Friday, September 30, 2011

Reflections on Protection Strategies- South Asia and Beyond

Sahana Basavapatna and Ishita Dey
[Sahana Basavapatna is a lawyer, practicing in the Delhi High Court in the areas of intellectual property law and has been associated with the Calcutta Research Group for the last 3 years
Ishita Dey is a research Scholar of Department of Sociology, University of Delhi and Member, Calcutta Research Group]

This edition of Refugee Watch Online includes articles and contributions that indicate that the meta-narrative of migration can be written and re-written, especially in the South Asian context. These contributions, contrasting and located in its specificities indicate the various ways in which the “migrant” has been conceptualized and how these compartmentalizations affect the socio-juridical discourses in each specific context.

The various regimes of protection of migrant populations and/or refugees is central in understanding the way state and non-state actors have responded to situations of forced migration. On the one hand, the age old debate of whether or not the ratification of 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees will help resolve the arbitrariness of the state responses towards refugee crisis and on the other, the need for national legislations to ensure state responsibility towards migrant populations, are some of the key ways of looking at the protection and care of people in situations of forced migration. If this is the yardstick, then clearly the Australia-Malaysia Refugee Swap arrangement, concluded by the Australian and Malaysian governments – as this joint edition, among others, focuses on - is a clear indicator that ratification of the most important instrument of refugee protection is not a guarantee of protection.

On the other, the decision of the trial court in Delhi to turn down the Government of India's plea to deport a Tamil refugee who has been in India for the past twenty years reveals that the arbitrary nature of the host states towards refugee communities prevail and India is no exception. Thus, the conflation of a refugee/migrant in legal discourse becomes obvious when “refugee/s” issue/s in court of law have to be resolved through the Foreigner’s Act, 1946. Thus the case of the Sri Lankan refugee who the Government of India sought to deport on the ground that he did not carry valid travel documents is not uncommon, but the trial court's decision to disagree with the submissions of the Government in holding that a refugee should be protected precisely because he cannot be sent back to his native country where he is likely to face persecution is. Additionally, a significant point that the court has raised in its decision is the need to distinguish between a migrant and a refugee and the lack of any legal avenue for the refugees as the Refugees Asylum Seekers,(Protection) Bill 2006 is yet to see the light of the day.

In the section on News, we provide a brief summary of the court proceedings as reported by J. Venkatesan in an article titled “Magistrate: How Can court become party to persecution of refugee?”, The Hindu, dated 21 September 2011 followed by another news on the recent decision by the Indonesian government to regulate the migration of domestic workers to Saudi Arabia. This came in the heels of the beheading of a domestic worker of Indonesian nationality after the latter was convicted of murdering her employer because she was not allowed to return to her native land. Lastly, in the section on news is a report in the Guardian titled More than 30 million climate migrants in Asia in 2010, report finds by Fiona Harvey, its environment correspondent. According to the Asian Development Bank, as this Guardian article reports, more than 30 million people were said to have been displaced by environment and weather related disasters across Asia in 2010 and this is predicted to get worse in the years to come. This last article is yet another example of how the neat categories of displacement we are conversant with, need to be rethought and reframed.

In the section on Views, RWO brings an article by Savitri Taylor, on the Australia-Malaysia refugee swap arrangement. In recent times, several reports of refugees from Srilanka, Bangladesh and other countries in South and South East Asia taking to the high seas for passage to Australia and other European nations have been reported. These also included reports of the arbitrary manner in which the Australian Government responded to refugees who had taken to the high seas. It is a well known fact that Canary Islands, Malta and Christmas Islands continue to remain the transit points for the “boat people” who are often mixed. For instance they could be economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and trafficked victims as well.

In this background, it is worth recalling that the member states of the United Nations are expected to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 1982 and the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol, particularly the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum. Additionally, the 1974 International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the 1979 International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue also have to be taken into account by member states.

In its attempt to secure its maritime borders, the Australian Government entered into a swap deal with Malaysia on 25 July 2011, which has attracted severe criticism. Despite being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, Australia has been facing severe criticism for the recent “interceptions” and controversies relating to the arbitrariness of asylum procedures. The main aim of the policy, in the words of the Prime Minister of Australia, Ms. Julia Gilliard, and reported in the news piece, “Australia firm on Refugee Swap deal” is ostensibly to “smash people smugglers’ business model…”, She continues by adding that, “…our aim is not to see people put themselves in boats and be at the risk of losing lives”. According to an article published in the Bangkok Post, “Australia plans to send up to 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for accepting 4,000 registered refugees from that country over four years under a deal designed to stop boatpeople from landing in Australia”. Incidentally Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Following this deal, on 31 August 2011, the High Court of Australia held invalid and unconstitutional the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship's declaration of Malaysia as a country to which asylum seekers who entered Australia at Christmas Island can be taken for processing of their asylum claims and also decided that any unaccompanied asylum seeker under 18 years of age cannot be taken from Australia without a written consent under the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act, 1946. Subsequently, the High Court of Australia prevented the government from sending the first batch of asylum seekers. Though the present Government is adamant on resolving the plight of boat people through an amendment to the Migration Act, 1958 to go ahead with the transfers, they are yet to receive the opposition’s support to the amendments. In a joint media release, issued on 12 September 2011, the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen and Prime Minister Julia Gillard have stated that amendments relating to third country provisions in the Migration Act, 1958 will ensure smooth transfers under the arrangement with Malaysia and Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea

Dr. Savitri Taylor’s article in the section on views brings to the forefront the legal and human rights dimension of the Refugee Swap deal but as the recent statement noted above shows, we will need to wait and watch if at all the Australian Government manages succeed with the amendments.

We have three contributions in the section on Reports including a review of the Women's Refugee Commission's Report published in July 2011, following a fortnight long study of the livelihood issues and survival strategies of refugees living in Delhi, a photo-essay by a young photo-journalist, Rohit Jain, who has spent time with the Burmese refugees in West Delhi in order to understand the living conditions of the community and an in-depth report by Javed Khan on one of the flaming fields of battle within India and the rising IDPs in Khamman district of Andhra Pradesh.

To conclude, we have flagged issues concerning the mixed nature of migration through seemingly unrelated and apparently contrasting situations of migration/forced migration. In doing so, the aim is to identify and highlight the complexities inherent in freezing identities, providing convenient (legal) labels and in the ambivalent way of addressing forced migration in absence of a coherent framework that would make sense of the reality of migration in its various forms in South Asia.


“Australia firm on Malaysia Refugee Deal” in; Accessed on 11 September 2011
“Australia’s Malaysia Refugee Swap under Fire” in; Accessed on 15 September 2011; Accessed on 21 September 2011

The trial court in Dwarka, NCT of Delhi, in a recent verdict relating a Sri Lankan refugee, has stated that the court cannot be party to the persecution of a refugee. J. Venkatesan in an article in The Hindu reported the legal proceedings of the Magistrate’s Court which make for interesting and relevant observations. The Magistrate, while holding in favour of the accused refugee has also noted that there is a need to distinguish and address the needs of a migrant and a refugee in the legal discourse through two separate laws. In this context he pointed out that the absence of a legal framework to address the specific needs of a refugee in India despite several deliberations on a Model National Law: The Refugee and Asylum Seekers (Protection) Bill, 2006 is. Under the given circumstances refugee protection has to be met within the framework that is available under Foreigner's Act, 1946. In the reported case, Mr Chandra Kumar (a resident since 1990, in the refugee camp Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu) was accused of non-possession of travel documents by the Indian immigration authorities. He was then charged with cheating, impersonation and forgery and other offences under of the Foreigners Act, 1946. “He moved an application for plea bargaining. An order on sentence ought to have been passed forthwith. However, the Additional Public Prosecutor, on instructions from the government, contended that an order of deportation should form part of the order on sentence”. Responding to these, the court rejected the plea for deportation on the grounds that it goes against the premise of natural justice that should be available to citizens and non-citizens.

