Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Call for Papers : Workshop on Forced Migration Studies

Calcutta Research Group (CRG) will hold a series of Research Workshops on Forced Migration Studies. The first in the series will be held in Kolkata from 16 March to 21 March 2015. The five themes to be addressed in this workshop are; (a) Violence in the borderlands and forced migration in West Bengal-Bangladesh border; (b) Violence in the borderlands and forced migration in Central Asia and West Asia; (c) Rohingya Refugees in India; (d) Research Methodology in forced migration studies; (e) Conceptual issues in forced migration studies.
Research papers relevant to the five themes are invited to be presented and discussed in the workshop. Selected research papers will have to reach the CRG office by the last week of February 2015. Papers will be circulated in advance. Those desirous of presenting research papers may kindly send their applications along with respective CVs, proposed titles, and abstracts (between 500 to 700 words and with clear reference to the theme) by 26 December 2014. The language of papers and abstracts will be in English. Research fellows, teachers, and practioners with at least 5 years experience will be given priority in selection. Selected participants will be given accommodation and train travel by economy class. Applications may be sent to the Office Secretary, Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group, GC-45, Sector–III, First Floor, Salt Lake, Kolkata 700106 (e-mail: forcedmigrationdesk@mcrg.ac.in phone: 91-33-2337-0408; Fax: 91-33-2337-1523). Applications should mention clearly the themes being addressed.

The workshop is being held in collaboration with the ICSSR, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies, and Taft Fund.

Call for Papers: Refugee and Asylum Law: Theory, Policy and Practice

Dates: 31 March-2 April 2015
Venue: University of Warwick, United Kingdom
The deadline for the submissions is Monday 19 January 2015.

This stream welcomes papers that focus on any issues relating to the theory, policy and practice of refugee and asylum law at an international or national level. In view of the current global refugee crises, and the apparent failure of the “international community” to address the problems confronting millions of asylum seekers and refugees, papers that address the following are particularly welcome:
• Conceptualising asylum and refugee protection
• The role of law in achieving or diminishing (access to) protection
• The role of the UNHCR and NGOs in refugee protection
• Regional protection regimes and access to asylum
• The search for durable solutions
• Future challenges for asylum and refugee protection

Abstracts may only be submitted via the Easy Chair system. They must be no longer than 300 words and must include your title, name and institutional affiliation and your email address for correspondence.

For more information see: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/research/events/conferences/slsa/streams/raaltpap/

Call for Papers: Advancing Protection and Fostering Belonging in a Global Era of the Criminalization of Migration

8th Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (CARFMS)

Hosted by: Department of Criminology, Ryerson University in collaboration with
Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement (RCIS)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dates: 13-15 May 2015

The United Nations Member States recently acknowledged the need to promote and protect effectively the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, regardless of their migration status. Similarly, there is recognition of the importance of addressing international migration through a comprehensive and balanced approach, recognizing the roles and responsibilities of countries of origin, transit and destination in promoting and protecting the human rights of all migrants (Declaration of the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, 2013). While the international community’s aim to promote a balanced and human-rights-centred approach to migration is laudable, it is also highly challenging to achieve due to the increasing criminalization of migration. Over the past decades, countries of the Global North have resorted to criminal law measures to deter and punish irregular migrants, including those in need of international protection. They have imposed criminal penalties on forced migrants for entering or staying in their territory in an irregular manner, or using false documents or for unauthorized employment. Detention has not only become increasingly common but pervasive. Transport companies and employers as well as other persons who come into contact with or help forced migrants, such as health professionals, humanitarian workers, landlords, family members and friends have also become the targets of criminal sanctions. Asylum systems have become stricter for refugee claimants arriving in the destination countries with the help of smugglers. These developments fuelled by negative political and popular discourses have significant repercussions for the situation of not only forced migrants whose fundamental rights have been constrained, but also for legal migrants who become tainted by suspicion and face ever stronger selection barriers to entry. This practice of criminalization is counterproductive: it may result in rising levels of discrimination against migrants and xenophobia; it may hamper the implementation of integration and settlement policies; it may discourage forced migrants who are the victims of human trafficking, sexual assault, labour exploitation, abuse by employers or domestic violence and other crimes from coming forward, receive adequate protection and denounce the perpetrators of such crimes; ultimately it may contribute to driving forced migration underground, enhancing the possibilities of exploitation, oppression and infringement to their human dignity.
The 2015 CARFMS Conference will bring together students, instructors, researchers, academics, governmental officials, decision-makers, practitioners (including non-governmental organizations), refugee lawyers and members of community organizations, from diverse disciplinary and regional backgrounds to discuss changes, achievements, challenges and short and long-term options for advancing the protection of migrants and fostering their belonging in their receiving societies. The conference will feature keynote and plenary speeches from leaders in the field and from people with direct experience of forced migration. We invite participants with a wide range of perspectives to explore practical, social, legal, policy-oriented and theoretical questions related to the general theme outlined above. We welcome proposals for individual papers, organized panels and roundtables structured around the following broad subthemes:

