Friday, July 27, 2012

Introduction for the III Edition, 2012

Anuradha Gunarathne

With the theme of 2012 “Refugees have no choice. You do” the World Refugee Day was celebrated in June by the UNHCR and most of the countries in the world honours the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. According to the estimate of the UNHCR more than 43 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide.

In the official statement on the refugee day by UN Secretary - General Ban Ki-moon expressed that "We must work together to mobilize the political will and leadership to prevent and end the conflicts that trigger refugee flows. [...] Despite budget constraints everywhere, we must not turn away from those in need. Refugees leave because they have no choice. We must choose to help."

The third edition of RWO draws attention on refugee issues marking the refugee day 2012 and the task remains on UN refugee day. In the section of Perspective Arani Sanyal and Anwesha Sengupta write about famous Arul Varma’s judgment on Rights of Refugees; Emdadul Haque on Opinion of South Asian frame work of refugee protection and Srabani Mia on Bangladesh’s obligation for the protection of refugees.

The book ‘The Plight of the Stateless Rohingyas: Responses of the State: Society & the International Community’ published by University Press Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh has been edited by Imtiaz Ahmed (co-written by Delwar Hossain, Shahab Enam Khan and Md. Faridul Alam) is reviewed by Priyanca Mathur Velath in the section of review.

In the news section, reports the Bangladesh rejection of international appeals of Rohingya Refugees and President Barack Obama’s administration announcement of policy directive to halt deportation of young immigrants. Finally the upcoming event section covers the information of 4th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights to be held on 22-24 August, Seoul South Korea.

We welcome your comments and feedbacks.

Protection of Rohingya Refugees: Bangladesh Rejects International Appeals

Bangladesh continued to “push back” the Rohingyas feeling sectarian violence in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar ruling out appeals from international communities and human rights organizations.

The Government of the United States, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) among others urged Bangladesh Government to open its border and allow the Rohingyas fleeing violence to get temporary refuge. The violence reportedly costs 80 lives.

At home the main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has also heavily criticized the government for not considering “humanitarian aspects of the Rohingyas.” Mainstream national human rights activists and civil society groups also urged the government to respect international humanitarian norms and allow the Rohingyas to take “temporary refuge.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based human rights watchdog had appealed to the Government of Bangladesh on 20 June 2012 for providing the “Rohingyas humanitarian assistance and grant them temporary refuge until it is safe for them to return home.”

“By closing its border when violence in Arakan State is out of control, Bangladesh is putting lives at grave risk,” Bill Frelick, Director of Refugee Programme at HRW, said in a press statement. (

However, Bangladesh government rejected all appeals concerning requests to open its border referring to “security concerns.” The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Dipu Moni, at the National Parliament and public events said that Bangladesh has no obligation to provide refuge to the Rohingyas since it was not a party to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and it’s Protocol of 1968.

However, experts from the HRW and independent legal academics have different views; according to them, as a norm of customary international law, the Rohingyas deserve international protection while they are fleeing threats to their lives, and Bangladesh is expected to respect those international norms.

According to BBC reports, Bangladesh, until 6 July, has “pushed back” reportedly 900 Rohingyas.

Bangladesh has provided refuge to the Rohingyas in 1978 and during 1991-92. Still now, there are about 28,000 Rohingyas who are the residual of the latest influx. They are living in two official refugee camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazaar. Apart from that there are reportedly 200,000 to 500,000 Myanmar nationals, mainly the Rohingyas in Bangladesh without any legal status.

ERT’s Situation Report on Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

The Equal Rights Trust (ERT), a London-based advocacy group has heavily criticized the governments in Myanmar and Bangladesh for their failure to protect the Rohingyas, an ethnic Muslim minority group of Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar (Burma).

The ERT has launched a report, Burning Homes, Sinking Lives: A Situation Report on Violence against Sstateless Rohingya in Myanmar and their Refoulement from Bangladesh. The report presents the findings and observations of ERT researchers who were on the fields. (

The report, which includes testimony collected from over 50 interviews with Rohingya in the period between 13 and 29 June 2012, paints an extremely bleak picture, which demands urgent action to prevent further human rights violations including loss of life, suffering, forced displacement and damage to property.
The report also reviews the legal obligations of the parties to this crisis and makes recommendations to the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UNHCR and the international community.

The ERT recommendations to the Government of Myanmar for urgently taking all necessary steps to end the violence and protect all individuals in Myanmar; fully cooperates with UN agencies to enable independent monitoring of the situation and the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to affected communities; brings martial law in the region to an end as soon as possible; conducts an impartial and transparent enquiry into the causes of the violence; and reduces statelessness in Myanmar by establishing clear paths towards the acquisition of citizenship and effective nationality for all stateless persons including the Rohingya.

The report recommends to the Government of Bangladesh to open its borders to Rohingya refugees fleeing violence and persecution in Myanmar and refrains from refoulement or forcible return of all refugees, asylum seekers and persons of concern; fully cooperates with UN agencies and international NGOs to enable the provision of humanitarian assistance and support to all refugees; and fully cooperates with the international community in providing humanitarian support and protection in a fair and non-discriminatory manner to all long-term Rohingya refugees and persons of concern within Bangladesh.

Obama Holts Deportation of Young “Illegal Immigrants”

President Barack Obama’s administration has announced a policy directive on 15 June 2012 which is to halt deportation of young immigrants, who were brought to the US illegally as children.

The Administration also has announced that these young people may apply for authorization to work in the U.S. legally for the first time.

For this directive, an estimated 800,000 young people will be benefitted, as The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) has reported on 15 June (

“The administration has been under considerable pressure to take action on the behalf of young immigrants, as Congress has been sharply divided about the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that grants conditional residency to select young people brought to the US illegally,” the CSM reported.

The policy has been viewed as a “relief for thousands of young people who are caught in a difficult situation where they consider the United States home but don’t have legal residency.”

It is also considered as a political step-forward for President Obama with Latino voters, who have criticized the administration’s deportation policies.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) has immediately praised President Obama’s announcement and hoped that the federal government immediately will halt the deportation of undocumented immigrant children and young adults who meet certain criteria.

USCRI operates a national program serving the legal and social needs of immigrant children, and fights for policies that respect their rights.

“We are very pleased with the bold and historic announcement by the White House today,” said Lavinia Limon, President and CEO of USCRI. “This policy decision for undocumented immigrant children and young adults is humanitarian, compassionate and practical, all at the same time. This is an important expansion of President Obama’s earlier order that prosecutorial discretion be exercised by government lawyers in non-priority deportation cases. It should allow hundreds of thousands of young people to come out of the shadows and become full participants in our society. I also hope the President’s action today will inspire Congress to find needed, permanent solutions for the other hardworking undocumented migrants who live among us.”

June 15, 2012, (

Rights of a Refugee. The Court as Refuge

Arani Sanyal and Anwesha Sengupta

Say this city has a million souls,
Some live in mansions, some live in holes:
Yet there is no place for us,
My dear, there is no place for us,
Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you will find it there:
We cannot go there now,
My dear, we cannot go there now.

W.H. Auden, ‘Refugee Blues’

Being a Tamil in Sri Lanka had been increasingly difficult since 1980s when the country witnessed intense civil war between the government and LTTE, the most important Tamil militant organisation. The war had killed thousands, forced millions of Tamils to migrate to India and caused massive hardship for the people, economy and the environment of the country. Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka arrived in India in four waves. Among them, one was Chandra Kumar who fled to India in 1990 as the second Elam War began. After spending around two decades in India, he decided to go to Italy in search of a better life. However, he was arrested by the immigration officers as he did not have valid travel documents. He was charged for committing the offences of cheating, impersonation and forgery r/w/s 14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946. He spent six months in judicial custody before he was brought to the court. There, Chandra Kumar admitted his crime, but claimed that he committed them unknowingly, being duped by a travel agent. If he was an Indian citizen, in all probability he would have set free, after spending 6 months in judicial custody. But his status was complicated because of his refugee identity. The government wanted this man to be deported to Sri Lanka for his offence. This position was based on the Government Order F.No. 25019/3/97 – F.III dated 2.7.1998 of the Foreign Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, which stated that a foreigner is to be deported from India in case s/he commits any offence.

For Chandra Kumar, deportation would mean going back to Sri Lanka. Of course, Kumar was unwilling to make this return trek to his homeland, as he feared persecution. The counsel of the convict tried to revoke the verdict. He pointed out that according to the principle of non-refoulement of Customary International Law; Indian government had no right to deport him to Sri Lanka as his life was not safe there.1 And, the Article 51(c) of the Constitution of India states that ‘the State shall endeavour to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another.’ According to the Indian Constitution too, the government is bound to protect the life and liberty of all citizens and non-citizens alike (article 21). The counsel also referred to numerous other judgments delivered by various High Courts of India, where the High Courts have stopped the deportation proceedings on humanitarian grounds. Since, Kumar, had done nothing that might have threatened the security of the country, he ought not to be deported, argued the Counsel. He requested the court to allow his client consult UNHCR, Delhi to avert deportation.