For details visit; (accessed on 23 September 2011)

Protection of Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia- Distant Dream by Shamim

After Saudi Arabia beheaded a 54-year old Indonesian grandmother in June for stabbing her Saudi employer to death, Indonesia declared a moratorium on the migration of its nationals for domestic employment in the desert kingdom, effective August 1.

Although the two countries were to adopt a bilateral agreement for protection of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia this year, no such document has been signed.

Ruyati Binti Satubi, a household worker from West Java was executed for murder after she confessed slaying the man who had contracted her. The Indonesian migrant, who has three children, said she killed her employer because she was denied permission to return to her native land.

Media in Indonesia and elsewhere indicated that Ruyati Binti Satubi had been subjected to other forms of abuse while working in the Saudi home, located in Mecca, Islam's holiest city. Neither the Indonesian authorities nor her family was informed of the death sentence until after it was carried out, an action for which the Saudi regime apologized to Jakarta. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono wrote in protest to Saudi King Abdullah after the execution, and the Indonesian authorities followed up with the moratorium on exporting labourers, enforced visibly at airports and through contracting agencies.

The beheading of Ruyati Binti Satubi was only the most recent in a series of shocking cases involving Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

In April, Saudi authorities overturned a three-year prison sentence against a 53-year old Saudi woman in Medina, for "torture" in the beating and burning of her 23-year old maid, Sumiati Binti Salan Mustapa.

That incident, like the execution of Ruyati Binti Satubi, caused widespread protest in Indonesia, as well as increased reluctance to undergo the risks of working in Saudi Arabia, which Indonesian workers described as "horror stories." Indonesian media report that the flow of migrant workers to the kingdom had already decreased by 30 percent in the first quarter of this year.

With imposition of the August labour embargo, Indonesia was expected to lose $350 million worth of income. Some 20 Indonesians, mainly women, are said to face capital punishment in Saudi Arabia. Indonesian officials say that 370,000 of their citizens went to work in Saudi Arabia in 2010. Of these, more than 90 percent are employed in the so-called "informal sector," that is, paid in cash, without record-keeping or government oversight. The British media states, however, that 1.5 million Indonesians are working in Saudi Arabia.

Complaints of physical abuse and murder of Indonesian domestic servants by Saudis have produced hundreds of cases, but like other emigrant labourers in Saudi Arabia, Indonesians have no rights.
Indonesia had imposed new regulations on the employment of emigrants to Saudi Arabia, under which the Saudi employee would be required to earn at least $2,800 per month, and the number of family members and layout of the residence would be registered.

Because of the rigid oversight of relations between family and non-family members as dictated by Wahhabism, the Saudi state form of Islam, the kingdom has one of the highest proportions of immigrant laborers in the world; they currently account for 5.5 million out of 26 million people, or 20 percent. Foreign observers describe the Saudi demand for foreign housemaids, drivers, and similar employees as inexhaustible. Saudi subjects are discouraged from such work.

Millions of Pakistanis, Afghans, Indians, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, Filipinos, South Koreans, and Sri Lankans receive low wages, when not subjected to outright slavery and extreme abuse while toiling for Saudi masters. Domestic and other low-skill workers live apart from the Anglo-American, other European, and similar foreign technicians, who serve the petrochemical and other advanced industries, and who reside in segregated, protected communities that seek to reproduce the conditions in their advanced countries of origin.

While no religion other than Islam is permitted in public observance in Saudi Arabia, foreign petrochemical and defence professionals are allowed to hold Christian and other services within their homes. But Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus from the Philippines, South Korea, and Sri Lanka are prohibited from practicing their faiths; even Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indonesian Muslims, who work in Saudi Arabia face religious discrimination. For example, preaching in South and Southeast Asian mosques and similar activities are forbidden, as are Sufi observances, popular in Pakistan and Indonesia alike. No other Muslim state imposes such restrictions. Nevertheless, many Muslims are lured to work in the kingdom because of its religious prestige.

With 86 percent of its population of 245 million counted as Muslims, Indonesia has the largest Islamic population of any country in the world. Indonesian domestic workers earn about $200 per month in Saudi Arabia, a wage superior to those an Indonesian migrant villager with a primary-school education would be paid in the east Asian industrialized nations, such as Japan or Taiwan.

At the beginning of August, the official Saudi Arab News announced that two Indonesian women sentenced to beheading would be reprieved and repatriated. Identified only by their first names, Emi was convicted of killing her employer's child, and Nesi of using "black magic" against her employer. Executions for the alleged "witchcraft" are common in the kingdom, which has experienced recurrent panic over "sorcery."

Climate Induced Migration is Expected to Increase in Asia

In an article titled “More than 30 million climate migrants in Asia in 2010” Fiona Harvey reports, based on information and analysis by the Asian Development Bank that while climate change resulted in creating 30 million migrants in 2010 in Asia, the problem will only get worse in the years to come. A conference held in Manila, Philippines, on 13 September 2011 on Climate induced migration has concluded that climate change will be one of major reasons for migration across Asia in the years to come; “socio-economic transformations” and “a high degree of exposure to environmental risks” are some of the key reasons for making Asia and the Pacific vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Asia, including South Asia is not new to migration that can be linked to phenomenon such as droughts, or flooding. The story of migration of Bangladeshi's across the border into India is one of deprivation coupled with declining agricultural productivity, and drought. What would be pertinent, from a migration point of view, is the way states in Asia understand and address migration. Among the possible policy recommendations that the ADB is expected to make, as is clear from the Philippines conference are to include “measures to improve vital infrastructure, such as energy provision, transport systems and communication networks, in order to make such infrastructure more resilient to the effects of climate change.” (Background note to the Conference is available at

From the perspective of countries that naturally allow for easy migration but the political systems that does not encourage the same, it would be pertinent to note that climate change induced migration provides another important vantage point from which to undo the received wisdom of what is acceptable migration and who are acceptable migrants.

The news article can be accessed at (accessed 16 September 2011) and information about the Conference held at Manila, Philippines at (accessed on 20 September 2011)

The Demise of the Malaysian Solution

Savitri Taylor
[Associate Professor in the School of Law at La Trobe University]

(This article has been reproduced from La Trobe University News, posted 7 September 2011,

On 25 July 2011, Australia and Malaysia entered into a legally non-binding Arrangement, which provided for the transfer to Malaysia of up to 800 people arriving irregularly in Australia by boat after the date of signing. The Gillard government attempted to implement this arrangement by using the legal machinery which the Howard government had inserted into the Migration Act to enable execution of the Pacific Strategy. The High Court of Australia has just ruled by a six to one majority that the legal machinery does not work in the way that the Gillard government (and the Howard government before it) thought it did.