1. Advancing Protection in a Global Era of the Criminalization of Migration: Local, National, Regional, Comparative and International Issues and Concerns

2. Fostering Belonging in a Global Era of the Criminalization of Migration: Local, National, Regional, Comparative and International Issues and Concerns

3. New Approaches, Research Methods and Theories in Advancing Protection and Fostering Belonging

For more information, please contact:
Michele Millard
Coordinator, Centre for Refugee Studies 8th Floor, York Research Tower
4700 Keele Street Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
Tel: 416-736-2100
GRATUIT 416-736-2100 ext. 303391
Fax: 416-736-5688
Email: mmillard@yorku.ca

Conference 2015: Human Migration and the Environment: Futures, Politics, Invention

Date: 28th June - 1st July, 2015
Venue:Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom

Concept Note

Human migration and the environment are two of the most pressing issues of our times. Migration is a defining attribute of the human condition, and yet all across the world negative attitudes towards migration are intensifying. Meanwhile, our natural environment is undergoing such profound transformation that the future habitability of Earth is regularly called into question. But what is stake when these two phenomena – human migration and environmental catastrophe – are articulated as a singular relation? In popular media, this relation is often said to be one of mass migration which culminates in religious or ethnic violence, whereas contemporary liberalism poses it as a problem of international cooperation or state managerialism. But how else might we conceive of this relation? Is it enough to understand it as a binary between alarmist rhetoric and managerial reason? Or does our of understanding of human migration and the environment require entirely new concepts? Are we to conceptualise migration in the context of climate change as a matter of in/justice, law and sovereignty? Or does it pose something more fundamental to the human condition? What does it mean when future environmental catastrophe conjugates with prejudice, inequality and difference? What ontological, epistemological and methodological challenges arise when environmental change and migration are characterised as a single relation? How are we to conceive of the Human, Nature, the State, the migrant and the citizen when human migration and environmental change are conjoined? What political, sociological, cultural and legal challenges does this relation pose? And what futures does it make possible? How should we conceive of migration in the Anthropocene?

By asking these and many other questions, this conference provides a multidisciplinary forum for scholars, policymakers, practitioners and artists to chart out the next generation of research on human migration and the environment. Whereas the first generation of research on environmental migration focussed squarely on problems of causation and on questions of law and policy, our starting point for the conference is that the relation between environment and migration is multidimensional, touching on all aspects of human and non-human life, including economy, social institutions, politics and culture, as well as bio- and geo-physical processes. The aim of the conference is to expand the debate on human migration and the environment beyond its current configuration as a problem of causation, law and policy towards a more pluralist debate that acknowledges the multidimensional nature of environmental change and migration. The conference should appeal to social scientists, humanities and legal scholars as well as to scientists committed to working with and within the social sciences, humanities and law.

The conference is organised around three interrelated themes of Futures, Politics, and Invention.

For more information please see: http://www.geography.dur.ac.uk/projects/ccmcostaction/Conference2015/tabid/4035/Default.aspx

International Summer School on Forced Migration

Dates: Monday, 06 July 2015 to Friday, 24 July 2015
Venue: Oxford Department of International Development, 3 Mansfield Road, Oxford OX1 3TB / Wadham College, Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PN

The International Summer School in Forced Migration fosters dialogue between academics, practitioners and policymakers working to improve the situation of refugees and forced migrants.

The Summer School offers an intensive, interdisciplinary and participative approach to the study of forced migration. It aims to enable people working with refugees and other forced migrants to reflect critically on the forces and institutions that dominate the world of the displaced.

The three-week course combines the very best of Oxford University’s academic excellence with a stimulating and participatory method of critical learning and reflection.
The Summer School is intended for:

Mid-career and senior policymakers and practitioners involved with humanitarian assistance and policy making for forced migrants. Participants typically include host government officials, intergovernmental and non-governmental agency personnel engaged in planning, administering and co-ordinating assistance.

Researchers specialising in the study of forced migration.