After listening to both the sides, Arul Varma, a metropolitan magistrate of New Delhi (Special Court No 2, Dwarka Courts), gave his verdict in favour of Chandra Kumar. Recognising the plight of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, he accepted that Chandra Kumar indeed had a ‘well founded fear of persecution’ (wherein he stated that such possibility must appear to be reasonable and the refugee need not show that persecution will result on deportation) in case he was sent back to Sri Lanka. Therefore, deportation would mean a violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which was ‘a cornerstone of basic human rights’. Though India is not a party to the 1954 Convention or its optional protocol relating to status of refugees (1967), the principle of non-refoulment is implicit in the Article 21 of Indian Constitution, opined Arul Varma. He cited a particular verdict (Louis De Raedt Vs. Union of India, AIR 1991 SC 1887) of the Supreme Court which stated that this Article, which guarantees that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law, was valid for citizens and non-citizens alike. Similarly, citing another case, the judge argued that every person, irrespective of his/her nationality, should be considered as equal before the law and the state should protect his/her life and liberty. Since persecution denies the right to live with dignity, deportation of Chandra Kumar to Sri Lanka would mean denial of Article 21. To quote Arul Varma: ‘By handling over a person to a nation where he fears persecution, would make us nothing short of abettors in that persecution’. Also, Varma questioned the definition of ‘foreigner’ in the 1946 Foreigners Act, where a foreigner was defined as a non-citizen of India, and therefore included refugees within its ambit. He stressed on the need of treating the refugees in a humane way and to consider them as a separate category different from tourists or illegal migrants as otherwise, refugees would be deprived of privileges available under numerous international instruments. The Court opined that treating refugees, and illegal migrants on the same footing as the Foreigners Act does, would be violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which mandates equality before the law. (A logical extension of this is that unequals are to be treated unequally by applying the principle of ‘intelligible differentia’) Also, a ‘well founded fear of persecution’ includes, within its scope, a fear of being subject to torture and since India is a signatory to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984, should ideally be bound by its international commitment to follow the principle of non-refoulement.

The judge applied a liberal interpretation of Constitutional tenets to accommodate refugees’ rights under Article 21 and went as far as to say that a law (The Foreigners Act, 1946) which treats persons unequally circumstanced at par, is on the face of it unconstitutional. He also laid emphasis on the non-derogability of the principle of non-refoulement and more importantly, by citing Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan, 1997 (6) SCC 241, he noted that in case of a void in domestic law, it was the Court’s prerogative to fill such void by taking recourse to international law. (Something which the Court actually did in this case)


1. Non-refoulement is a principle of the international law, i.e. of customary and trucial Law of Nations which forbids the rendering a true victim of persecution to their persecutor; persecutor generally referring to a state-actor (country/government). See

Bangladesh’s Obligation for the Protection of Refugees

Srabani Mia
[Is an LL.M. Student at Stamford University Bangladesh and an Intern at the South Asian Institute of Advanced Legal and Human Rights Studies in Dhaka]

A person becomes a refugee because of circumstances that are beyond her/his control. Refugees are human beings.

Bangladesh is the host country of asylum seekers and refugees, mainly from Myanmar (Burma). It has been hosting the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority from Myanmar for decades.

As per records of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, there are around 28,000 Rohingyas who are “officially recognized refugees” now living in two camps in the southern district of Cox’s Bazaar. They are the residual of recorded 258,800 Rohingyas who fled Myanmar during 1991-92 and took refuge in Bangladesh. Apart from that there are reportedly 300,000 to 500,000 Myanmar nationals, mainly the Rohingyas in Bangladesh without any status.

Though, Bangladesh does not have a national legislation to deal with asylum seekers and refugees, however, the State has registered and granted “refugee status” once to those 258,800 Rohingyas through an “executive order” 1991. By the time, UNHCR was invited and it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government and mandated to look after the protection issues.

Bangladesh is also not a party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) or its 1967 Protocol. Despite of that the state has been providing refuge to the Rohingyas along with tolerating their “illegal presence.”

However, recent denial by the Bangladesh Government of extending any refuge to the Rohingyas fleeing communal violence in the Northern Rakhine State, and apparent “push back” have created concerns among the human rights organizations and international communities.

Obligation of Bangladesh Under International Law

The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are basic legal instruments with regard to protection of refugees.

The 1951 Convention provides criteria to be recognized as a refugee, their rights and obligations, and visa vie obligations of State parties.

Under 1951 Convention, a person can claim refugee status with three conditions: (i) being out of the country, (ii) well-founded fear of persecution for specific grounds, and (iii) unable or unwilling avail protection from the government of the country of origin. And, the specified grounds are of persecution are based on one’s race, religion, nationality, membership of special group, and political opinion.

The Convention (Article 33) also provides the principle of non-refoulement- meaning no person shall be return to a territory where he/she may be exposing to persecution. This principle is now considered as part of international customary law and is widely practiced (including Bangladesh in previous years, even for the Rohingyas).

The Principle has indeed expanded State's protection obligations beyond the 1951 Refugee Convention framework; therefore, one cannot be returned to his or her country of origin; hence, contributing to deprivation of life, and putting forward to torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Generally, those countries which are parties to the Refugees Convention are legally bound to follow all the provisions thereof.

Bangladesh, despite of not being a party to the Refugee Convention is expected to respect the principle of non-refoulement as part of customary international law, as argued by Mostafa Mahmud Naser, an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Chittagong in his article published in The Daily Star on 23 June 2012 (link: According to this academic, who is now pursuing his doctoral research at Australia’s Macquarie University, Bangladesh has obligation to asylum seekers and refugees despite of not ratifying the 1951 Convention or 1967 Protocol as because it is a member to the United Nations and is thus obliged to protect and promote human rights. Apart from that Bangladesh is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 (ICCPR) and Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1984 (CAT) among other human rights isnstruments.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 (UDHR), guarantees for “…right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” The UDHR is consider as jus cogens, thus those rights are universally accepted and enforced by all parties despite of whether they are party to the 1951 Convention or 1967 Protocol.

Bangladesh has also obligation under Article 3 of CAT (non-return of a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture).”

In case of the Rohingays, it is very likely that they would be targeted for torture, inhuman and degrading treatment upon pushed back to Myanmar which is tantamount to persecution.

Also, persecution by “non-state actors” (in presence of apparent reluctance or inability by State actors to prevent or/and prosecute such persecution) does qualify one for a refugee status under refugee law.

Obligation Under National Laws

Though Bangladesh does not have any national law as such to deal with asylum seekers and refugees; however, some Constitutional provisions are instrumental in protecting and promoting their rights.

Article 25 of the Constitution states that “…State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for .... international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter”.

Article 31 of the Constitution provides for equal protection of law for “each citizen” and “every other persons staying in the country for time being.” Thus, the Article extends protection the asylum seekers and refugees (non-citizen) who for the time being are staying in the country.

The Constitution also guarantees for right to life and personal liberty for all (Article 32).

The Supreme Court of India has also upheld “right to life and personal liberty” for refugees in India despite of the State not being a party to the 1951 Convention [National Human Rights Commission v.The State of Arunachal Pradesh (1996 (SC) AIR 1234)].

The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, Dipu Moni has reportedly said in the National Parliament that: “ it is not in the country's best interest to allow more Rohingyas into the country while Bangladesh is already burdened with Rohingya refugees, and many of them are involved in subversive and militant activities.”

This generalized branding of Rohingya population in Bangladesh does not relieve the State from its international obligations.

Opinion: South Asian Framework for Refugee Protection

Emdadul Haque
[Is a Faculty Member at the Department of Law and Justice, Southeast University, Dhaka, Bangladesh]

Amid scores of shortcomings the South Asian region has been generous to host a large number of refugees for decades and accommodating them despite the absence of a related legal framework.

The region is rapidly growing as a “refugee melting pot” with insufficient international attention. All the original member States of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) (except the newly joined Afghanistan) did not ratify the UN Convention Relation to the Status of Refugees, 1951 (Refugee Convention) and it’s Protocol of 1967.

The problems of refugees in Europe, America, Australia and Asia particularly in South Asia are not alike. The lack of national laws and regional instruments on refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) has grossly accentuated this crisis which not only harms the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, but also affects the social and political stability of host countries by undermining the rule of law, human rights, and democracy.

These countries are being assisted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which includes ensure protection of asylum seekers and refugees and promotion of international refugee law standards vise vie promotional activities for adoption of national legal framework in line with international standards. However, the reluctance of respective governments in ratifying the Refugee Convention or adopting national legal framework and complexities of refugee issues with regional dimensions, there is a need to look into the prospect of a regional approach to address forced migration and refugee protection issues in South Asia region.

There are almost 43 million refuges all over the world and out of which 80 percent is based in developing countries. Although South Asia contains around 23 percent of the world's population, it currently hosts nearly 10 percent of the world's refugee population.

The Refugee Convention is the commanding instrument to govern international protection of refugees worldwide. This Euro-centric document promulgated soon after the World War II to cope with the influx of refugees in Europe have many limitations in the present context, though the Protocol of 1967 had been adopted to overcome such inadequacy.

However, experts in the region find four major dilemmas in the Refugee Convention with regard to definition of a refugee, material assistance, shared-responsibilities, and unraveling consensus in observing standards of international law.

The Refugee Convention has been the point of fierce contention for the developed and developing nations. The developed countries are tendering for a rights-based approach while developing countries on the other hand have been voicing their equitable approach. That’s why some prominent scholars feel that before acceding to the Refugee Convention or the Protocol of 1967, South Asian States should go ahead for adoption of a rights-based national legal framework to deal with asylum and refugee issues. At the same time, some scholars recommend that the states of the region should ratify the Refugee Convention and its Protocol without further delay.