Section 198A(3) of the Migration Act gives the Minister for Immigration the power to declare in writing that a specified country provides asylum seekers with access “to effective procedures for assessing their need for protection” and protection pending determination of their refugee status; that it provides protection to refugees pending their voluntary repatriation or resettlement; and that it “meets relevant human rights standards in providing that protection.” Section 198A(1) provides that the class of persons into which most unauthorized boat arrivals fall may be taken to such a declared country. On 25 July 2011, Minister Bowen made a declaration in respect of Malaysia just as Minister Ruddock before him had made declarations in respect of Nauru and PNG. The government’s understanding of the law was that what the Minister declares does not have to be true as long as the Minister believes it to be true. The High Court found to the contrary. Moreover, according to the majority, what has to be true, at a minimum, in order for a section 198A(3) declaration to be valid is that the country in respect of which the declaration is made is bound under international law or its own national law to provide the protections specified to asylum seekers and refugees. The government conceded (as it had to) that Malaysia did not meet this minimum. It followed that the 25 July 2011 declaration was invalid.

Short of a change to Malaysian law, which the Gillard government has said it will not seek, or to Australian law, which the Gillard government is impotent to achieve on its own, the Malaysian arrangement no longer offers a solution to its border control problem. So what happens now? The government might choose to test whether the existing declaration or a new one in respect of PNG would stand up to High Court scrutiny. The outcome is by no means certain, because in the case just decided the High Court left open the answers to some key questions bearing on the matter. If the government were prepared to accept the political humiliation of a return to Nauru in order to avoid the greater political damage of continuing boat arrivals, it could perhaps convince the opposition to support passage of legislation which would put beyond doubt the domestic legal validity of transfers to that country. Depending on the moral depths to which the government is prepared to sink in its fight for political survival, the deterrence options available to it are many and varied. If implemented, they may even result in a significant reduction of boat arrivals in Australia at least until the next election. But here is what they will not do. They will not resolve the underlying problem, which is human insecurity in the countries which asylum seekers flee from and in most of the countries they flee through.

Between 2007 and 2009, Professor Sandra Gifford and I led a research project which involved, among other things, interviewing asylum seekers and refugees living in Indonesia. Indonesia is the last country of departure of most arriving here by boat. What we discovered was this. Asylum seekers and refugees do not necessarily want to make Australia their home. They just want to have a home: a place where they can live in safety, support themselves with dignity, give their children a future through education, and belong. If these basic human needs could be fulfilled in Indonesia, they would have been happy to remain there. If they knew that they had a realistic prospect of obtaining a resettlement place in another country which would fulfill these needs, the assurance of future security would have been enough to enable them to bear present insecurity. Unfortunately, neither a home in its true meaning nor the hope of one in the future is to be found in Indonesia or most other countries in our region. Australia acting alone cannot turn this situation around. Regional cooperation is needed.

In his press conference on 31 August, 2011, the Minister said he was proud of the regional cooperation framework that the government had achieved at the Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March this year. And so he should be. The regional cooperation framework was a first step towards the possibility of improved refugee protection throughout our region. The Malaysia deal, though purportedly a practical implementation of that framework, had at the heart of it a backward step which has now been undone. However, there is another element of the Arrangement which is protection enhancing and can still be implemented. That element is the promise made by Australia to resettle over 4,000 of the over 80,000 UNHCR recognized refugees living in Malaysia at the time of signing. These 4,000 resettlement places were to be made available over four years and to be additional to Australia’s regular humanitarian resettlement program. If the government follows through on this promise, it may be able to convince its regional neighbours that when it talks about regional cooperation it does not just mean that the rest of the region should cooperate to help Australia avoid its own protection obligations. Disappointingly, it appears that the government might now decide to provide the 4,000 resettlement places promised to Malaysia within the regular resettlement program. In other words, it might rob Peter to pay Paul. This would, of course, enable the government counter the opposition charge that the Malaysian solution is not just a policy failure, but a very expensive one. However, it would also reveal to the region that Australia’s protection talk is no more than talk and, if that happens, the regional cooperation framework of which the government is so proud will never become more than words on paper.

The Implementation of Urban Refugee Policy in Delhi

Sahana Basavapatna

“Operationalizing UNHCR’s policy document, however, requires a broader, more in-depth understanding of the issues and challenges facing urban refugees. This report attempts to contribute to the development of that knowledge.” page 5.

The Women's Refugee Commission, in collaboration with UNHCR published a report titled, Bright Lights, Big City: Refugees Struggle to Make a Living in Delhi in July 2011 with the objective of contributing to the way in which the Urban Refugee Policy of UNHCR may be implemented in its letter and spirit.

This short note, is at once a review and an introduction to the report, which, in restating some of the conclusions made before in the context of refugees in Delhi, nevertheless makes a worthy attempt in comprehending the Urban Refugee Policy and its implications for Delhi.

The study, conducted over a fortnight in March 2011, focuses on the economic coping strategies of refugees, the protection risks associated with the coping strategies and potential market opportunities that may be exploited, given Delhi's unqiue context.

A number of conclusions in the Report are familiar and may be said to be a restatement and reiteration of existing knowledge. The report talks about refugees in the social and economic context of Delhi, including the hostility of the local communities, or the competition for jobs in the informal sector. It also does a comparison of the financial needs of refugees and the livelihood options currently before them. The report published by The Other Media, an organization that has had a long association with Burmese refugees, published a report in 2010, titled “Battling to Survive: A Study of Burmese Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Delhi” also touches upon these aspects, although the focus on the Urban Refugee Policy is not prominent in the latter.

One of the highlights of the Report is the articulation of UNHCR'S policy towards refugees in Delhi, althought not very clearly. The report states, “ UNHCR is piloting new approaches to working with urban refugees in New Delhi that demonstrate a progressive, rational way of addressing the growing urban population. These approaches include both broad coverage for access to basic services and attempts to address the specific needs of the most vulnerable”. The Report goes on to suggest to UNHCR that “...These efforts should be ratcheted up to the next level focusing on continuing to reduce the number of refugees receiving subsistence allowance by expanding employment opportunities and channeling available resources to job placement and job creation programs as referenced in the recommendations below.”

The Urban Refugee Policy is an important instrument, although it has taken more than a decade for UNHCR to arrive at the terms on which it would approach the issues facing refugees in urban areas. While the Report provides some window to the current policy of UNHCR in India (for instance, the provision of subsistence allowance to refugees being targeted towards on the most needy, the expansion of health care and other services to even those that are not recognized by UNHCR as refugees, the emphasis on government services for education and health care and discouraging private services etc), the implementation of the policy would require on one hand that refugees utilize the Urban Refugee policy to push for better protection and for UNHCR to realize that not all of its policy formulations would work adequately in the current context. Although India appears to provide a rich base of legal mechanisms and institutions on which refugee rights may be built, the actual implementation is full of hurdles, as the Report clearly points out. For instance, the Report talks about UNHCR's policy of encouraging refugees to access government schools and refers to the Right to Children of Compulsory Education Act, 2009, under which it is mandatory for the state to provide compulsory education for every child between 6-14 years; however, the experience of children with government schools, has not been as positive as UNHCR or its implementing partners would want refugees to believe.

To conclude, this Report is a useful addition to the existing knowledge of the status of refugees in Delhi. However, both the refugees as well as the implementors of the Policy would have to strive to make the policy work for them.