To apply and find out more information go to: http://www.rsc.ox.ac.uk/study/international-summer-school/overview

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Transitional Justice and Displacement: The Way Forward

Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen

Increasing efforts have been taken to incorporate displacement into the transitional justice agenda. It is an acknowledged fact that transitional justice measures can support durable solutions. Bradley (2012) highlights this link as follows:
‘Displacement is intrinsically linked to the abuses transitional justice processes seek to address. Crimes such as torture, rape and the killing of friends and family are almost invariably followed by survivors’ flight, whether for weeks, years or generations. In some cases, forcing people to flee their homes represents a grave violation in its own right. And yet, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have often been relegated to the sidelines in efforts to deal with past injustices through measures such as trials, truth commissions, and restitution and compensation programs. Scores have been denied the opportunity to participate in transitional justice mechanisms, while others have found these processes to be out of step with their most pressing concerns. In recent years, however, transitional justice processes have increasingly opened up to the involvement of displaced persons, and have taken steps to address the crime of forced migration and the injustices at its root. From restitution efforts in the former Yugoslavia and Tajikistan to truth commissions in Timor-Leste and trials in the Hague, it is becoming increasingly clear that transitional justice can make a modest, contingent, but nonetheless significant contribution to upholding accountability and providing redress for forced migration and advancing solutions to the displacement of refugees and IDPs’.

Increasingly, academic have been focusing there attention to the links between transitional justice and displacement. Famous initiative on exploring this link has been the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. This has been a collaborative project between the International Center for Transitional Justice and Brookings-LSE Project. Organizations such as the Refugee Law Project at Makarere University in Kampala have been playing a leading role in investigating and advocating for the effective incorporation of displacement into transitional justice processes in Africa. Further, this has been an emerging topic at conferences such as the 15th IASFM Conference and the 25th IPRA Conference.

Initiative that intend to bride the relationship of transitional justice processes and displacement need to transform structural economic injustices with the consideration of the wider political, social, cultural, and judicial context. The success of such processes depends on the meaningful participation of refugees and IDPs—both men and women. Here the participation by the affected is needed to give a voice to the voiceless. This includes the various categories of the displaced which can effectively address structural injustices that lie at the core as a cause for their displacement. Hovil (2011) states as follows:
‘Neither transitional justice measures nor interventions to resolve displacement by themselves are likely to transform these structural injustices, but in addressing such issues they can a) avoid reinforcing them, b) contribute to long-term change, and c) draw attention to the need for broader reform efforts as well. In this regard, the resolution of displacement, particularly through return, presents both challenges and opportunities’. For example, ‘While women may become more vulnerable when they are forced to become heads of households in exile, it also provides opportunities for the redistribution of resources. A transitional justice framework might also facilitate a far more gender-aware and transformative approach to land restitution during reintegration’.

To sum up, it will be interesting to explore the link of transitional justice and displacement in terms of its space in research agendas. Bradley (2012) highlights, ‘To date, research at the crossroads of these fields has been characterized by remarkable collaboration across regions and disciplines, and between researchers and practitioners. As this agenda moves forward, it will be enriched by a continued commitment to this approach, and to the increased engagement of Southern scholars and critical voices in the debate, which can help ensure that the political interests and power dynamics that shape transitional justice processes are neither underestimated nor overlooked. Ultimately, the challenge is to ensure that the conceptual and empirical insights resulting from the continued evolution of this research agenda translate into the provision in practice of an increased measure of justice for the survivors of conflict and abuse, including those forced to flee their homes’.


Bradley, M. (2012). Critical Reflection: Forced Migration and Transitional Justice – Advancing the Research Agenda. Retrieved from Brookings Website
Hovil, L. (2013). The Nexus between Displacement and Transitional Justice: A Gender-Justice Dimension. Retrieved from

‘Seeking Asylum is a Human Right, Not A Crime’

Today a ground breaking inquiry into the use of immigration detention in the UK has been launched.

Imagine a country where, at the stroke of a pen and without any recourse to a judge, a faceless Government official can deprive someone of their liberty and consign them indefinitely to what to all intents and purposes is a prison, without them having being charged with or convicted of any crime.

That country is Britain. And if you thought that this use of state power was characteristic only of dictatorships or tyrannies, then think again, as it’s happening here, on our doorstep, under our noses, without any fuss and certainly without any publicity.

Today, in 11 Immigration Removal Centres around the UK, people are being detained, with minimal information about what’s happening to them and with scant access to a lawyer. And yet they’ve neither been accused, nor found guilty of, any wrongdoing. In fact, all that they’ve done is to have the temerity to exercise their legal right to seek refugee protection in the UK.

These are people who have fled persecution in their home countries and are deeply traumatised by their experiences. Some will be torture or rape survivors, others will have witnessed harm inflicted on their families and friends, many will have been incarcerated and brutalised.

We know from countless personal testimonies and independent medical reports that, for many of those held in detention in the UK, the experience triggers harrowing memories of the fear and the pain they’ve suffered at the hands of their previous captors. Unsurprisingly, this treatment more often than not undermines their mental or physical stability, a consequence further exacerbated by the lack of any meaningful judicial oversight, which means that the authorities are rarely ever required to explain or account for their decisions to detain.