However, as compared to many developed countries of the world who have adopted very strict entry procedures, States under SAARC have adopted rather soft policies on entry and stay of asylum seekers and refugees, e.g., Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. The States have also given shelter and other humanitarian relief to different groups fleeing persecution- who are victims of forced migration, including victims of natural disaster or people fleeing generalized violence, abuse of human rights by State and non-State actors, communal and ethnic strife and the victims of man-made ecological disasters. However, in some cases, there are reported incidences of refoulement- pushing back to the territory where lives of individual were at risks.

Since States in the regions, are apparently look upon cross-border migrations (including forced migration) as bilateral issues within the framework of national security, thus, time and again, the significance of international protection of a refugee is ignored. There is nothing in this regard within the framework of the SAARC Charter.

In the absence of laws concerning general treatment and protection of asylum seekers and refugees, the response to refugee influxes remains provisional or on ad hoc basis. The refugees here have no legal protection against summary expulsions as they are treated as illegal immigrants and not as refugees fleeing persecution. As a result, UNHCR has also not been able to ensure effective and meaningful protection to most refugees in the region. Even international humanitarian agencies are often not allowed to assist refugees in real crisis in most of these countries. This was evident once again in the treatment of “Rohingya boat people” in Bangladesh this time (June 2012). In case of India, it does not allow UNHCR staff to enter and work in the North East territory.

Many of these problems can be avoided both through the enactment of legal norms on entry procedure status and on the creation of rights for asylum seekers and refugees. There is an absence of an inter-governmental mechanism at the regional level for protecting the returnees in their home countries.

Thus absence of a legal framework results in arbitrary, provisional and discretionary decision making which undermines fair refugee protection as per international norms. The asylum seekers and refugees can end up being treated like any other foreigner.

Therefore, a legal structure is necessary to effectively deal with a complicated refugee problem. In the absence of a legal framework, respective activities of the governments vary from case to case and are determined by political considerations and bilateral negotiations. These do not provide predictable and durable solutions.
However, given the reluctances of Sates in adopting national laws to deal with asylum seekers and refugees, a regional framework needs to be considered.

Like African and American States, SAARC countries should initiate a regional framework for refugee protection paving the way for appropriate platform on the issue of refugee crisis demonstrating their commitment for a new comprehensive plan of action to this end as every nation in the South Asia has produced as well as received refugees.

This will contribute to establish transparency, fairness and a humane treatment of refugees, as a matter of fact, through these laws the states of South Asia will give a formal expression to existing practices and responses to the refugees.

Hopefully, that will inspire to adopt national legal framework in the same line. Having a national law would not only ensure the protection of refugees and uphold obligations enjoined by the constitutions of most of the countries it will also enable the States to discharge their international treaty obligations. Ultimately both the States and the asylum seekers will derive benefits from such laws. Adoption of a harmonized national law on refugees by all the countries of the region would be a first step towards seeking a regional solution to this problem.

It will also facilitate to establish human rights communities and other institutions of civil society- a basis to campaign against any violations of refugee rights.

4th Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights (APCRR4), from August 22-24th, 2012

This event will be hosted by the Asia Pacific Refugee Right Network(APRRN), Human Asia, the Graduate School of International Studies of Korea University and Hwajeong Peace Foundation, The Dong--‐AIbo.

The key objectives of the consultation are to provide a platform to share and show case experiences, best practices and strategies, to identify key priority areas for stakeholders, in order to expand protection spaces, and combat susceptibility to trafficking and people smuggling, to build the capacity of participants in issues such as immigration detention, legal aid, mental health, advocacy etc., to develop a stronger Network, better cooperation/collaboration amongst members and identify new potential members, to review and develop concrete joint actions plans, campaigns and strategies to be taken for the period 2012-2014 and to select a new Steering Committee for the period 2012-2014.

Review of The Plight of the Stateless Rohingyas: Responses of the State: Society & the International Community, Edited by Imitiaz Ahamed

Priyanca Mathur Velath

The month of June traditionally celebrates World Refugee Day. However the month of June in 2012 brought back international attention on one of the world’s “most persecuted and most forgotten” peoples, the Rohingyas, when communal clashes in western Myanmar claimed more than 60 lives, displaced more than 30,000 and forced hundreds to flee into the neighbouring state of Bangladesh. Since then Bangladesh has turned back more than 2,000 Rohingyas who tried to enter the country after the deadly sectarian violence between Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in the Burmese Arakan state.1

Rohingya ‘boatpeople’ have for decades been leaving Myanmar and entering Bangladesh but discrimination and denial of citizenship has forced them to flee further. 2 The book being reviewed here is the outcome of a study carried out by Centre for Alternatives, Bangladesh, that brought together the efforts of both the students and faculty of the Universities of Dhaka, Chittagong and Jahangirnagar to relook at the condition of Rohingya refugees (both documented and undocumented) in Bangladesh. Underlying the enquiry is the hypothesis that “the Rohingya refugee crisis has been long ignored in the development discourse in Bangladesh”. As the book emphasises, “in tracing the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the study shows that the Rohingyas are both stateless and refugees.” (First they became stateless in their homeland and then eventually they had to embrace the status of refugeehood under the conditions of persecution, discrimination and torture) The crucial point of understanding is that the causes and conditions of their refugeehood are becoming almost identical.

The book ‘The Plight of the Stateless Rohingyas: Responses of the State: Society & the International Community’ 3 has been edited by Imtiaz Ahmed and co-written by Delwar Hossain, Shahab Enam Khan and Md. Faridul Alam. All Bangladesh based academics, the four authors have penned the chapters separately that together went into the making of this book. The Myanmar state has systematically denied the existence of the Rohingyas so much so that the word ‘Rohingya’ is not officially recognised in Myanmar. While tracing the historical origins of the Rohingya refugee migration in Bangladesh, Ahmed notes that the “patterns of refugee migration are a product of the interrelationship among the oppressive regimes in Myanmar, crisis in identity (ethnic, religious and political), and the lack of attention from the international community.” In the second chapter Delwar Hossain addresses the identity concerns of the second generation Rohingyas in Bangladesh by also asking if states can realistically respond to the challenges posed by the same.

Chapter three seeks to analyse the psychosocial dimensions of refugeehood while chapter four views the situation from the ‘security’ lens. It emphasises that security concerns are four dimensional (politico-military, economic, social and human) and that the responsibility of security must be shared by multiple actors viz., both country of origin and host country, both refugee populations and locals, by donor states, regional organisations, the UNHCR, its operational partners – all alike. But the essential understanding is that the relationship between refugees and the internal security of the state of Bangladesh is a complex one, further complicated by the reality that physical resemblance between Rohingyas and Bengalis which merges the demarcation between ‘legitimate and illicit political dissents’.

While chapter five, interrogating the role of Bangladesh in handling this refugee issue urges the Bangladesh government to adopt a national policy on refugees and provide a framework that addresses the repatriation needs, chapter six evaluates the actions of the international community in protecting their lives and ensuring the livelihoods. Shahab Enam Khan notes that the response of the international community is positive and proactive but there is still a lot of work to be done particularly with the undocumented Rohingyas living outside the camps, to address the continuing and increasing cross border flows. Mere humanitarian support will not be enough. In the next chapter Md. Faridul Alam observes a dichotomy in the involvement of non-state actors as the latter impact policy developments in the field of environment and human rights more than they impact refugee lives. Finally Ahmed, in the concluding chapter, lists tasks to be done by various stakeholders in the refugee discourse, laying out not “timescales in implementing the recommendations” but the “level of involvement.”

But with Rohingya refugees mere involvement will not provide solutions; the commitment to protect and secure the lives of this tragically displaced population demands serious accountability in actions from all concerned actors. While there is international condemnation of the Bangladeshi push-back of the fleeing Rohingyas there are voices within Bangladesh urging the government to provide temporary refuge. 4 Some within the academic community of Bangladesh have also been arguing that ‘opening doors to the Rohingyas is a duty not charity’ and that pushing the Rohingyas back is a violation of the fundamental principle of non-refoulement. There is reiteration that the state of Bangladesh needs to frame a national law for refugees that would lay down basic principles of refugee treatment and set up necessary administrative structures to deal with situations such as the Rohingya inflow. “If proper procedures were in place the government’s reaction would not have been as reactive.” 5

The highlight of this compilation are the detailed evocative fifteen case studies of Rohingya refugees living in the Kutapalong and Nayapara refugee camps and in Chittagong, conducted by students of the Universities of Dhaka and Chittagong. Written in first person they are emotional accounts of personal histories of hope and despair, with equally emphatic titles like ‘Dream’, ‘Shame’, ‘The Void in a merciless world, ‘A moment of silence’, ‘Irony of fate’, ‘Denied from denied’, ‘We pass our days crying’, ‘I have nothing else to do’, ‘Better to kill us all by bombing’, ‘Living like insects’, ‘Son of the soils’, ‘We stay by crying’. They are narratives that underline that while trauma and traumatic memories continue to shape the Rohingya identity, so does the hope and dream of a future of return and freedom. The present and the future for these persecuted and forgotten people is one that all regional and international actors need to come together to protect, ensure and enshrine.


