[This edition is compiled by Sahana Basavapatna and Ishita Dey]
New Year Greetings to all the Refugee Watch online readers, and contributors. We take this opportunity to thank you for all the contributions towards Refugee Watch Online. We hope that you continue to encourage us in the same manner as you have done in the previous years.
Refugee Watch Online is a forum where we share our concerns on issues related to forced migration. One of the growing concerns in international political discourse on refugees in South Asia in 2010 was the third country resettlement. These were the subject of much debate with respect to Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and durable solutions for those affected by the conflict in Sri Lanka.
Of these two, the Sri Lankan political situation and its ramifications on those directed affected by the conflict has been of more immediate concern for multiple reasons. According to UNHCR's most recent statistics, there are a total of 1,46,098 Sri Lanka refugees in 64 countries. India (73,269), France (20,464), Canada (19,143), Germany (12,248), United Kingdom (8,615), Switzerland (2,836), Malaysia (2,132), Australia (2,070), United States (1,561) and Italy (964) are currently the top 10 countries hosting Sri Lankan refugees. Out of these 1,46,098 Sri Lankan nationals spread over these countries, UNHCR estimates that 7,562 Sri Lankan nationals are currently seeking asylum in 57 countries. The top ten countries hosting Sri Lankan asylum-seekers are: Switzerland, Malaysia, Canada, Germany, Norway, Thailand, US, Netherlands, Japan and Australia. Last year, 34,000 new asylum seekers submitted their claims in Canada. Last year several cases of Sri Lankan boat people being intercepted at high seas hit news headlines which showed the vulnerability of people and raised concerns over the treatment of asylum seekers by countries signatory to 1951 Refugee Convention. In fact, on 9 April 2010, a news item in the BBC quoted Mr. Chris Evans, Immigration Minister of Australia who announced that new arrivals from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will not be able to apply for asylum and this is in view of the “light of changing circumstances” in those countries. While this created a huge uproar among the international humanitarian groups and civil society organizations, it was also indicative of the grim picture of mistrust and lack of political will to recognize the vulnerability of the displaced in situations of protracted conflict.
Be that as it may, the “Brasilia Declaration on the protection of refugees and stateless persons in the Americas”, may perhaps be considered a silver lining. The declaration was adopted by countries in the Americas in November 2010 in a conference organized to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the United National High Commissioner for Refugees. This is a very significant show of political will and three elements in the declaration deserve special mention:- a) the unrestricted respect countries have agreed to for the principle of non-refoulement, including non-rejection at borders and non-penalization of illegal entry. B) the Declaration supports the continued incorporation of gender, age and diversity considerations into national laws on refugees and IDPs. C) it encourages States to adopt mechanisms to address new situations of displacement not foreseen by the Refugee Convention. In response to UNHCR’s appeal on October 6th for increased international efforts to address the plight of the world’s estimated 12 million stateless people, government officials at the Brasilia meeting also pledged to accede to the two Statelessness Conventions. It is hoped that SAARC countries take a leaf out of effort and make some headway, for instance by discussing the Refugee rights bill, currently with the Inter-parliamentary committee.
Refugee Watch Online raised some of these issues and concerns in the various editions of RefugeeWatchOnline 2010 and intends to do so in 2011. In this edition of Refugee Watch Online, we have two interesting pieces in the section on Views, one by Rahnuma Ahmed explores the reality in the Indo- Bangladesh border and the other by Sahana Basavapatna, who attempts to understand the implications of the unique identity project in India from the perspective of non-citizen residents. This edition also includes excerpts from a detailed report following an orientation workshop in November 2010 on “Care and Protection of Refugees and IDPs”, a collaborative effort of the Calcutta Research Group, Nepal Institute of Peace and UNHCR, Nepal.
Notes for Contributors
RefugeeWatchOnline is a public forum. We invite contributions from refugee rights activists, lawyers, researchers and institutions working on issues on forced displacement to send in their contributions for any of the following sections. We are also open to different forms of creative writings, book notices, audio clips, video- clips and photo-essays on issues related to forced migration in the South Asia and elsewhere.
News: Any news with brief summary or comments of about 60 words. Contributors can also send us conference and scholarship notices as well.
Views: Any original article on refugees, and situations of forced displacement. Word limit: 1500 words.
Reports: Contributors can send us interviews, reports of conferences and workshops. Word Limit: 1000 words)
Please send us your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org.