The Report can be accessed at"&HYPERLINK"ascdesc=DESC
last accessed September 21, 2011)

Javid Iqbal Documents the Conditions of IDP Settlements in Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh

Javid Iqbal
[Has worked as an investigative reporter for The New Indian Express from November 2009 to April 2011. We thank him for allowing us to re-publish excerpts from his articles. His articles and photo essays can be accessed on]

Flaming Forests of Warrangal, IDP Settlements

Javid Iqbal in his article “The Migrating forests of Warrangal” highlights the the conditions of the IDPs who constantly face the threat of losing their make shift home and livelihood. Reports regarding the IDP population on the borders of Andhra Pradesh and Chattisgarh have always varied. While some activists report that around 50,000 people have been affected by this conflict; people undertaking survey would argue 213 settlements in Khammam district itself have been affected. While the reports of floating populations is true Javid Iqbal also draws our attention to the fact that the fear and threat from Salwa Judum and the Maoists is not the only reason of forced movement of population; but also lack of land, as many Murias had small holdings of land in their villages in Dantewada or Bijapur. The control over resources, particularly rights of communities over forests has become a contentious issue. While land is being used for industrial purposes in Chattisgarh, mining is rampant in Khammam, and finally, over 276 villages in Khammam, East and West Godavari districts, would be submerged due to Polavaram dam along with over 10,000 acres of reserve forest land. These concerns has its far reaching implications and as Javid Iqbal in his photo essays and articles ( links given below) on the IDP situation in Andhra Pradesh and Chattishgarh shows that the rising number of floating population has also led to starvation deaths due to drought in the region. While the Government continues to see this geographical region as the site of internal conflict people are forced to flee homes. It is time that the state should take a note at the larger issue/s over access and control over community resources in these regions instead of guising problems under the umbrella of internal conflict.
For details see
Iqbal, J. 2011. The Migrating Forests of Warangal”.

IDP children refused treatment by Nutrition and Rehabilitation Center in Badrachalam, Khammam District in Andhra Pradesh

Javid Iqbal in his article “Internally Displaced Hunger” reports of an incident in 2010 when 8 malnurioushed children were refused treatment by the Nutrition and Rehabilitation Center in Badrachalam, Khammam District in Andhra Pradesh. All eight were children of Internally Displaced Persons from Dantewada/Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh. Apparently the parents of the children failed to provide documentation that were from Tribal and BPL families. As Javed (2010) emphasises, “The Internally displaced persons from Chhattisgarh are in perpetual limbo. They’re occasionally pitted against the local adivasi tribes of Andhra Pradesh over minimal resources and no state government whether Andhra Pradesh, nor Chhattisgarh is willing to take responsibility for them. At the same time, no civil government department is capable of undermining the arm-twisting policies of the Andhra Pradesh Forest Department that wishes to send them back to Chhattisgarh, who would probably dump them in mismanaged Salwa Judum camps”.
For details see
Iqbal, J. 2010. “Internally displaced Hunger”

I Miss my Motherland

This photo essay is work of Rohit Jain
[He is a freelancer photographer based in New Delhi. He has done photo essays on the plight of Burmese and Somali refugees living in New Delhi and a photo essay on advises of Central India.]

“With the slightest promise of good governance and protection, the natural pull to return home is overwhelming within us” says a refugee. The decade long repressive military government in Burma (Myanmar) forced millions of Burmese people to take shelter in other countries. In the west of Burma, border to India, Burmese people come to Indian border. They move to New Delhi to seek refugee status from UNHCR. Hapless, they find shelter in stingy by-lanes of New Delhi too far away from their open house and self sustaining lives in Burma. Refugees lives on margins of society. They do not have the right to work as a refugee, and survive on limited resources. Still their hope for their rights and peace in Burma is alive.

Refugees are on a demonstration in New Delhi, against a dehumanized and repressive military dominant government in Burma.

Refugees are on demonstration in New Delhi, against a dehumanized and repressive military dominant government in Burma

A Rohingya refugee from Arakan state of Burma, outside UNHCR office in New Delhi. Rohingya refugees live in New Delhi, Jaipur, Muzzafarnagar. A majority, it is reported, live in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. They have to come time and again to UNHCR, New Delhi, to seek refugee status. Most of them are given 5 months time for result of interview. But they don't get any result after the passing of given period.

A placard at the gate of UNHCR office. Rohingya refugees from Arakan state of Burma, appeal to UNHCR in New Delhi to accept them as registered refugee and give them protection under UNHCR. Some of the refugees are seeking refugee status from UNHCR for last 2-3 years, but without success.

A child living in Delhi collecting leftover and rotten vegetables at 12:00 am midnight in the vegetable market at the time of closing. Refugees have no right to work and few options by way of jobs. Employment in the unorganized sector adds troubles to their survival.

A child living in Delhi collecting leftover and rotten vegetables at 12:00 am midnight in the vegetable market at the time of closing. Refugees have no right to work and few options by way of jobs. Employment in the unorganized sector adds troubles to their survival.

Lily, 29, runs a temporary betel nut stall during the annual Burmese sports festival. “Many refugees prefer to earn some money like this rather than do a permanent work in local factories where they face exploitation. Often the employer entices them with extra pay to come for night duty but they face sexual exploitation.

"In Burma we used to have our own big and airy homes in the hills and mountains with mild and chilly weather and self sustained life, and here we live in dingy, confined rooms, paltry wages in spite of working overtime in factories – is the new norm of life for us" said Thui Lawn, a refugee living in New Delhi.

Lack of resources, no education, and orphaned; teenagers’ future is falling in a dark spell. It may force them into alcoholism or drug addiction. Probably, they have become a victim of circumstances.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

July 2011
(This edition has been compiled by Anuradha Gunarathne)

Ishita Dey

In the July edition of Refugee Watch Online we have tried to flag issues and concerns of the reconciliation and peace-building efforts in Sri Lanka. Studies have shown that in situations of protracted displacement, the vulnerable population (ie, women, children and youth) are the worst affected. Members of youth, in particular are not only participants of conflict by taking up arms for state or non-state but also victims of war. Their situation is much more complex, and the effects of witnessing war in the growing up years have psychological implications as well.

In other words, during peace-building efforts special attention should be given to address the members of the youth as the case study in Allaipiddy Village of Jaffna Peninsula shows. Allaipiddy in Velani DS Division in Jaffna is situated in the High Security Zone spreading across 144 Considering its strategic location, villagers suffered multiple displacements which affected their livelihoods and also their children’s education. Now most of the younger members are unable to apply for jobs because they have not been able to complete their education. In this article, “Youth: Participants and Victims of War” Chulanee Attanayake brings to the forefront the issues and concerns of youth that need to be addressed in the peace-building efforts. While there have been various studies on the reconciliation efforts in SriLanka; Anuradha Gunarathne and Azmiya Badurdeen in the article “Internally Displaced Persons in the Process of Reconciliation: Implications for Durable Solutions” flags off the issues concerning internally displaced people. One of the important and pressing issues is how do you renew trust among returnees?