See for more: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.uk/latest/blogs/4111_seeking_asylum_is_a_human_right_not_a_crime

Return to Sri Lanka of Individuals Intercepted at Sea

UNHCR is deeply concerned by Australia's announcement today that it has returned some 41 asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka after having intercepted them at sea, as well as the fate of a further 153 asylum-seekers of Sri Lankan origin who are now subject to an Australian High Court injunction on their return.

UNHCR understands that "enhanced screening procedures" were used as a basis for determining whether the 41 individuals involved raised claims for protection which required further consideration. Without further information UNHCR is not in a position, at this time, to confirm whether they were in accordance with international law. UNHCR has previously made known its concerns to Australia about its enhanced screening procedures and their non- compliance with international law.

UNHCR's experience over the years with shipboard processing has generally not been positive. Such an environment would rarely afford an appropriate venue for a fair procedure.
The principle of non-refoulement (the prohibition on return to threats to life or freedom) in the 1951 Refugee Convention and more broadly under customary international law is clear: it applies wherever an asylum-seeker is found and to whatever manner the expulsion or return is carried out, including during interception and other sea operations.

See for more: http://www.unhcr.org/53baa6ff6.html

Hon Alistair Nicholson: "Asylum Seekers: A Disgraceful Episode in Australian History”

Former Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia and current Chair of Children's Rights International, the Hon Alistair Nicholson, has criticised both sides of politics in Australia for implementing indefensible policies towards asylum seekers. His speech at a Refugee Week event in Melbourne also condemned the decision by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison to cut the Refugee Council of Australia's core funding.

See for more: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/r/spch/140619_HonNicholson.pdf

New RCOA Paper Highlights the Strengths within Refugee Communities

A new RCOA paper on the role of refugee community organisations in the settlement of new arrivals highlights the extent of the contribution these community organisations make. Titled “The Strength Within”, the 14-page paper casts light on the often unnoticed and overwhelmingly voluntary work conducted by refugee community organisations in fostering social participation, economic and personal wellbeing, independence, life satisfaction and community connections. The paper profiles the work of five community organisations and canvasses the collective challenges such organisations face.

Se for more: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/n/news.php

The Council of Europe Takes Strides on Combatting Violence against Women

Jutta Seidel and Gert Westerveen in Strasbourg, France

STRASBOURG, France, July 31 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Thursday warmly welcomed the entry into force of a Council of Europe convention aimed at preventing and countering violence against women and domestic violence.

The Istanbul Convention, which came into force on Thursday, requires state parties to ensure that gender-based violence against women may be recognized as a form of persecution and to ensure that the grounds for asylum listed in the 1951 Refugee Convention are interpreted in a gender-sensitive manner. This is the first time that gender-related persecution is explicitly mentioned in an international convention.

"The Istanbul Convention is designed to become a global protection tool because non-European states can also accede to the convention," said Gert Westerveen, UNHCR's representative to the Council of Europe. "All states should accede to it and implement it," he added.

The convention requires state parties to adopt legislative and practical measures to prevent and combat violence against women, as well as to coordinate measures through comprehensive policies. It establishes an obligation to introduce gender-sensitive procedures, guidelines and support services in the asylum process.

Some states, when applying the 1951 Refugee Convention, fail to acknowledge a gender-sensitive dimension, which may result in inconsistent asylum decisions and deprive many women and girls of international protection.

The Istanbul Convention also reiterates the obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement requiring that countries adopt measures to ensure that female survivors of violence are not returned to any country where their lives would be at risk or where they may be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) affects mostly women and girls, and the forcibly displaced are especially at risk. Many of their asylum claims involve fear of gender-based persecution, including trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation, forced marriage, forced sterilization, female genital mutilation, the threat of "honour" crimes, sexual violence and rape.
In June, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie co-chaired a global summit in London, United Kingdom, on ending sexual violence in conflict, helping to put a spotlight on the issue and galvanize public support. Last year, some 12,000 SGBV incidents were reported to UNHCR in 43 countries. One can assume much higher numbers given the many obstacles faced by survivors in reporting their ordeal.

See for more: http://www.unhcr.org/53da56749.html

The 15TH Conference of the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration

15 – 18 July 2014, Bogota, Colombia
The International Association for the Study of Forced Migration is a platform for academics, practitioners and decision-makers, working on issues of forced migration. It has been organizing biennial international conferences since 1996. This year, the IASFM 15 was hosted by the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogota, Colombia.