1. See - ‘Bangladesh: Stop Boat Push-backs to Burma’, Human Rights Watch, June 20, 2012 -
2. See – ‘Rohingya Boatpeople sentences on Immigration Charges’, June 22, 2012,
3. by University Press Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2010.
4. See online petitions like
5. See CR Abrar, ‘Opening doors to Rohingyas: duty, not charity’, New Age, Dhaka, June 20, 2012,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Introduction to II Edition, 2012

Priyanca Mathur Velath

The current issue of RWO draws our attention to rights against exclusion and homelessness through the lens of Islamophobia, Statelessness and the Cessation Clause. In the first piece of the Perspectives Section Guillaume Cliche-Rivard urges further interrogation of the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees, followed by Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury’s analysis of the unique position of those stateless in South Asia. Geetisha Dasgupta highlights the growing intolerance, racial hatred and xenophobia particularly in the United States.

Cliche-Rivard’s piece, titled ‘Pending questions: UNHCR Recommendations regarding the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees’ questions UNHCR’s invocation of Cessation Clause in the light of compelling evidence of continuing violations of civil and political rights in Rwanda. The arguments point to concerns regarding Kagame government’s claims of free and fair elections and substantive democratic reforms. “As the recommendation expresses that the Cessation is not going to be applied on Rwandans who escaped the country after 1998 or are still seeking asylum, it clearly indicates that fundamental, durable, and positive changes have not occurred in Rwanda.” It throws uncomfortable questions into the public domain - How could any host State and UNHCR justify the invocation of the Cessation Clause when these changes are not countrywide? What is driving UNHCR’s agenda? How was the decision to recommend the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees made? Understanding the current situation presented by Amnesty International and IDMC, why is cessation recommended at this time?

The condition of statelessness creates a condition where there is literally a complete absence of a right to a life of dignity for the nowhere people. Basu Ray Chaudhury’s article titled ‘People of Nowhere: Stateless in South Asia, points out how for the stateless it may not be possible to work legally, to get appropriate wages, to purchase property, to open a bank account, to attend school or university, to marry a person from other communities, to register births and deaths, to vote or access the national justice system. It succinctly notes that “suspicion has driven South Asian states to progressively tighten the strings on who may claim membership goods, thus creating growing pockets of statelessness at their cultural and geographical margins. Examining the changes that have been introduced to citizenship laws of South Asian states provides a clear narrative of how this tightening of strings has proceeded: largely by restricting the acquisition of citizenship by right in favour of granting citizenship at the government’s discretion.”

Dasgupta in her article titled ‘Law, Islamophobia and the United States of Exclusion’ empathically states that more than half of the United States’ population has spun on the axis of renewed racial hatred that found expression in xenophobic profiling of the other half that is creating a new category of stateless, that was founded on exclusion based on religious identity. “Despite loud and clear declarations at the administrative levels that the United States government will not support any activity in hatred towards the believers of Islam or of Arab origin, there have been steady repercussions from the agents of the state and the government on these lines, when it came to arresting people for suspicion of terrorist activities. As a result, there have been repeated strikes and counter strikes and all over the last twelve years during which a large group of people became homeless and stateless.” This demands urgent attention as it reflects a foreign policy and geopolitical status of a country that affirms its ability to reach anybody that it deems inimical to its own security. This was visible in not just an increase in hate crimes but also when students were picked up from rallies of the Occupation Movement in New York City or Boston, and detained in federal prisons for anything up to three months without questions being asked.

In the News Section, we report on the continuing protests of the Rohingya asylum seekers outside the UNHCR Delhi office and provide a link to the latest Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network Newsletter. Finally in the Events section there is information that the Legal Aid and Advocacy Working Group of APRRN proposes to hold a Legal Aid Training for the South Asia region from May 26 - 28, 2012 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Also enclosed is the Call for Papers for the 14th conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration that will be held in Kolkata in January, 2013.

We look forward to your comments and feedback.

Pending Questions: UNHCR Recommendations Rgarding the Cessation Clause for Rwandan Refugees

Guillaume Cliche-Rivard

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines that the refugee status is temporary. Articles 1C (1) to (6) describe the so-called ‘Cessation Clauses’. When invoked, these provisions cease the international protection of a specific group of refugees: ‘He [the refugee] can no longer, because of circumstances in connection with which he has been recognized as a refugee have ceased to exist, continue to refuse to avail himself of the protection of the country of his nationality’[1]. Since 2002, the Government of Rwanda has repeatedly requested UNHCR to recommend the invocation of the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees. This pressure succeeded as UNHCR’s Executive Committee’s 60th Session (2009) declared that it was considering invoking the Clause in 2011.

To counter this measure, the Fahamu Refugee Programme, other NGOs and concerned individuals signed a petition, which argued that such a drastic measure was not appropriate at this point in time. This strategy succeeded in temporarily postponing the invocation of the Cessation Clause to June 2013, while UNHCR has recommended that States ‘commence to progressively implement throughout 2012 all aspects of cessation of refugee status’ [2]. Invoking the Cessation Clause signifies the end to the international protection of certain refugee groups. UNHCR’s recommendation at this time, in the case of Rwanda, raises fundamental political, ethical and juridical concerns. This article examines these issues and questions the whole rationale behind UNHCR’s recommendation to invoke the Cessation Clause and aims to mobilise the international community to request its withdrawal.

Assessing Change in Rwanda 

UNHCR’s Comprehensive strategy for Rwanda recalls that both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the OAU Refugee Convention require that cessation of refugee status can only occur when ‘positive changes have taken place in the country of nationality (or country of habitual residence), such that the causes of refugee flight no longer exist. The changes must be of a fundamental and durable character’[3]. This requirement, however, necessitates further elaboration: How have ‘positive’, ‘fundamental’ and ‘durable’ been defined? After what period of time are changes reputed to be durable? How are host States to be convinced that these changes are real?

NGO reports, such as the 2011 country report by Amnesty International, raise important concerns with the political stability of Rwanda and the protection of fundamental human rights under President Kagame’s administration, especially the violation of freedom of expression and the vague charge of ‘genocide ideology’[4]. There are also numerous concerns regarding Kagame government’s claims of free and fair elections and substantive democratic reforms. In light of the evidence that civil and political rights in Rwanda continue to be violated, how can it be argued that fundamental and durable changes have occurred justifying the invocation of the Cessation Clause? As the recommendation expresses that the Cessation is not going to be applied on Rwandans who escaped the country after 1998 or are still seeking asylum, it clearly indicates that fundamental, durable, and positive changes have not occurred in Rwanda.

Additionally, the Guidelines on International Protection state that ‘changes in the refugee’s country of origin affecting only part of the territory should not, in principle, lead to cessation of refugee status’ [5]. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC): Some refugees had been prevented from returning home by the [Forces Democratiques de liberation du Rwanda] FDLR, but they had also been reluctant to return because did not trust the Rwandan Gacaca courts and did not think they would be able to reintegrate. The prospects of returnees and those resettled depend on continuing reconciliation and the equitable distribution and management of scarce land [6].

How could any host State and UNHCR justify the invocation of the Cessation Clause when these changes are not countrywide and understanding that some Rwandan refugees do not trust the country’s administration?

Moreover, Paragraph 135 of the Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees states that the Cessation Clause will be invoked when ‘fundamental changes in the country, which can be assumed to remove the basis of the fear of persecution’ have occurred [7]. Paragraph 115 states that the Cessation Clause can be invoked only if ‘the reasons for a person becoming a refugee have ceased to exist’. Is there a difference between ‘fundamental changes’ in the country and ‘ceased to exist’ conditions? What could be understood as ‘fundamental changes’ and is this requirement less restrictive than the ‘ceased to exist’ conditions? These conflicting terminologies are confusing to both legal advisors and refugees. Even if it were agreed that fundamental changes have occurred in Rwanda, given that Rwandans continue to flee, it would be impossible to argue that the previous conditions leading to these exiles have ‘ceased to exist’.

According to the UNHCR Executive Committee Conclusion 69, before invoking the Cessation Clause ‘States must carefully assess the fundamental character of the changes in the country of nationality or origin’ (emphasis added) [8]. Given that this statement stresses that States are responsible for assessing these ‘fundamental changes’, why is UNHCR appearing to have already made this determination in the case of Rwanda? Moreover, if UNHCR has already determined that the changes in Rwanda are fundamental and durable, under which criteria was this assessment made? What response was given to NGO concerns? Understanding that both the invocation of the Cessation Clause and the assessment of fundamental changes are States’ responsibilities, why does UNHCR seem to be leading the discussion of States’ obligations? What is driving UNHCR’s agenda? How was the decision to recommend the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees made? Understanding the current situation presented by Amnesty International and IDMC, why is cessation recommended at this time?

Internal Contradictions

In 2003, UNHCR produced Guidelines on International Protection: Cessation of Refugee Status under Article 1C(5) and (6) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the “Ceased Circumstances” Clauses). The Guidelines state ‘Cessation under Article IC(5) and IC(6) does not require the consent of or a voluntary act by the refugee’ [9]. However, this interpretation in contested in some host States. The First Secretary of the Rwandan High Commission in Uganda, Mr John Ngarambe, at a meeting held in Nakivale Refugee Camp on 28 February 2012, was reported as stating that ‘the Cessation Clause does not allow anyone to forcefully repatriate Rwandan refugees’ [10]. It is unclear when — and to whom — UNHCR or a State intends to ‘operationalise’ the ‘non-requirement for consent. What is UNHCR’s response to this statement of Mr Ngarambe?