In the section on Reports we present to you one of the background papers commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, “The hidden crisis: Armed conflict and education”. J.R.A Williams(2010) in this extensive report on “The impact of conflict and displacement (2006-2010) in SriLanka” shows the various methods introduced during conflict and post conflict to improve educational standards. What is significant and commendable is the way in which this report includes both the state and non-state initiatives. For instance in camps, “donors funded learning and child-friendly spaces, and teachers were recruited from the inmates, but facilities were never adequate to provide for the numbers of displaced children, and there was no access for teacher training or monitoring”. Even during war times ceasefire was respected during “national exams”. Temporary learning spaces (TLS) with the help of humanitarian agencies have been successful in maintaining displaced families commitment to education. Even when people were on the move tractors with school material accompanied them. Post war, agencies like UNICEF, Plan International and Save the Children have been developing educational materials for catch up education programmes to reintegrate the war affected children with the mainstream education. Catch up programmes are common in North and East SriLanka and have been successful so far. Another initiative taken by UNICEF has been Child Friendly School (CFS) approaches. According to this report, “the critical need is for attention and resources to return to the development priorities, such as child-friendly schooling, vocational education, and national Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) standards, which were overwhelmed by the emergency response”.

We have tried to bring to the forefront some of the issues that need special attention in the reconstruction efforts in SriLanka. We welcome your comments and suggestions on the same.

We also invite you to contribute articles for the upcoming editions of Refugeewatchonline

News: Brief Summaries (within 200 words) of news items concerning forced migration.
Views: Any original piece of article within 1500 words on refugees, IDPs in South Asia.
Reports: Reports of any study on forced migration (refuges and IDPs), conferences or any other. Review articles on reports, books are also welcome. (Word limit: 1000)
Please email your entries and queries to

Short Course on Refugee Law

Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Start Date: 2011-09-12
End Date: 2011-09-16
The Centre for Applied Human Rights (University of York, UK) is offering a 5 day short-course on International Refugee Law and Advocacy in Bangkok in September 2011. The course is offered in partnership with the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network, a growing network of over 116 civil society groups and individuals committed to advancing the rights of refugees in the Asia Pacific Region.

The short course will cover the topics of Understanding the legal and policy framework of the international refugee protection regime, Developing national NGO networks for advocacy, Conducting regional and transnational impact litigation of refugee rights, Implementing refugee rights in domestic law, Engaging elected officials and the development of national legislative caucuses, Using national human rights institutions (NHRIs) to monitor and protect the rights of refugees and Using UNHCR processes to protect the rights of refugees.

For further details

Poor Countries Host 80 per cent of World’s Refugees, UN Report Shows

An estimated 80 per cent of the world’s refugees now live in developing countries and yet anti-refugee sentiment is growing in many industrialized nations, the United Nations said in a report unveiled on 20th June 2011, urging the richer States to address the deep imbalance.

In relation to the size of their economies, poor countries shoulder a disproportionate refugee burden, according to the 2010 Global Trends report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), released on World Refugee Day.

Pakistan, Iran, and Syria have the largest refugee populations at 1.9 million, 1.07 million, and 1.005 million respectively.

According to the statement of Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees fears about supposed floods of refugees in industrialized countries are being vastly overblown or mistakenly conflated with issues of migration. Meanwhile it’s poorer countries that are left having to pick up the burden.

For further details;

Longer- Term Disaster Displaced: A Forgotten Group – Nepal

Almost all districts across the Far West face losses of lives and property every year due to natural disasters in Nepal. However, the impact can last well beyond the immediate event. Humanitarian actors have observed that the duration of displacement varies depending on the intensity and type of disaster: displacement following inundation of rivers is generally short term, while displacement resulting from floods and erosion is generally longer term.

Kailali and Kanchanpur were severely affected by floods in 2008 and 2009 that caused life and property losses as well as displacement in both districts. Determining the exact number of displaced in Kailali and the duration of their displacement is difficult however, as the District Administration Office (DAO) has no concrete figures. The Kailali Red Cross Society (NRCS) estimates that some 950 families are displaced among four different settlements. The Kanchanpur DAO reports there are 308 displaced families currently sheltering in four locations.

Potentially hundreds of families remain displaced and vulnerable years after natural disasters struck them. District authorities have yet to grasp the full extent of the needs; only Kanchanpur district has made concrete progress to systematically assess and record the number and location of disaster displaced. No districts have developed concrete rehabilitation strategies to date. The 2008 Government decision is yet to be implemented and there are questions about the determination and capacity of local officials to do so. In addition, the basic needs of these displaced groups become increasingly blurred with broader issues of acute poverty or landlessness shared by many communities. This complicates both needs assessment and assistance provision, and creates an atmosphere of confusion that can easily be taken advantage of.

All districts are developing Disaster Preparedness and Response Plans to reduce the risk of natural disasters and improve response across humanitarian clusters. However, these plans are focused on future disasters and do not necessarily examine the needs of those displaced previously. District Disaster Response Committees can be encouraged to and assisted in assessing the rehabilitation needs of already affected groups. Such assessments are important not only to advocate for rehabilitation support but also to draw a line between those directly impacted by disaster and other groups seeking support, thereby reducing confusion. Further advocacy is also needed to increase the resources available for rehabilitation assistance generally. While real progress is being made in disaster prevention, the need to assist those already impacted cannot be forgotten.

For full report:

Youths; Participants and Victims of War

Chulanee Attanayake
[Programme Officer, National Protection and Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons Project, HRCSL]

In this article I examine the impact of conflict on youth in Allaipiddy, a return village in Jaffna. Considering a significant section of Srilanka’s population has grown up witnessing war and conflict, it is important to look into the problems younger generation has faced as victims and participants of war and the ways in which their grievances could be incorporated in peace building efforts.

Background: Allaippiddy

Allaipiddy in Velani DS Division in Jaffna is situated in the High Security Zone(HSZ) spreading across 144 The villagers of Allaipiddy were the first victims of displacement in 1990. Many of the villagers are fishermen from coastal areas such as Kankesanthurai, Keerimalai while others are interior farmers of Tellipalai. The Sri Lankan security forces moved into Allaipiddy in 1990 in order to establish a camp to facilitate troop movement and supply lines to the Jaffna Fort, which was at that time under the control of the Sri Lanka government. The villagers were forced to vacate the village. By the time of displacement, there had been more than 400 families with approximately 1400 persons. It is reported that 22 people have disappeared during the cause of military campaign.

Allaipiddy remained a contentious spot because of its strategic location. As long as the LTTE retained its base at Pooneryan, the navy needed Allaipiddy to control LTTE sea movements between its base and the government facilities at Kankensanthurai. Secondly the place also served as a supply line for troops in Jaffna.

After Sri Lankan Army established its rule in Jaffna district on 12th April 1996, the displaced community in the district was resettled, yet, villagers of Allaipiddy were prevented to go back to their residences as it was situated in the HSZ. After 2002 following the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and LTTE; they were resettled.

On 19th May 2006, Allaipiddy villagers faced the Second major displacement following a series of security threats, including the murder of 13 Tamil civilians. They were forced and threatened to leave the village immediately. The posters threatening their lives have been supposedly distributed by a group called “Makkal Padai” (People’s Force), which was doubted to be affiliated with LTTE. By the time of this Second Displacement, there had been 450 families and 250 houses constructed by the World Bank Housing Development Project.

However, majority of the villagers returned to Allaipiddy during the period of 20th May 2006 and 11th August 2006 until they were warned to vacate the area immediately. On 11th August 2006, Voice of Tigers; the official radio station of LTTE, issued an announcement warning the residents of Gurunagar, Passaiyoor, St. Rocks and Columbuthurai of imminent attacks and telling them to vacate the area. With the fear of been caught amidst hostilities between Sri Lanka Army and LTTE, villagers who returned from previous displacement left.

Under the Government’s resettlement programmes, 182 families returned in 2008 and another 160 families returned in June 2009. Currently, there are 350 families in the village.