The conference had the following Plenary Sessions

1.Voices from the displaced people
2.Forced migration within the framework of the Colombian peace process agenda”
3.Forced Displacement in Peace Times: China's Policies and Experience in Development-caused Involuntary Resettlement
4.Towards an ethic and democratic governance of forced migration: Perspective from the Migration and Peace International Forum

Besides the Plenary Sessions, there were parallel sessions each day on different themes

1.La Declaración de Cartagena 30 años después frente a la relación entre el refugio y la paz en Colombia
2.The New Frontier: Organised Crime and Forced Migration in Mexico
3.Forecasting shifting patterns of displacement
4.Sanctuary Without Refugee Camps: Understanding Protection Needs
5.Critical engagements with the role of Humanitarianism in durable solutions for forced migrants
6.Gentrificación y migracion urbana. Caso San Martin de Porres
7.Casos de estudio sobre la afectación y restablecimiento de los derechos de la población migrante. Retos de las políticas públicas
8.Justice for Gender-Based Violence in the Context of Migration?: Illustrations from in Mexico and Canada
9.Forced Migration State Policies
10.Políticas nacionales de asilo y refugio
11.Desplazamiento Forzado, Retorno, Resistencia y Reparación en Colombia
12.National and Regional Responses to Crisis Migration in the Americas
13.Sanctuary Without Refugee Camps: Alternative Solutions
14.Space matters: Contrasting integration experiences of recent refugees by social and political sites.
15.Researching the durability of durable solutions: The challenges of longitudinal research and the translation of evidence for policy on refugee resettlement
16.Syrian Forced Exodus: A new protection challenge
17.Éxodos forzados en territorios de frontera
18.Respuestas a los refugiados haitianos
19.Development-Displacement in Latin America: Why So Little Research?
20.Conflict, other situations of violence and the protection granted under the 1951 Refugee Convention and Cartagena Declaration
21.Transitional Justice and Forced Migration –Substantive Links
22.Children and Forced Migration: Durable Solutions during Transient Years
23.Demography of Refugee and Forced Migration
24.Construcción de soluciones sostenibles en Colombia
25.Not just victims: Forced migrants resistance strategies
26.Integration as a durable solution
27.Respuestas regionales a la migración forzada
28.Redes sociales y espacios de protección de las personas en situación de desplazamiento. La complejidad de la búsqueda de soluciones duraderas para la construcción de la paz
29.Advancing Peace and Addressing Forced Migration Through eLearning: Using Online Course Instruction, Ongoing Professional Development, and Continuing Education for Peacebuilding and Protecting the Rights of Forced Migrants
30.Framing identities and regarding rights: Reconciliation in post War Sri Lanka
31.In a strange land: Forced migrants experiences
32.Resettlement: Challenges and opportunities
33.Más que víctimas: estrategias de resistencia de los migrantes forzados
34.Return as durable solution
35.Desplazamiento por causas ambientales
36.Transitional Justice and forced migrations
37.Complex forced migration scenarios
38.Vulnerable groups: Protection challenges.
39.Dejar el desplazamiento atrás: Condiciones necesarias para las soluciones duraderas
40.Los olvidados: poblaciones vulnerables en éxodo
41.“Is Displacement – a state of exception”?: Issues and Perspectives in Forced Migration
42.Red Americana de Migraciones Forzadas y II Conferencia Regional Humanitaria.
43.The Role of Human Rights Norms in Regional Refugee Protection Regimes: A Comparison of Two Regions
44.A theoretical approach to the forced migration.
45.Leaving displacement behind: Conditions for durable solutions (I)
46.Miradas al desplazamiento forzado en Colombia
47.Alternative approaches to forced migration
48.National and International Tribunals: A scenario of protection.
49.Screening for Conflict and Asylum Related Sexual Violence – and its implications for Justice & Durable Solutions
50.Racism and Xenophobia: still present
51.Leaving behind the displacement: Conditions for durable solutions (II)
52.Forced Migrations and the Construction of Humanitarian Protection in Brazil – durable lessons to be learned by other States in the Region
53.Forced Migration in peace time

Abstracts for the papers presented can be found here: http://iasfm.org/conference/program/

Exploring the Case of Protracted Displacement and Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka

Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen and Anuradha Gunerathne

In Sri Lanka, the twenty six year old conflict between the government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have result in massive waves of displacement. Attributed to these waves of displacement are the massive human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and killings. Controversial debates also surround on the context of whether certain waves of displacement were intentional and constitute a war crime (Human Rights Report 10). Within this context includes violations associated with displacement along with specific abuses of rights associated to durable solutions (Yoshikawa 5-6). Amidst these contexts, it becomes futile to address transitional justice without addressing the human rights violations of the displaced. For, transitional justice incorporates the addressing of legacies of massive human rights abuses that occur during armed conflicts which includes the displaced, as well as the rights of the displaced in the context of durable solutions.

