross border relief operations on the Thai-Burma frontier believe they number in the hundreds of thousands. On the Thai side of the border, at least 500,000 people are living in refugee camps and less formal, makeshift settlements which resemble squatter villages. Many of them are ethnic Karen, who have fled fighting between ethnic Karen guerrillas and the government’s forces, or ethnic Shan who have escaped to Thailand because of the civil war in their part of the country. Fighting between various separatist rebel movements and the central government broke out shortly after Burma’s independence from Britain in 1948, and is still continuing.

In addition, migrant workers from Burma rank the highest in numbers of human-trafficking victims in Thailand. On June 4 this year, the New Delhi and Kolkata-based Burmese news group Mizzima quoted Sompong Sakaew, director of the Thai NGO the Labour Rights Promotion Network, as saying that 700,000 foreign workers have registered officially with Thai authorities. A recent estimate, however, put the actual number at more than three million, and they are mainly from Burma. Many are employed in Thailand’s fishing industry, on construction sites or as lowly-paid factory workers. Others are street vendors, and many young women are kept in slave-like conditions in Thailand’s many urban and rural brothels. Transnational networks use Burmese children as beggars in the streets of Bangkok — and most of the money they are able to collect ends up in the hands of the criminals, not the children.

There is also an unknown number of mostly ethnic Chin refugees in the north-eastern Indian state of Mizoram. In January 2009, Human Rights Watch released a 104-page report titled “We Are Like Forgotten People: The Chin People of Burma: Unsafe in Burma, Unprotected in India,” which states that “the Chin Population in Mizoram is estimated to be as high as 100,000, about 20 per cent of the total Chin population in [Burma’s] Chin State.” The Chin call themselves Zomi, or Mizo the other way round, and the two peoples are closely related, which often makes it difficult to tell a Burmese Chin from a Mizo from India. But once settled in India, the Chins, or Zomis, nevertheless remain stateless. According to Human Rights Watch, “the Chin face discrimination and threats of forces return by Mizo voluntary associations in collusion with the Mizoram authorities.” Only about 1,800 Chins have made it to New Delhi, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, has an office, which makes it possible for them to have their refugee claims decided and be considered for resettlement in third countries.

Human Rights Watch also states that as many as 30,000 Chins have fled to Malaysia hoping to obtain UNHCR recognition — in addition to the tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas who already are there as cheap labour. Even more of Rohingyas, natives of Burma’s Arakan or Rakhine State, are living in south-eastern Bangladesh, in camps or small villages near the border. Both the predominantly Christian Chins and the Muslim Rohingyas complain about religious discrimination in their homeland. They claim they are often driven from their land, and used as forced labour by the Burmese army.

The Rohingyas especially are vulnerable in a predominantly Buddhist country, where they have been made scapegoats for the government’s failed economic policies. Even many pro-democracy activists in Burma refuse to recognise the Rohingyas as an “indigenous people”, claiming they are “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. While the Rohingyas speak the Chittagonian dialect of Bengali, they have been living on what now is the Burmese side of the border for centuries. In Chin State, Christian pastors have been forced to worship in Buddhist temples, and the refugees allege that the authorities are destroying churches, crosses and other religious symbols as well as restricting the printing and importing of Christian bibles and literature.

The number of refugees and migrants from Burma in China is unknown, but there are substantial communities of Burmese of various nationalities living in the south-western province of Yunnan, mainly in border towns such as Ruili, Tengchong, Mangshih and Jinghong. Most of the refugees and migrant workers there are Kachin or Shan, and can quite easily mingle with their ethnic cousins in China, called Jingpo and Dai respectively.

There is no easy solution to Burma’s multitude of refugee problems. Repatriation is not an option as long as the civil war continues in several parts of the country — and, some would argue, as long as the country remains under repressive military rule. A general election, scheduled for this year, is unlikely to change Burma’s military-dominated power structure; rather, the election is designed to legitimise the military’s hold on power, perhaps with a few token civilians in the new national assembly.

Further, Thailand does not recognise people from Burma as refugees but refers to them as “displaced persons”, which makes their situation extremely precarious. India, although reluctantly tolerating the presence of refugees from Burma, has not signed the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol, which means that Burmese refugees in India lack basic protection of their rights under international agreements.

In recent years, some Western countries such as the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Finland have accepted substantial numbers or people from the camps in Thailand — and some from India as well — for resettlement in their respective countries. But a lasting solution to the problem cannot be found until and unless there is a meaningful political settlement inside Burma, between the military government and the pro-democracy opposition, and between whatever government is in power and the country’s many ethnic minorities. On the other hand, it is not realistic to expect a solution to any of these problems within the foreseeable future. Burma’s refugee problem is here to stay for many years to come, perhaps even decades.