There are different stories about the incident which caused the displacement in May 2006. 13 Tamil civilians were killed including two women and two children. Whilst the Government accused LTTE for the massacre, many reports have mentioned that the massacre was done by “personnel in civilians alleged to be from the Sri Lanka Navy and carders from Ealam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).

Youth: Participants and Victims

Participation of youth in conflict situations is critical to understand the impact of conflict as they play a dominant role either as a rebel or as a victim. The participation of youth in conflict is inevitable when they are increasing in numbers and the opportunities for education and employment are limited.

SriLanka has been witness to youth involvement in conflicts throughout the recent history. The two armed youth insurrections in the South led by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna in 1971 and 1988-89, and violence in North and East which lasted for nearly three decades stand as the best evidence for youth involvement in the rebellious movements in the country.

As per available evidences it is said that, in the Sinhalese segment of the population, active participants in each of the insurgencies of 1971 and 1986-89 never exceeded 20,000 young men and women. Whereas participation of Tamil youth in LTTE insurrection in the North and East was about 3000 youths by the time of the arrival of Indian Peace-Keeping Army in 1987, and it increased to about 10,000 at the time of their retreat from Jaffna in 1995. Considering reports of large scale recruitment occurred during the past few years, this number might have increased at the time of end of the conflict.

Youth involvement in conflicts is influenced by several factors; lack of economic opportunities, increase in grievances, deprivation of development and blocked transition to adulthood. Of all, lack of economic opportunities, deprivation of development and increase in grievances acted as driving forces of violent insurrection in North and East. Though certain conflict resolution theories highlights the fact that youth being the “drivers of conflict” it is to be noted that they are the most vulnerable victims of a conflict. They play a role as offenders or perpetrators, yet, at the same time, opportunities available for development are not accessible to them as a result of the conflict. The large proportion of combatant group is aged between 15 and 30 years, on the other hand majority of the youth population in the country has grown up only witnessing war throughout their life time.

Having taken part as combatants in the conflict, youth have become direct victims. Researchers have proved that the majority in both government military troops and LTTE carders had been between the ages of 15-30 years. Though the Government military group recruited those who are above 18 years of age, LTTE carders consisted of adolescents of 14 years of age. Their recruitment may be either voluntary or forced. Speaking of LTTE, youths were compelled to join the conflict through conscription or abduction.

Findings of the Study

The study conducted in Allaipiddy, Jaffna revealed that, whether or not the youth was directly involved in conflict, they have become direct victims of social, economic, political, psychological and cultural dimensions of conflict. Either victims or perpetrators, it is the future generation of the country who have been most victimized.

The conflict has affected education, social welfare, economic development and as a result it has aggravated unemployment. Concerning the age group of the youths interviewed in Allaipiddy, most of them have dropped out of school due to poverty. Their parents have lost means of income each time they fled home. Allaipiddy is a Fisheries Community and with the increase in hostilities, the fishermen faced restrictions on fishing by Sri Lanka Navy due to security reasons. They were forced to work as day-labourers. They largely depended on dry ration and supports from NGOs.

In most of the families, the children’s education was affected. They dropped out of school and engaged in odd jobs to support their families. There were instances where the elder brothers had to quit school to educate his younger siblings. This situation has a direct impact on today’s youth unemployment. Lack of proper education at their adolescence, lost of family property due to displacement and in certain circumstances, loss of caretakers at young age have affected their current status to find themselves jobs post conflict.

A young mother, speaking of her economic condition explained that she sometimes has to sell dry ration in order to fulfill the daily needs. There are young women who suffer due to lack of a dowry as no man is willing to take their hand without a presentable dowry. Lack of sound educational background prevents them from enjoying available employment opportunities. Though private and public sector offers employment for qualified youth, since most of them could not complete their education they lose a chance in this job sector.

Most of the male members in Allaipiddy were forced to take family responsibilities at a very young age. They could not afford to enjoy the freedom of youth. There are reports where young groups have become victims of substance abuse during (addicted to drug and alcohol).

Subsequently, female youths have sometimes been forced to early marriages and bare children. One girl who spoke to the interviewer regarding her current situation said that she is 21 years old and a widow with two children.

Lack of guardian/caretakers is one of the major social issues seen among the youth groups interviewed. Most of them have lost either both or one of their parents.

Youth is the transition period from childhood to adulthood. It is also a period where young people come across many physical and psychological changes. Therefore, advices and guidance of a responsible adult at this age is mandatory. When parents are killed or disappear due to war, the youth does not have anyone to guide them during their transition.

There are young girls in marriageable age in Allaipiddy who are unable to marry because of lack of the dowry. At the same time, their lack of education prevents them from finding employment with substantial salary.

Lack of shelter is another social issue identified at Allaipiddy. A young woman who explained her experiences mentioned that although she has a piece of land she does not have a house. She is living with her brother. There were few others who lived with friends or relatives due to lack of shelter. They are forced to depend on others.

Young widows and mothers of young children who do not have their own houses are highly vulnerable. Their personal security is at a threat. They could become victims of sexual abuses. Even though they live with friends or relatives, they are still vulnerable to such exploitations.

Those who have been injured due to bombing and shelling are permanently disabled. Some who have been treated for a long time, still face side effects of shelling as the metal pieces cannot be completely removed from their bodies. Permanent disabilities interrupt the economic activities and further, there are some who need the help of a third party to conduct day to day activities.

Having lived in Welfare Centers for a long time, they have not had proper health and sanitary facilities. Hence, they have been victims of epidemic diseases. Unavailability of nutritious food too is a threat to the health of these people. There is a high risk of being a prey of sexual assaults and such victims may encounter social diseases.

Youth of Allaipiddy, as many other youths in North and East, has often been victims of political issues which came about with the conflict. They were often forced to join the LTTE in one hand and on the other they were often looked upon as suspects by the Sri Lanka military forces. One young person, participating in our discussion said that his sister was arrested as a suspect of LTTE and was released after a month’s detention. Yet, the effect of the experience did not fade away even after she was declared her as non-LTTE by Courts. Further, there are incidents where young persons were abducted or where they disappeared.

Of all, the serious damage caused to youth through war is experiences of horror they witnessed since their childhood. It is obvious; the youth have experienced violence and horror than any other aspect in their lives. Post traumatic stress disorders, depression, phobias, personality disorders, illusions and delusions, and abnormal behavior are seen among the youth.


While the government and non-government actors have been taken initiatives to re-build people’s livelihoods, housing etc there remains a question whether the state and non-state actors are giving adequate attention to the youth victims as the findings of the young generation in Allaipiddy indicate. The war has had effect on the youth and this is despite their direct involvement as participants or as indirect victims of physical and emotional violence they have faced in the ongoing years. To add to that experience of forced political involvement during the conflict period and witnessing abduction and disappearances have resulted in lack of trust of society. Therefore there is an urgent need to look into the needs of the youth.