In addition, is UNHCR promoting the Cessation Clause globally or just for Africa? It has appointed ‘focal points’ for 21 African States, but remained silent on how the invocation is to affect other continents. Have all African States hosting Rwandan refugees accepted UNHCR’s recommendation for invocation and does UNHCR expect States to apply its guidance on the exemptions procedures guidelines?[11] What if States develop their own guidelines or if they do not decide to invoke the Cessation Clause at all? What would be the consequence of inconsistent decisions? Could refugees then seek asylum in another State that had refused to invoke it?

Other Protection Issues

If the Cessation Clause is invoked by 30 June 2013, as recommended by UNHCR, the process will raise several other protection issues — particularly with regard to legal aid and State assistance. The Comprehensive Strategy states that ‘UNHCR will provide advice and technical or such other support and resources as may be required by States for the implementation of the Cessation Clauses’ [12]. What will this ‘advice and technical or such other support and resources’ constitute? Will UNHCR recruit lawyers for each African host State to assist in interviewing Rwandans as was done for Sudan?[13] There is strong evidence to suggest that most Rwandan refugees currently resist the notion of return. Will there be any legal aid provided so as to ensure they are competently represented before a State or UNHCR adjudication process?

Concerning Rwandans in Europe, a telephone conversation on 17 April 2012 with Michele Cavinato (Policy Officer at UNHCR’s European Bureau in Brussels and focal point for Rwandan Cessation Clause in Europe), assured that Europe is unlikely to follow UNHCR’s recommendation to invoke the Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees [14]. What impact could such a decision have on UNHCR’s credibility?

While Mr Cavinato noted that the majority of Rwandans have been locally integrated in their host States, the concern was expressed for those currently seeking asylum in Europe. Mr Cavinato was reassuring in his confirmation that Europe will normally not consider Rwanda as a safe country of origin, and hopes that the recommendation will not affect the new refugees or persons who are seeking asylum for facts occurring after 1998.

Unlike Europe, up until now, no provisions for local integration in Africa have materialised, and the cessation recommendation is still pending. Why is UNHCR pursuing cessation before provisions for local integration are official? How can refugees be asked to choose between repatriation and local integration when the terms of ‘local integration’ have not yet been defined?

As this article was being revised, The Daily Guide reported on the situation of Liberian refugees in Ghana who are facing the Cessation Clause on 30 June 2012. Those who do not want to repatriate must report to the Ghanaian immigration office by 30 April to seek local integration. However, provisions for local integration ‘[have] not yet been defined by the Ghana government’ [15]. This situation is not unique to Ghana as the Lusaka Times[16] reported on 26 April 2012 a discussion about Angolans in Zambia also facing cessation in June 2012. What choice are refugees expected to make if the provisions for local integration are inexistent? There is, in fact, no choice [17].


Paragraph 5 of the Guidelines on Exemption Procedures describes two categories of refugees who should be exempted from cessation: ‘(1) refugees who continue to have a well founded fear of persecution, despite general positive changes in the country of origin, and (2) refugees, who due to compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution, cannot be expected to return to their country of origin’ [18]. The Guidelines on Exemption Procedures admit that there is ‘no fixed definition of, or scale on which acts of persecution are so severe that an exception on the basis of ‘compelling reasons’ is warranted’. However, it defines that ‘sufficient severity can be inferred from the act itself, e.g., including but not limited to genocide, torture and other degrading treatment, detention in camps or prisons, acts or threats of severe violence, including mutilation, rape and other forms of sexual assault’ [19]. If the recommendation is maintained, will every person who feared the genocide or acts/threats of severe violence be exempted? Would people who fled Kagame’s military intervention in DRC (including innocent Hutu and civilian Tutsis) be included in the exemptions as defined? Moreover, is a test (singular) necessary to assess the severity of the acts? Whether UNHCR will then provide the necessary medical and physiological expertise remains to be seen, and it is possible that refugees will be responsible for paying these services.

We know of cases of ‘Hutu’ refugees of ‘mixed’ parentage who came to Uganda before 1998 and subsequently returned to Rwanda, only to find living there intolerable and thus returned to Uganda. If they have returned to Uganda since 1998, will they be exempted?

Acquired Rights?

In several discussions at the annual UNHCR/NGO Consultations, George Okoth-Obbo, of UNHCR’s Africa Bureau, has spoken about ‘acquired rights’. The document, UNHCR Note on Suspension of ‘General Cessation’ Declaration in respect of particular persons or groups based on acquired rights to family unity, refers to social and economic rights.

UNHCR Note on Suspension of ‘General Cessation’ Declaration in respect of particular persons or groups based on acquired rights to family unity provides for a suspension of the Cessation Clause ‘to particular persons or group based on right to family unity’. This ‘suspension’ can be declared for someone who ‘cannot be expected to leave the country of asylum, due to a long stay in that country resulting in strong family, social and economic links’.

The suspension is not an exemption to the Cessation Clause and is limited to a maximum of one year. It would allow refugees to continue to benefit from protection ‘until such arrangements are agreed and/or implemented’ [20]. What constitutes these ‘arrangements’? Would one year be enough to establish the right to remain with one’s spouse? Do all States have such provisions for respecting family unity? And, more importantly, what is this document suggesting when it refers to ‘social and economic links’? Is this a reference to rights conferred by the International Covenant for Economical, Social and Cultural Rights?

Many Rwandans in Uganda have acquired land and property, the majority of whom have paid taxes to the Ugandan government over many years. Unknown numbers of Rwandan refugees have received university education in their host countries in Africa. Tutsi Rwandans in Tanzania were naturalised; have any of these Rwandans returned to Rwanda after the genocide, but returned to Tanzania again? Rwandans in Uganda and Tanzania were employed in various sectors of the economy. The majority of these refugees arrived before 1998. Would these elements facilitate local integration and status regularisation?

Some Final Questions

In its document, UNHCR Comprehensive Strategy for Rwandan Refugee Situation, UNHCR admits that the likelihood for local integration remains low. It states that, ‘broadly speaking, governments in countries of asylum have yet to step forward with concrete offers of local integration for Rwandan refugees generally, or to define the categories of refugees who may be eligible for this solution, many being reluctant to commit to local integration options absent clear progress with regard of voluntary repatriation’ [21].

Which States are expected to change their position and allow local integration? What would be Rwandans’ immigration status? What rights would be granted to them? Have any States agreed to naturalise Rwandans? We have noted that neither Ghana nor Zambia have done so yet. Despite this, the cessation clause is still recommended for Rwandans for June 2013. What is the rationale behind such a hurry?

The cessation of refugee status itself is not the fundamental problem raised by this recommendation. The main issue represents the absence of local integration policies and the inexistent choices that Rwandan refugees have to face. A cessation clause accompanied by large provisions for local integration would mean there is a real choice for refugees; it would not force them to repatriate. This article raised an important number of political, ethical and juridical issues generated by UNHCR’s recommendation to invoke Cessation Clause for Rwandan refugees and has demonstrate why it is not time for such decision for Rwanda. The Fahamu Refugee Programme is asking individuals, NGOs, and governments to refuse the recommendation for cessation.


[1] UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, p. 137.
[2] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Implementation of the Comprehensive Strategy for the Rwandan Refugee Situation, including UNHCR’s recommendation on the Applicability of the ‘Ceased Circumstances’ Cessation Clauses, Inter-Office Memorandum No. 093/2011, 31 December 2011, AF/00/DIR/048/11.
[3] Ibid.
[4]Amnesty International: Rwanda Annual Report 2011; ‘Rwanda urged to end clampdown on dissent as Charles Ntakirutinka released’, March 2012; ‘Vague laws used to criminalise criticism of government in Rwanda’, 2010.
[5] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on Exemption Procedures in respect of Cessation Declarations, December 2011.
[6] International Displacement Centre, Rwanda: Ensuring durable solutions for Rwanda’s displaced:a chapter too early closed.
[7] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, January 1992.
[8] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Cessation of Status, ExCom Conclusions 69, October 1992.
[9] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on International Protection No. 3: Cessation of Refugee Status under Article 1C(5) and (6) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the ‘Ceased Circumstances’ Clauses), 10 February 2003, HCR/GIP/03/03.
[10] Mutuyimana Manzi, Report of the meeting of the 28 February 2012 held in Nakivale Refugee Camp, unofficial.
[11] Op cit., UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on Exemption Procedures.
[12] Op cit., UN High Commissioner for Refugees Implementation of the Comprehensive Strategy for the Rwandan Refugee Situation.
[13] Siddiqui, Y. Reviewing the Application of the Cessation Clause of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in Africa, 2009, Oxford University.
[14] Telephonic communication with Michele Cavinato, Policy Officer of UNHCR’s European Bureau and focal point for Rwanda Cessation Clause in Europe, 17 April 2012.
[15] The Daily Guide, ‘The Dilemma Liberian Refugees’, 28 April 2012.
[16] Lusaka Times, ‘Angolan Refugees Asked to Leave Zambia’, 26 April 2012.
[17] See also Lusaka Times, ‘Zambia has no intentions of integrating refugees’,12 July 2011.
[18] Op cit., UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on Exemption Procedures.
[19] Ibid.
[20] UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Note on Suspension of ‘General Cessation’ Declarations in respect of particular persons or groups based on acquired rights to family unity, December 2011.
[21] Op cit., UN High Commissioner for Refugees Implementation of the Comprehensive Strategy for the Rwandan Refugee Situation, including UNHCR’s recommendations on the Applicability of the ‘Ceased Circumstances’ Cessation Clauses.