Linking transitional justice with displacement is important as many countries that pursue transitional justice mechanisms/processes have many displaced populations. Displacements results in forcibly being evicted from one’s home and society and are unable to return to their original homes and lives. This, forcible being displaced or uprooted from their homes against their will are human rights violations. Apart from this, they also face human rights violations in the process of flight such as loosing lies, loss of property, disappearances, gender-based violence, torture or arbitrary detention. In addition, they may also face human rights violation in the camps and in the process of attaining durable solutions: as in the right to return to their origins, or in the process of integration in the place of displacement or in the place of relocation. All these human rights violations need to be addressed if transitional justice processes are to be effective (Duthie 38).

Much attention has been given to return as a durable solution for the displaced. This has been true even in the Sri Lankan context. Government initiatives towards displacement such as the 180 day project focused on return as a durable solution for the displaced. These top-down approaches towards displacement (Badurdeen 2-3) is not always the best or possible solution for the displaced in protracted contexts (Badurdeen 29) as preferences of the displaced vary as in the case of Northern Muslim IDPs in Puttalam District or protracted IDPs from the Tellipallai High Security Zone in Jaffna or Sampur High Security/Economic Zone in Trincomalee. Further, those IDPs who have chosen a particular durable solution such as return, integration or relocation are far from achieving durable solutions in line with the Guiding Principles of Internal Displacement (GPID).

There are various push and pull factors that influence IDP choices on durable solutions in Sri Lanka. These include ownership of land, accumulated assets, social relations, emotional attachments, economic status, availability of resources, levels of assistance for different options of durable solutions and pressure from government officials and political leaders etc. The context can be further complicated for protracted IDPs who see choices differently due to their prolonged stay in the place of refuge and looks forth for a choice if a mixed option (Badurdeen 30). Ferris highlights that IDP settlement preferences vary based on their personal or family experiences, traumatic experiences or circumstances of war. Hence some may not return due to such experiences and may prefer to integrate. Even if they do return, their reintegration process is not facilitated nor their past atrocities faced are not addressed, nor compensated resulting in vulnerability to abuse if they do return and bringing within them the feeling that they have suffered injustice (3-6).

The term reintegration is often associated to return, as the displaced have to be reintegrated into their respective communities. As highlighted in Gunerathna and Badurdeen in their case study from two villages in North (Allaipiddy) and North East (Karukamuani) in Sri Lanka, reintegration was a long term process in which returnees need to be incorporated within the social, political, economic and cultural aspects of their communities if their rights are to be addressed and reconciliation to take place (17-18).

Restitution of property and reparations are central issues for the displaced who are longing for durable solution (Ferris 8). Reparations can facilitate integration and re-integration into their respective communities thereby enabling sustainability of the integration/re-integration process. This can be in the form of property restitution, compensation and other benefits that can help rebuild their livelihoods (Cantor 4-5). The International Organization of Migration (IOM), highlights the importance of reparation programmes in attaining durable solutions for the displaced mainly in the context of facilitating voluntary return. Reparations have the ability to provide material remedies/redress by recognizing the injustices faced by the displaced (Ibid, IOM) as well as increase the range of choices by the displaced in the process of return. This will enable effective re-integration in the place of origin (Gunerathne and Badurdeen 17-18).

In Sri Lanka, the lack of appropriate IDP figures and relevant data of the displaced have complicated the process of reparations mainly in terms of restitution of property. This includes complications in recognizing returnee land deeds – where some don’t have deeds, some have deeds but others have settled in these lands and are registered voters (Charles, P as cited in IRIN 2013). As highlighted by Badurdeen, prior to displacement many of the families in Sampur, Trincomalee were engaged in fishing as their livelihood. Today, with the restrictions they were engaged in farming in government lands. Some families who received land did not have enough land for cultivation as there was an increase in need for land in the area. These displaced families were not comfortable with their new livelihood as less land meant less output and needed assistance in rebuilding their lives (15). This context is an example for the failure for reparation measures by the government of Sri Lanka. Other aspects that hinder the reparation process include the ineffectiveness of policy plans. Even with mechanisms available such as the Rehabilitation of Persons, Properties and Industries Authority (REPPIA), IDPs do not receive adequate compensation for loss of or damage to houses, livestock, livelihood equipment and other assets.