Hettige, S.T/Markus Mayer (July 2002): Sri Lankan Youth: Challenges and Response, Fedrich Ebert Sriftung, Colombo.
Hettige, S.T/ Markus Mayer (October 2004), Ed, Youth Peace and Sustainable Development, Center for Poverty Analysis, Colombo.
Fernando, Laksiri/ Shermal Wijewardene (2006), Ed, Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict in the Global context, Faculty of Graduate Studies University of Colombo.
The Economic Outcomes of the War,, [12th January 2010]
Joint Humanitarian Update North East Sri Lanka, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Trincomalee Districts Report # 13 | 6-20 November 2009,, [12th January 2010]
A Sri Lankan Perspective of Systematic Conflict Transformation,, [20th January 2010]
Reconciliation After Violent conflict: A Handbook,, [25th January 2010]
Promoting Social Reconciliation in Post conflict Societies: Selected Lessons from USAID’s Experiences, [10th February 2010]
Rethinking the Nexus between youth, unemployment and Conflict-Perspective from Sri Lanka,, [10th February 2010]
Youth exclusion, violence, conflict and fragile states: Report prepared for DFID‟s Equity and Rights Team.
enceConflictAndFragileStates.pdf [10th February 2010]

Internally Displaced Persons in the Process of Reconciliation: Implications for Durable Solutions

Anuradha Gunarathne and Azmiya Badurdeen
[Anuradha Gunarathna is the National Coordinator of the Project, ‘National Protection and Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons’ – A Project under the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka. Azmiya Badurdeen is an Independent Consultant for projects on Conflict Transformation and Peace-building]


The war in Sri Lanka has resulted in several waves of displacement. This displacement has resulted in complex and often politically sensitive issues around land and property. In some cases, IDPs have occupied land abandoned by those who fled the conflict. Some IDPs have settled in state owned land, while others on private lands. Further, over the years, the IDP sites have grown into village like settlements, where the IDPs have integrated themselves with the local community (Brun 2008 and Shanmugarathnam 2000 and Hasbulla 2001). The statuses of the IDPs on these properties remain unclear and this has led to conflicts with original owners. Usually, returnees face the issue of no land, mainly because it is occupied by the military or other IDPs (Fonseka and Raheem 2010).The challenges concerning the provision of durable solutions for the IDPs are inextricably linked to the reconciliation of the IDPs in the North and the North East of the country.

In this article, a distinction is made between national reconciliation and a reconciliation process aimed exclusively for the IDPs. This distinction remains crucial as processes aimed exclusively at IDPs’ need to look at IDPs as a community with special needs, such as, displacement-specific special needs. In many of these aspects, the focus also falls on individual reconciliation. In this context, individual reconciliation is considered as the ability of each human being to conduct/restore without hate or fear, his/her life to a similar status, which had existed prior to the conflict. This distinction needs to be considered because it is not possible to achieve the national reconciliation without achieving individual reconciliation. This is mainly because, national reconciliation can come at the individual level – although political processes may proceed and progress at an individual level, the individual may find it difficult to deal with the experiences of trauma (Mobekk 2005).

Even though both issues are intertwined, investigating the reconciliation processes on the IDP community as a separate entity is crucial. Usually, it is considered that the national reconciliation is achieved when societal and political processes function and develop without reverting to the previously existing pattern or framework that led to the conflict (Mobbek 2005). Reconciliation processes aimed at IDPs intend to facilitate IDPs’ reintegration into the society.

The Internally Displaced Persons in the Process of Reconciliation

As a durable solution for the displacees, return, relocation or reintegration with minimum standards of living, was proposed. The Government so far, has been able to settle a considerable number of IDPs who lived in Welfare Centres for decades. In this process, facilitating to fulfil their basic needs, they have been provided with minimum standards of living. The Government and other facilitating authorities have succeeded in fulfilling basic needs of the IDPs, yet, the grievances of the IDPs’ remain unchanged. These grievances are personal or common to the community. Studies have shown that the IDPs who have settled in permanent residences with minimum facilities have not resumed their normal lives. They are clouded with varied types of grievances. Unless these grievances are handled properly, a durable solution for their 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.

At this point, many authors identify political renewal as the most important pre-requisite to resolve the conflicts of interests that were partially responsible for the outbreak of the war. At this point, it becomes a necessity to create public and legal institutions that safeguard legal certainty and democratic participation (good governance), investigate human rights violations as well as help to dismantle the apparatus of violence. This also entails construction of housing, infrastructure development and health system facilities. The focus of social renewal should incorporate the establishment of social structures, promotion of social reintegration of the former combatants (the LTTE), and facilitating for the return of the displaced persons.

Legal Framework

The legal framework for the IDPs should be based on the universally recognized principles of international law and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (GPID). The GPID states that IDPs are "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border" (United Nations, 2004).

The responsibility of the IDPs lies with the national governments. As IDPs reside within the borders of their own countries, and are under the jurisdiction of their governments, primary responsibility for meeting their protection and assistance needs rests with their national boundaries (Addressing Internal Displacement: A Framework for National Responsibility, 2005). Further, people are displaced because of the context of the state, and it is a moral obligation of the state to provide for the necessities of the IDPs.

IDPs are particularly vulnerable and need protection because: they may be transits from one place to another, may be in hiding, may be forced toward unhealthy or inhospitable environments, the social organization of displaced communities may have been destroyed or damaged by the act of physical displacement, psychosocial distress related to displacement, removal from sources of income and livelihood, schooling disrupted, the conditions of internal displacement may raise the suspicions of or lead to abuse by armed combatants or other parties to the conflict and also IDPs may lack identity documents essential to receive benefits or legal recognition(IDMC 2009 and Kalin 2008).

According to Article 3 of GPID, “National authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to IDPs within their jurisdiction”. It expresses that the rights of IDPs have to be guaranteed by the stakeholders who make policies in return, and takes measures pertaining to relocation and integration. Moreover, it also encourages the IDPs to take part in decision-making activities and empowers them to take steps that lead to durable solutions which would be sustainable. The state is responsible to provide equal protection to all IDPs, yet the persons displaced due to the disasters are unable to enjoy certain rights and certain benefits that have been assigned under the existing laws, and they are also subjected to certain impediments and disadvantages as a result of their inability to comply with certain existing legal requirements. The laws, norms and regulations that have been enacted by the Parliament of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka are sufficient to ensure the protection and safeguarding of the IDPs rights and privileges. By the 3rd and 4th Chapters of the Constitution of Sri Lanka, respectively, the Fundamental Rights and Language Rights have been guaranteed. Moreover, the Resettlement Authority Act, No. 09 of 2007 of Sri Lanka, which was established with the objective of Resettlement or Relocation of IDPs in a safe and dignified manner. The act also had the objective of facilitating resettlement/ relocation of IDPs and refugees in order to rehabilitate and assist them to enter the development process (Article 13, Resettlement Authority act No. 09 of 2007 of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka).

Durable solutions for returnees depend not only on the improvement of the security situation, but also on better livelihoods opportunities. This is true as in the case of integration or relocation. This puts forth the view of reconstruction as being a priority after conflict, for return or integration of the IDPs. Nevertheless, the end of a war has created a platform for many IDPs to return to their origins. A series of issues are to be confronted in this context regarding the return to their origins, or relocating them in another place or whether it is to integrate them in their present location of displacement.

The Role of the Government in the Reconciliation Process

The national and regional structure of the Government facilitates the protection of conflict victims. For instance, the National Child Protection Authority has Psychosocial Officers and the District Coordinators for the purpose of protecting children in every district. For the IDPs it has Ministries such as Disaster Management, Resettlement, Relief and reintegration. All the Divisional Secretariats have Women Development Officers, Youth Service Officers, Social Service Officers, and Child Rights Promotion Officers. They are responsible for the protection and development of the vulnerable populations. Women and Children Desk/s of the Police stations are especially established for the protection of women and children. In the IDP areas, the District Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Secretary is the focal point for all IDP related issues and activities. Moreover, the service providing agencies such as; Vocational Training Authority, Coconut Board, Palmyra Board and etc are the agencies which belong to the government for the purpose of providing services specially aimed at livelihood. The Independent Human Rights Commission investigates and inquires complains on violation of fundamental rights. Through this potential structure, it is easy to rebuild the lives of victims of conflicts. The need is for the proper implementation of these government systems. That will address the civil, political, social, cultural and economical rights of the IDPs.