The author wishes to acknowledge the helpful comments on this article by Dr Alice Edwards, Dr James Hathaway, Martin Jones, Dr Galya Ruffer, and Manzi Mutuyimana, and states that any errors in interpretation are his own.

Courtesy – FAHAMU Refugee Legal Aid Newsletter –

People of Nowhere: Stateless in South Asia

Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury

Statelessness is the quality of being, in some way, without a state. In fact it means without a nationality, or at least without the protection that nationality should offer. Nationality is the legal bond between a state and an individual. It is a bond of membership that is acquired or lost according to rules set by the state. Once held, nationality or membership of a state – brings with it both rights and responsibilities for the state and for the individual. Within the realm of public international law, rules have evolved in response to the problem of statelessness. According to the International Law Commission, the definition of stateless persons contained in Article 1 (1) of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons now forms part of customary international law. The Article defines ‘stateless persons’ as those who are not recognized as nationals by any state under the operation of its law. They therefore have no nationality or citizenship and are unprotected by national legislation and left in the arc of vulnerability. The International Law Commission has observed that the definition of a stateless person contained in Article 1(1) is now part of customary international law. 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness exclusively deal with the issue of statelessness. These two legal instruments explain statelessness mainly in two ways de jure and de facto. A stateless person as defined by the 1954 convention is generally equated with the term de jure statelessness. Besides, the Convention also refers to the category of de facto stateless persons - who remain outside the country of their nationality and hence are unable, or, for valid reasons, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.

Statelessness most commonly affects refugees although not all refugees are stateless, and not all stateless men, women and children may be able to qualify as refugees. Refugee status entails the extra requirements that the refugee be outside his or her country of nationality (or country of habitual domicile if stateless), and is deserving of asylum based upon a well-founded fear of persecution for categorized reasons which make it unwilling or unable to avail itself of the protection of that country.

The possible consequences of statelessness are profound and touch on all aspects of life. It may not be possible for them to work legally, to purchase property or to open a bank account. Stateless people may be easy prey for exploitation as cheap labour. They are often not permitted to attend school or university, may be prohibited from getting married with a persons from other communities and may not be able to register births and deaths. Stateless people can neither vote nor access the national justice system.

Causes and Context of Statelessness in South Asia

Normally statelessness emerges from succession of states or territorial reorganizations. But it also emerges from persecution of minorities and state’s majoritarian bias, which lead the states at time to expel citizens or inhabitants. This condition reinforced by the protracted refusal of the involved states to take them back creates a condition, which may lead at times to loss of their nationality and citizenship. Also, states of South Asia being what in academic circles are called ‘kin states’ represent social and ethnic continuities across the borders and the cases selected here illustrate both these albeit overlapping sources of statelessness in contemporary South Asia. The experts have identified three salient facts while analyzing the causes of statelessness in South Asia.

• Very few contiguous South Asian states have entirely normalized relations with each other, usually on account of disputes concerning borders and cross-border movements, or histories of unwelcome intervention in each others’ affairs. The inherent and massive heterogeneity of South Asian states has frequently given rise to militant resistance – often with a secessionist agenda – to the exercise of central power and the project of national consolidation. These resistances have usually obtained support and legitimacy from the governments or societies of neighbouring states. As threats to the project of national consolidation have accumulated over the past decades – because of interstate conflict, border and territorial disputes, insurgencies, illegal migration, increasing competition for resources and unfavourable demographic drift – the resistance has intensified, and so has the tension of regional relations. It would not be incorrect to say that an atmosphere of suspicion lies over South Asia. Suspicion has driven South Asian states to progressively tighten the strings on who may claim membership goods, thus creating growing pockets of statelessness at their cultural and geographical margins. Examining the changes that have been introduced to citizenship laws of South Asian states provides a clear narrative of how this tightening of strings has proceeded: largely by restricting the acquisition of citizenship by right in favour of granting citizenship at the government’s discretion.

• The second salient aspect of South Asian statelessness is its production as a result of political turmoil. In almost every case, such turmoil has manifested post-colonial South Asia’s attempt to mould itself into culturally unique nation-states by favouring dominant national claims to cast out a minority; or, the attempt of a disgruntled minority to secede from the dominant majority to create their own uniform homeland. The two largest cleavages in independent South Asia occurred for precisely these reasons – the Partition of India in 1947 and the secession of Bangladesh in 1971. It follows, then, that these nation-building experiments created the ideal conditions for inducing statelessness.

• The third aspect of statelessness in South Asia is as a product of economic migration between states. Borders in South Asia, in the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods, have been unregulated or unsuccessfully regulated, engendering traditions of seasonal migration but also permanent minority settlements. Migrant populations are of all different vintage: Nepali migrants from as early as the seventeenth century in Bhutan, Tamil labourers from the nineteenth century in Sri Lanka, and continuing flows of Bangladeshi Muslims in India. Since the advent of independent nation-states, however, majority leaders have argued for the disenfranchisement of such groups, which appear to have closer ties to the national identity of a neighbouring state than to the identity of the state of their residence. The political centres have demanded the migrants’ ‘repatriation,’ which has been refused by the neighbour state on account of resources constraints and political concerns of its own, leaving the group stateless.

In this context, one can cite example of the Rohingyas, who being deprived of their nationality by the Burmese junta are surviving in the camps in Bangladesh. While the Chakmas were encouraged by the Indian government to come and settle in India as refugees when they were displaced from the Chittagong Hill Tracts due to the building of the Kaptai Dam in 1964 but the Indian government has not yet granted them citizenship. They are neither the citizens of Bangladesh nor India, which has made them de jure stateless. Many Muslims from Bihar left India during partition as they wanted to become Pakistani citizens but they could only travel to East Pakistan. When East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971 they were denied Bangladeshi citizenship and not conferred a new Pakistani citizenship by the government of Pakistan and so they lost their nationality. In this context one can refer to the cases of the Hindu refugees from Pakistan living presently in Jammu valley and in the districts of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Ganganagar of Rajasthan. In case of the Lhotsampas, the Bhutanese monarchy marked them as people of Nepali origins and deprived them of their nationality. About a 100,000 of them are today living in UNHCR run refugee camps in Jhapa and their protracted refugee-hood has lead towards their statelessness.


1. Batchelor, C. A. (1998) ‘Statelessness and the Problem of Resolving Nationality Status’, International Journal of Refugee Law Vol. 10, pp156-182.
2. Karnad, R.A., Dhawan, R. and Acharya Bhairav, Protecting the Forgotten and Excluded Statelessness in South Asia, accessed on September 12, 2011.
3.Special Protocol Concerning Statelessness, The American Journal of International Law, Vol. 24, No. 3, Supplement: Official Documents (Jul., 1930), pp. 211-21.


Law, Islamophobia and the United States of Exclusion

Geetisha Dasgupta
It is widely known that post 9/11, the world, for more than half of its population has spun on the axis of renewed racial hatred that found expression in xenophobic profiling of the other half. Overnight, as Richard Seymour [1] and Moustafa Bayoumi [2] have pointed out, Islam became a race in the western imagination, adding to the already existing ones like the racial imaginations of Latinos and Asians. The last two have existed, alongside the black identity as age old borders within the US ground zero. Although twelve years have passed, there has been no slackening of the hatred that was spun around the incident. While statelessness and invisibilization of Latinos and Asians are well known facts, a new category of stateless is shaping fast. This is the new race and founded on exclusion based on religious identity.

Despite loud and clear declarations at the administrative levels that the United States government will not support any activity in hatred towards the believers of Islam or of Arab origin; there have been steady repercussions from the agents of the state and the government on these lines, when it came to arresting people for suspicion of terrorist activities. As a result, there have been repeated strikes and counter strikes and all over the last twelve years during which a large group of people became homeless and stateless. Such statelessness was created with legal measures, so as to sanitize the society off all potential terror strikes and keep the trouble makers behind the bars. Results are: fresh batches of illegal migrants who, if successful in keeping themselves out of Immigration agencies, get absorbed as menial workers on wage rates that are far lower than the legal minimum. As a natural corollary, they do not belong to this state, nor are eligible for any benefits. Moreover, such people have to live under a blanket suspicion authorized by the state.

The racial profiling that took off as the Bush administration’s domestic policy counterpart to preemptive strikes as foreign policy measure raised a ghost of its own. The war on terror outside the US soil created ‘aggressive’ population groups inside the borders of the state (where minimally aggressive behaviour became a benchmark for activities qualifying for arrest). In fact, newer borders were laid, inside the territory, where the Muslim and the Arab identity have collapsed together to give birth to a new form of not-belonging. It is therefore not surprising that every terrorist strike inside or outside the US territorial jurisdiction has produced a fresh batch of people that fell out of the safe zone, and entered the list of ‘being watched’. For example, there have been huge repercussions felt after the Norway terror attacks and Congressmen were vilifying all organizations off alternative faiths in the US [3]. A minimal effort to build an Islamic study centre in New York City raised much dirt from the ground in 2010: it was said that Muslims in the US, numbering anywhere between 4-7 million are not ‘sorry’ enough for what ‘mayhem’ they ‘caused’ in 2001 [4]. This is not a standalone incident. Several such attempts as posters in California shouting: ‘Wake up America, the enemy is here’ or ‘No temple for the god of terrorism’—have regularly been put away as classified news.