In such contexts, truth commissions can aid in making recommendations on reparations and restitution programmes taking into account the particular needs of the displaced for economic re-integration. The Citizen Commission in Puttalam is commendable in this sense that have taken up the issue of the protracted IDPs of Puttalam District that have resulted in an indepth understanding of the plight of the displaced through the use of narratives where they have looked into the plight of the displaced and also the host communities in terms of resettlement assistance, assistance to the poor host community (Citizen Commission para 3-8).

In cases of mass displacement, like in the last phase of the Sri Lankan conflict, the larger numbers do pose a practical constraint for material reparation. Even in such contexts, there is a need to look into their displaced nature and benefits distributed to the actual needs of the displaced. Further, the benefits need to be tailored to address particular needs. As highlighted by Duthie, collective reparations may be appropriate if reparations may be appropriate if reparations cannot cater on individual basis. While reparations differ from individual to individual basis and is the best, collective reparations can be easily administered based on geographic and community responses (143). Reparations can also play an important role for women, especially for female headed household for their economic wellbeing of their families as in the case of the North and the North East wherein the most of the female headed households as a result of the war resides.

As evident in the above discussions, transitional justice can have a positive contribution to durable solutions by facilitating the processes of integration and reintegration. This involves not only the displaced but also the communities into which they fled and the communities into which they are integrating or reintegrating as in the case of Northern Muslim IDPs in Puttalam or IDPs of Sampur who have lost their lands to HSZ/SEZs. The success of transitional justice processes are dependent on factors such as the actions taken by the government in aiding such processes, the actions taken by the displaced and dynamics of the society wherein all factors of human rights violations of the past are connected. The aspect of gender in transitional justice processes along with effective participation of the displaced is important if it is to remain effective. Transitional justice mechanisms can facilitate durable solutions in the long run. While it is evident that there are significant challenges to be met in addressing durable solutions, acknowledging the link between transitional justice and durable solutions are vital for sustainable post war development.


Badurdeen, Fathima. Azmiya. IDP Resettlement in Post Conflict Sri Lanka: Assessing the
Evidence-based context of the Resettlement Process with particular emphasis on IDP
Participation. Refugee Watch No.41. Kolkata: MCRG. 2013. Print.
Badurdeen, Azmiya. Conditions for Sustainable Return: A Study from the District of
Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Kolkata: MCRG. 2011. Print.
Badurdeen, Azmiya. Ending Internal Displacement: the long term IDP’s in Sri Lanka. Oxford: RSC. 2010. Print.
Duthie, Roger. Transitional Justice and Displacement. 2012. NY: Brookings. Print.
Gunerathne, Anuradha and Badurdeen Azmiya. Internally Displaced Persons in the Process of Human Rights Watch. War on the LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni. 2009. 2 Feb. 2014.
IRIN. Analysis: Prospects for Reconciliation in Sri Lanka. 2010. Web. 6 Feb. 2014.
IRIN. Sri Lanka’s Long Term IDPs – what next? 2013. Web. 7 Jan. 2014.
The Citizens’ Commission. Inclusions in the Lessons Learnt and the Reconciliation Commission Final Report. 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2013.
Yoshikawa, Lynn. Sri Lanka: Transitioning from a Humanitarian Crisis to a Human Rights
Crisis. 2013. 2 Feb. 2014.

Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Voices from Former War Zones

Minna Thaheer Pradeep Peiris and Kasun Pathiraja

Study of this book is an effort at understanding the post-war reconciliation process as experienced by the different communities in the war-affected villages in the North and East of Sri Lanka. Since May 2009, ‘reconciliation’ has been an abiding concern for all concerned with the future trajectory of the post-war Sri Lanka. ‘Reconciliation’ is defined, understood and constructed in diverse ways by the stakeholders involved. Of these actors, the State, the Tamil National Alliance and the International Community seem to agree on reconciliation in principle but they differ significantly and at times irreconcilably on its substantive meaning. This complicates an already complex and fraught situation. In this context, this book attempts to give voice to the voiceless by contributing to the bourgeoning discourse on reconciliation in Sri Lanka. This research was an endeavor to understand the many interpretations or renditions of reconciliation as seen through the living experiences of people whose lives were shattered by a war that was not of their making. If anything has survived the conflict of three decades it is their hopes to live in dignity in their own land. Whatever, definition that is given to reconciliation, it remains a proposition that looks at the future.

This study used a pluralist research methodology comprising a series of in-depth interviews and dialogue sessions with communities in the former war zones combined with a survey of 600 respondents in six districts in the North and East. The findings of the study are presented in six chapters in order to capture the multi-dimensional nature of reconciliation on the ground. The analysis in this book has been informed by and will inform the work of scholars who, through rigorous and dedicated scholarly interventions, strive to build a just and democratic society in Sri Lanka.