The Role of NGOs in the Reconciliation Process

NGOs play a vital role in the development context of the country and have the immense potential in the aspect of reintegration and reconciliation for the IDPs. The role of NGOs as unofficial intermediaries is highlighted in their role as mediators, facilitators and in empowering, advocacy and economic and social activities (Rouhana 1995).

The Need of the Reconciliation Process to Take a Religious and Cultural Perspective

The role played by religion can be vital in the process of reconciliation. The core values of all religions can help in bringing out values of; truth, forgiveness, equality, kindness and etc, can foster relationships and facilitate the reconciliation process (Montville 2001). Studies like H. Assefa (2001) have shown the impact religion can have in reconciliation process where people could find a spiritual connection to enter into a dialogue. This spiritual dimension allows them to move beyond the competitive and legalistic discussions and get to the core of the problems.


The key conditions for the sustainability of returnees are creation of employment opportunities, housing, access to public and social services, and education. If access to basic necessities is not available, this might lead to a resultant failure of the reintegration process (Black and Gent 2006). Rebuilding trust between communities is essential to reintegrate the displaced who had fled from their homes during the peak of the war. Some of the returnees say that the main problem confronting them is the adaptation to their new environment. The returnees get struck with the feeling that their surrounding is not what it used to be as they experienced it years ago. However, this is a natural context related to adaptations after war, which occurs when there has been severe destruction and when new neighbours have occupied the neighbouring lands. Hence, reintegration and reconciliation must be accompanied by better living standards for everyone - this includes both the returnees and the other communities living in their locality.


Adelman, H. (2008),’Protracted Displacement’, in: Protracted Displacement in Asia: No Place to Call Home, Ashgate Publishing Limited, pp. 1-21.
Assefa, H. (2001), ‘Coexistence and reconciliation in the Northern Region of Ghana’, in: Reconciliation, Justice and Coexistence: Theory and Practice, Lexington Books, USA.
Black and Gent, (2006), ‘Sustainable Returns in Post-conflict Contexts’, International Migration, Vol.44, Issue 3, pp. 16-36.
Bradley, M. (2007), ‘Return in dignity: a neglected protection challenge’, RSC Working Paper No. 40, University of Oxford.
Brookings Institution – University of Bern (2008), ‘Protecting Internally Displaced persons: A Manual for Law and Policymakers’, Brookings Institution – University of Bern.
Brun, C. (2008), ‘Finding a place: local integration and protracted displacement in SriLanka’, Social Science Association.
Hasbulla, S.H. (2001), ‘Muslim Refugees: The Forgotten People in Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict’, Research and Action forum for Social Development, RAAF.
Kalin, W. (2007),‘Foreword’, When Displacement Ends: A Framework for Durable Solutions, The Brookings Institution – University of Bern: Project on Internal Displacement, pp. 3-6. (Accessed on 10th March 2010).
Koser (2007), ‘Addressing Internal Displacement in Peace Processes, Peace Agreements and Peace Building’.
Mobekk, E. (2005), ‘Transitional Justice in post-conflict societies-approaches to reconciliation in after intervention: public security management in post-conflict societies’, From Intervention to Sustainable Local Ownership, eds. Ebnother, A. & Fluri, P., Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, pp. 261-292.
Montville, J. V. (2001), ‘Religion and Peacemaking’ in: Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Religion, Public Policy and Conflict Transformation, Templeton Foundation Press, pp. 97 – 116.
Phuong, C. (2000), ‘Freely to return: Reversing ethnic cleansing in Bosnia-Herzegovina’, Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol.13, No.2, pp. 165-183.
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Shanmugaratnam, N. (2000), ‘Forced migration and changing local political economies: a study from North Western Sri Lanka,’ NORAGRIC Working Papers No. 22, Centre for International Environmental and Development Studies.

Highlights from a Study on Impact of Conflict and Displacement on Education in SriLanka

Ishita Dey
[Research Scholar, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi and Member, Calcutta Research Group]

J.R.A Williams(2010) in this extensive report on “The impact of conflict and displacement (2006-2010) in SriLanka” shows the various methods introduced during conflict and post conflict to improve educational standards. This report is one of the back ground papers commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2011, The Hidden crisis: Armed Conflict and education”. The decade long conflict in SriLanka led to displacements of people from their houses. According to “Common Humanitarian Action Plan for Srilanka 2008” (UN: 2007), around 300,000 school-aged children were affected by the conflict in Northern, Eastern and bordering provinces. This was before the ceasefire agreement of 2002 was annulled in 2008. This led to a second wave of IDPs. So not only the school aged children were displaced but also in this period there was a shortage of qualified teachers in certain provinces. What is interesting and significant to note in this context is that the professionals attached to educational institutions in rebel- LTTE controlled areas received salary throughout conflict. Much more important is that the ceasefires between the two sides were respected during national exams.

The first “shelter” for most of the IDPs in SriLanka was school buildings, which were designated as transit camps. From these transit camps the IDPs were relocated to massive closed camps where local educational authorities took in charge of managing school and participation of community in school management was prohibited. Other than that during conflict the displaced children could be enrolled in “host” schools which could create Temporary Learning Spaces(TLS) for IDP children. The model of TLS has been successful along with catch-up programmes aimed at students taking national examinations. Both these programmes generated a key interest among the displaced.

In fact the author also indicates the way the humanitarian agencies made special efforts to distribute educational materials when they were not allowed access to camps in Vavuniya citing security reasons. The UN and NGO workers trained in INEE (2004) Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction: A Commitment to Access, were not allowed to work with camp community. While war has come to an end; and reconstruction work has started in full swing, the problem of lack of educational institutions, lower levels of enrolments, drop-outs due to economic situation persists across SriLanka. For instance, the Northern Province Department of Education states that 115 (35.3%) out of the 326 existing schools in the return areas had resumed activities by 31 March 2010, with 22% (18,561) of the 82,800 student body recorded in 2008 enrolled ( Williams 2010: 6).

Post war agencies like Save the Children, UNICEF, Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) and local NGOs continue to provide support to the improvement of educational standards through creation of educational material. Catch-up programmes have been most successful so far. In addition to that UNICEF introduced a programme in August 2009 “to provide an accelerated learning programme for displaced children which will lead to the eventual reintegration of these students into the government’s mainstream education system. This project involves the development of materials and training to cover two years of the curriculum in one-year programmes at each of levels 1-5 (the equivalent of Grades 1-9)”. (ibid :9)

“A ‘Home–School programme’ is being developed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) with support from UNICEF to “enable children to continue to follow the school curriculum and to attain the required level of learning achievement despite being unable to attend school on a daily basis”. The Home–School modules are designed to provide learning for children in Grades 1–5” (ibid).

The author recommends child-friendly schooling, vocational education, and national Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) standards, as ways of improving the educational standards and effective ways of making education accessible to displaced children of school going age.

For the detailed report please visit
(Accessed on 28 August 2011)

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