As Salah Hassan [5] would say, the act of being watched produces its counterpart in ensuring oblivion. The more there was vigilance at the ports of entry and combing through the society, the more number of alternative economies and underground ways of existence came about. With legal protocols as the USA Patriot Act, 2001 which was later redrafted by the Obama administration as the National Defense Authorization Act, the jurisdiction of preventive detention was extended to levels hitherto untouched and a point was reached where people could be arrested on the slightest suspicion of deterring national security and detained for an endless period without due process of law. By virtue of this, intelligence and law enforcing agencies will have unprecedented access to private and personal domain of everybody living under its premises. Therefore, something that was shaped as a mechanism of combing out the bugs has now become an instrument in the hand of the administration (which is also the embodiment of the greatest and most notorious alliance of capitalist interests of accumulating ever increasing amounts of surplus) for pushing all sort of dissidents to peril. This is a classic example of the way law produces its own chosen group of illegals and also maintains them.

Again, legal tools like the NDAA does not need to stop at the domestic level only, as foreign policy and geopolitical status of the country affirms its ability to reach anybody that it deems inimical to its own security. Therefore, students could be picked up from rallies of the Occupation Movement in New York City or Boston, and detained in federal prisons for anything up to three months without questions being asked. There has been an increase in hate crimes; counting also those who associate with people of Islamic faith. One of the college students detained in New York was suspected of plotting terrorist activity because he was talking ‘too much’ with a Pakistani girl in an Occupy rally, because he wanted her as a girlfriend. Here is what one blogger [6] says:

Since the death of Osama bin Laden I’ve found more reasons to worry as I leave my home. As footage of (mostly white) Americans in the streets screaming “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” and “WE GOT HIM!” began rolling in, I grew increasingly nervous about what reaction I’d receive walking down the street the next day. I later awoke to (barely reported) news coverage of masjeds spray painted with messages of “GO BACK HOME” and “OSAMA TODAY, ISLAM TOMORROW [sic],” which quickly confirmed my fears. September 11th and the death of bin Laden should serve as reminders to those of us actively working against Islamophobia and other oppressions of the inherent link between nationalism and violence. American nationalism is dependent on the violent exclusion of those who are decidedly not American; just as the narrative of September 11th cannot include the stories of the Arabs, Iranians, Turks and Muslims who were killed in the World Trade Center or the Muslim firefighters who worked in the wreckage of the Twin Towers, the eerily joyous and celebratory national memory of the death of bin Laden will not include the stories of spray painted masjeds or brown folks harassed on the streets or the nationally unacknowledged but paralyzing fear that regulates the life of so many brown folks in the United States. ( access date: 27/04/2012)

A new exclusion act was introduced in 2002. Since September 11, many Arab and Muslim immigrants have faced dire prospects of detention, secret trial, deportation and what is now beginning to look more and more like a new exclusion act aimed at impeding the immigration of people from the Middle East. The Justice Department announced its intention to implement the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) on September 11, 2002. This would be a system involving the fingerprinting of "high-risk" foreign visitors. In addition, the program will require targeted foreign nationals to register their residence with authorities and to confirm their exit. According to a Justice Department statement, foreigners "will be selected according to intelligence criteria reflecting patterns of terrorist organizations' activities." But the system will begin by tracking "all nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria," though no nationals from these countries were involved in the September 11 hijackings. In addition, the system will tag for fingerprinting any "non-immigrant aliens whom the State Department determines to present an elevated national security risk, based on criteria reflecting current intelligence" as well as aliens "identified by inspectors at the port of entry, using similar criteria." The ultimate design of the system is to create an enormous database of foreign visitors that can be used to track and locate "terrorist suspects." Rather than relying on "intelligence criteria," NSEERS will generate intelligence to facilitate the detention and deportation of certain visitors and immigrants.

The oppression of laws such as the NDAA and its attendants like the NSEERS have delivered more blows to these communities which have been forced to take recourse to illegal paths to continue to live and earn livelihood in the country; thus invisibilizing themselves. Accounts of how many muslims or Arabs were turned away at the ports of entry are yet to come; accounts of how many of them are working as industrial labour undercover and under perpetual fear of being caught will never be brought to daylight. But the general mood is corroborated in the following verses:

First they came for the Muslims, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Muslim.
Then they came to detain immigrants indefinitely solely upon the certification of the Attorney General, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't an immigrant.
Then they came to eavesdrop on suspects consulting with their attorneys, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a suspect.
Then they came to prosecute non-citizens before secret military commissions, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a non-citizen.
Then they came to enter homes and offices for unannounced "sneak and peek" searches, and I didn't speak up because I had nothing to hide.
Then they came to reinstate Cointelpro and resume the infiltration and surveillance of domestic religious and political groups, and I didn't speak up because I had stopped participating in any groups.
Then they came for anyone who objected to government policy because it aided the terrorists and gave ammunition to America's enemies, and I didn't speak up because...... I didn't speak up.
Then they came for me....... and by that time no one was left to speak up.

For Further Reading, Refer to:

[1] access date: 25/04/2012
[2] access date: 25/04/2012
[3]; 27/04/2012
[4] access date: 28/04/2012
[5] access date: 22/01/2012
[6] access date: 06/03/2012

The Latest Bulletin of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

The Latest Bulletin of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network can be Accessed here -

Rohingyas in Delhi Demand Full Refugee Status

Men, women and children from Burma's Rohingya minority group take shelter in a makeshift camp in New Delhi's Vasant Vihar neighborhood. (Photo: Zarni Mann / The Irrawaddy)

In an echo of the Occupy movement that attracted so much attention around the world last year, hundreds of Rohingya asylum seekers have camped out for nearly four weeks in front of the UN refugee agency’s office in an upscale New Delhi neighborhood to demand full recognition as refugees.

The protesters, who belong to a Muslim ethnic minority persecuted in Burma and shunned by Bangladesh, say they are being unfairly discriminated against by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) because they are denied services granted to refugees.

“We are recognized as asylum seekers, while Chin, Arakanese and some others from Burma are recognized as refugees. We have been discriminated against as we are not receiving any assistance from the UNHCR, like education for our children, health care and financial support, which others are receiving,” said Shom Shul Alomr, one of the protesters.

“We will not leave here till we are recognized as refugees,” he added.

The men, women and children now living makeshift camps in New Delhi’s exclusive Visant Vihar neighborhood say they made their way here from Buthitaung and Maungdaw Townships in Burma’s Arakan State via Bangladesh. Long scattered around India, where they have lived for three to 10 years, they say have gathered here to demand their rights.

“I came from Maungdaw. I fled from the Burmese government’s human rights abuses and formerly lived in Bangladesh. Later, we moved to India because we believed that this is a democratic country with sympathy and peace, where we can take refuge. If we cannot live here as refugees, we want to go to another country where we can live as refugees,” said one of the protesters.

Local residents have expressed sympathy for the plight of the Rohingyas, but also say they fear that their presence disturbs the peace and could cause health problems.

“We are sympathetic to them, but we don’t feel safe,” said one resident. “How can we live peacefully when there is a crowd out there day and night in our neighborhood? Moreover, the area is becoming dirty due to a lack of proper sanitization.”

Others said the Indian government should do more to assist the asylum seekers.

“The government of India is providing free education to everyone who lives in the country. I have many refugee and asylum seekers friends from different neighboring countries who send their children to government schools. I hope the government and UNHCR can help them,” said a local taxi driver.

Officials from the UNHCR said they are having an ongoing dialogue with the group to find the best way to assist them.

“There are different approaches to treating refugees in India. For this group of people, we believe the asylum-seeker status protects their interests,” said Nayana Bose, the UNHCR’s associate external relations officer.

“The majority of this group is dispersed and lives in areas far away from Delhi, where UNHCR is not present. It is not possible for UNHCR to provide support services in all the different parts of India, for reasons both of lack of proximity as well as lack of resources,” she explained.

“However, the agency does have a responsibility towards persons of its concern no matter where in the country they are located. For this reason, UNHCR supports them to the extent possible through governmental, NGO and other partners,” she added.

“As for right to health care and education, this is available for everybody. They can access free education at government schools.”

According to the UNHCR, there are around 1,800 Rohingya registered as asylum seekers in India. Each one has been issued an identity card to protect them from harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention and expulsion, and to prevent them from being forced back to a country where their life or freedom may be in danger. The UNHCR says this gives them the same protection as refugees.

Accessed at on May 1, 2012.

The 14th Conference of the International Association for Studies in Forced Migration (IASFM)

The 14th Conference of the International Association for Studies in Forced Migration (IASFM) will be hosted by the Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata, India, January 6-9, 2013. This is the first time that the conference is being hosted in South Asia.
The deadline for Submission of Abstracts is June 15, 2012.
Contested Spaces and Cartographic Challenges

The institutional methods by which governments and the international agencies governed population flows were known as humanitarian methods, and these were unilaterally decided by those who govern, in short, they were non-dialogic. Today the two broad issues that need to be reflected upon are - on the one hand mixed and massive flows, provoking desperate governmental methods, on the other hand innovations at a furious pace in humanitarian methods, functions, development of institutions, and principles. The governments have discovered why people move: identifying not only violence, threat of violence, torture, and discrimination, but that they move also due to natural disasters, man-made famines and floods, climate change, resource crises, environmental catastrophes, and the like. The humanitarian response has grown accordingly in range. Governments realize the need to gear up not only to emergencies but "complex emergencies" - a scenario that alludes to a complicated assemblage of factors and elements leading to the emergency situation. At the same time it is clearer than ever that the responsibility to protect the victims of forced migration must be wrenched away from its "humanitarian roots", and located anew in the context of rights, justice, and the popular politics of claim making today.

Migrants are refusing to be completely obedient to governmental methods and techniques, and that the subjectivity of the migrant remained unruly, defying categorization, mixing up all kinds of flows and compositions, and remaining possibly the biggest question mark in the plan of reorganizing the global politico-economic strategic space. The rights of the migrants, in particular the victims of forced migration, becomes noticeable in this light. The responsibility on part of the governments to protect the victims and devising strategies of protection of those migrant's rights then becomes a necessary corollary. The way in which the government wanted to stabilise the population flow as the humanitarian method, simplistically as a non-dialogic mechanism becomes important to analyse.

Refugee flows are consequent to political and social reasons, redrawing of boundaries, partition of states, xenophobic policies, minority persecution, civil wars, and foreign aggression. Without a proper understanding of these causes, durable solutions, the "right to return," burden sharing in refugee protection, and the interface of human rights origins and humanitarian dimensions of refugee protection cannot be thought of.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have gained prominence as a category of rights bearing subjects. Thus, even though forced by circumstances, government policies or government inaction/impunity, IDPs were not accorded the same kind of protection that refugees were. However it is not uncommon for internally displaced persons to call themselves refugees even while they are within the physical borders of the state. Thus, the unique features of this ‘new reality' needs to be highlighted by focusing on the relevant experiences of strategies of protection of victims of forced migration, particularly in the post-colonial world.

Countries are encouraged to ratify the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees and the Protocol both by the UN and by refugee rights organizations. While holding a state responsible to a promise made at the international level is a better option for protection than arbitrary state action, historically international conventions have not known to be of any more assistance than the domestic legislations already in place.

Against this backdrop the way post colonial societies have grappled with migration in comprehending the existing and accepted regime of protection of refugees, stateless, migrants and internally displaced needs to be reassessed. Does this understanding add to the discourse on forced migration? Should we not only ask yet again whether the existing regime of protection of refugees has failed, but also debate the ways in which the regime can be made more relevant for refugees, the primary objective with which it was created and for which it functions? Are there examples that allude to this fact - of redundancy of the international protection regime or possibilities of protection without an international framework? These are few questions that the IASFM 14 intends to find suitable answers to.

It is pertinent to consider the fact while dealing with the massive and mixed flows that, the borders, are not merely cartographic exercises of state formation but also of management of population and this is evident in the refugees people take to the high seas to navigate through porous borders to enter safer destinations. While "borders" remain crucial to the distinction between "refugees", IDPs, stateless persons and people facing deaths due to hunger, disease and pestilence, sometimes it is also interesting to examine how internally displaced groups refer to themselves as "refugees" in their own countries? The contexts in which refugees, internally displaced person and stateless move are different, distinct and at times overlap. The exercise of boundary making works at multiple levels and the main aim of the conference would to be look into the ways through which people contest those spaces. Victims of environmental displacement, labor trafficking, as well as other such long unobserved dislocations can no longer be ignored. It follows then that the protection mechanisms previously envisioned are also no longer applicable in an increasingly globalized world. It also becomes important to look into the economics of forced migration in terms of the dynamics of livelihood vis-à-vis crises, where some gain and some lose.

In this context, IASFM14 seeks to particularly explore the themes below -


The conference will be divided into three broad themes and each of the broad themes will have three subthemes.

1. Borders and Displacement

2. Geography and the Economies of Displacement

3. Rights, Ethics and Institutions

Sub themes under three broad themes:

1. Borders and Displacement

a) Negotiating borders- Against the backdrop of pronounced population flows in the post-colonial regions of the world today, what are the consequences of mixed and massive flows in terms of their nature? What are the ways in which both internal and external borders are negotiated in the socio-political context for the internally displaced/the stateless persons? The theme intends to explore the eco-political processes that underlie such negotiation, also looking into the consequences of the imposition of ‘a border on both sides' and understanding the erstwhile policies for the protection of the victims of forced migration.

b) Gendered experience of borders- The double marginalization that takes place for vulnerable groups such as women, children and the third gender at the first instance, for their already disadvantaged class position further intensifies owing to the process of displacement they undergo. Understanding gendered experiences and the nature of exploitation, not merely a saga of victimhood but as strategies of coping and mobilization.

c) Lives in Transit- Displacement as an ever continuing circular process does not exhaust itself of its first instance of settling; exploring displacements as a continuous process of settling and unsettling. Owing to the newer state of occupancy and movement from camps to ghettos in cities entail incidents of extreme dehumanization and rights forging. The discussion on camps and enclaves becomes pertinent with these circles of insecurity as a perpetual space of transit.

2. Geography and Economies of Displacement

a) Modes & Patterns of Displacement- The modes and patterns of displacement are multifarious and imply movements due to a number of factors such as conflict, development, environmental disasters and climate change.

b) Margin of Space of Development, Places for contest- Understanding the space and place as a site for multi-corner contestation, the way in which ‘scrambling for resources' takes place in exaggerating the resource politics played therein. The agents who are contesting range from the state, capitalist firms to the ones who are displaced. It is by understanding the nature of resource dynamics played out by such actors that their eco-political motives come to the fore. Also the way in which the displaced strategize ways of negotiating with this environment by forming syndicates and cooperatives becomes interesting. This subtheme explores camp and non-camp experiences, life in transit in contested spaces together with rights in a protracted context.

c) Geographies and Costs of Displacement- Who pays the price of displacement? What are the costs and impacts of displacement vis-à-vis development/ conflict/ resource crises? The segment intends to discuss ways in which labour politics is played out in terms of labour migrations and trafficking.

3. Rights, Ethics, and Institutions

a) Protection, Ethics and Justice - Exploring the strategies of protection: what are the protection strategies that are adopted today? What are the best practices in this regard? The segment aims to analyse the national, regional and international protection strategies against the backdrop of ethics and justice.

b) Governmentality, Laws & Institutions - Conversing on the existing legal regimes; national and regional and international frameworks for refugee rights protection.

c) Social Movements and Rights of the Displaced- Does greater civil society participation ensure protection of the victims of displacement? The segment would explore the way in which social movements impact the notion of protection of the displaced and their rights.

Specific Objectives

While inquiring these issues IASFM 14 will take advantage of the location of the conference - South Asia. It will aim to bring out the uniqueness of the experiences of forced migration and migrants in the region. South Asia, we have to recall in this context, has witnessed massive population exodus, transfer of population groups, partitions, creation of statelessness, various kinds of forced migration, conditions of protracted displacement, massive cyclone and Tsunami disasters, but at the same time unprecedented measures of relief, rehabilitation, refugee protection, and informal help to victims of various forms of displacement. And yet all these have happened without a strong legal framework either to refuse or to offer protection. The South Asian experiences, in short, are worth of close observation so that appropriate lessons are drawn.

Structure of the Conference

The Conference will create a space for both academic rigour as well as the challenges on policy-oriented and practical work in the field. As such, while presentations of academic research will continue to provide the intellectual backbone of the conference, these will go hand in hand with round-tables engaging policy makers and governmental stakeholders, as well as presentations and discussions around practical approaches to dealing with forced migration from a range of practitioners. Furthermore, the conference will draw on non-academic analyses, interpretations and representations of forced migration(e.g., portrayals of displacement using movies, pictures, art & crafts, music and dance, fictional literature) in order to diversify the entry points into discussion of the major themes identified.

Alongside traditional panel presentations, the conference will also consist of plenaries, round-table discussions, public dialogues, film shows and cultural events. While the core of IASFM membership is academic, and academic contributions will be at the heart of the conference, there will also be a strong presence of policy-makers and activists, as the conference seeks to influence the relevant policy discussions and civil society interventions.

All participants, whether academic, policy-makers, donors, activists or forced migrants themselves, will present from their particular perspectives, but with an emphasis on stimulating live debate and pushing the boundaries of debate and discussion in the field of forced migration, particularly in the South Asian region. Most importantly, the conference will include direct participation from refugees and forced migrants themselves. It is essential that refugees and asylum seekers-across a wide range of sex, class, national, and educational backgrounds-can participate directly in these debates which concern their very livelihoods and well-being. In this regard, the Conference methodologies will be adjusted to accommodate the presence of affected persons and therefore the Conference shall also consider ethical issues and psychological needs of people as it progresses.

Submission of Abstracts

We invite submissions of abstracts of 250 words from academics, graduate students, practitioners, policy makers, individuals working with forced migrants and forced migrants themselves.

Submissions may be either individual or of a panel comprising of 4-5 individuals and from all disciplines broadly conforming to the outline and themes enunciated above. Practice-based presentations and other non-traditional means of exploring forced migration and its study, that include film screenings, poster or photo installations/exhibitions are most welcome.

The submission deadline for abstracts is June 15, 2012. Submissions will be reviewed by the Programme Committee.

Conference participants are responsible for their own expenses for attendance at the conference. Some financial assistance may be available to assist those who might be otherwise unable to attend the conference. Priority will be given to graduate students and individuals from the Global South. Financial assistance will generally only be available to individuals presenting at the conference. Details of this assistance will be posted on the IASFM website in the second half of 2012. Further details about the conference and the online submission form can be found on the IASFM website: Requests for further information can be made to the following email address: Information about the IASFM can be found at To withdraw from the list, please send a message to: IASFM-unsubscribe-request@YORKU.CAFor other inquiries about the IASFM List, please write to