Organizing for Exile through Self-Help! The Tibetan Narrative

Sudeep Basu

Unlike the rehabilitation strategy for the permanent agricultural settlements in Southern India which were built at the behest of the Tibetan Government-in-exile in Dharamsala and the Government of India, the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre (TRSHC) which came up in Darjeeling town, India, in 1959, emerged spontaneously and autonomously with the idea that no refugee could ever be rehabilitated in the fullest sense of the word without “Self-Help”, a realization that this “vital element could only come from within the community from within one’s selves”. And this vital element could only come from within the own community (mi sde) from within one’s selves.” This sums up in categorical terms not only the orientation of the inhabitants of TRSHC to life in exile as a whole but also provides a glimpse of the form and the limits to the relationship which they intend to forge with their hosts; other diasporic members of their ethnic group, Non-Governmental Organizations and the State. What began as the labeling of target groups – in this case the Tibetan as ‘refugees’ who are recipients of aid led on the one hand to client conformity and loyalty with the institutionally imposed stereotype and on the other to a gradual transformation of the identity expressed through the adoption of Goffman-like metaphors to describe alienating feelings like “we are foreigners here”; by asserting individuality and by not remaining acquiescent.

A ten-member committee was formed in Darjeeling to organize a rehabilitation centre which came to be known as the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre. Over time, the TRSHC has acquired a simple administrative structure consistent with its ethos of self-help, unlike the administrative structure seen in the Tibetan settlements in south India.

The initial fund for setting up the TRSHC was raised locally by subscriptions, donations, charity shows and an exhibition football match. This was augmented shortly afterwards from contributions by a number of voluntary agencies through the Central Relief Committee notably CARE, Catholic Relief Services, American Emergency Committee for Tibetan Refugees, National Christian Council, The Red Cross, World Veterans Federation, American Friends Committee, Church World Service as well as several individuals. With the reception of this aid, the Tibetans who fled from Tibet back then gradually became labeled as refugees. Their ambivalent response to relief programmes in the subsequent years came through in that with client-group compliance and dependency there has also been indifference in the refugees’ reactions to the relief programmes arising out of the resultant perceived loss of status and dignity of the group. Situated at “Hill-side” Lebong West in the area locally known as “Hermitage”, the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Centre in Darjeeling town is one of the oldest refugee centres in the Tibetan Diaspora. This refugee settlement came into existence on October 2nd 1959. It initially provided base for distribution of emergency relief to Tibetan refugees who had brought nothing with them apart from the clothes they wore and the little provisions they managed to bring along during their hazardous trek over the Himalayas into India. The “Hill-side”, a small estate comprising 3.44 acres was originally leased and eventually bought from St Joseph’s College. There was space to build and develop a small community outside the town but easily approachable by motor road. The Hill-side had a special significance for Tibetans, for it was here that the Thirteenth Dalai Lama had spent his exile in India between 1910-1912 following the Chinese invasion of Tibet at that time.

The refugees who chose to stay in the Refugee Centre and other settlements were those who were not in a capacity to establish themselves privately mainly due to the lack of capital. The rest preferred to stay in the town but remained connected to TRSHC. The visible success in charting out a career in exile became a source of worry for the refugees and produced caution in their management of social relations. For they knew that their achievement did create what they often say, feelings of “jealousy, envy and deprivation” among locals. Previously, the Tibetans were sore about the Gorkhaland movement precisely because it had severely affected their economy which principally depended on tourism (Subba 1987-88). The sheer numerical majority of the Nepalis must have dissuaded them from any intention of opposing the Movement. In recent times, the All Gorkha Student’s Union (AGSU) has on few occasions vociferously expressed their resentment to the emerging domination of Tibetan refugees in the region and their alleged or surreptitious use of Voters’ Identity cards for gaining employment or commerce. Four Tibetan youths interpreting the relation between Tibetans and Nepalis, hasten to add that “Nepalis think good about Tibetans, they want to make friends with us; Nepali girls nowadays want to get friendly with Tibetan boys because they think we have a lot of money (dngul). They are in a majority, there is no point avoiding them.” For Tibetan refugees, sensitivity to potentially hostile feelings of locals is deemed crucial in order to maintain peace and order. It enables them to gain self-confidence and avoid potential conflict, by invoking an ideal image of a “non-violent Tibetan refugee”. On examining this canvas one can also assert that the movement of Tibetan refugees, unlike their Bhutia co-ethnics remains incomplete, rendering the refugee community’s relationship to Darjeeling tentative and precarious. What is also at work in these forms of social action is the process of ‘re-territorialization’ as Tibetan refugee groups faced with a protracted exile condition attempt to delimit and influence relationships with ‘others’ over a geographic area (Darjeeling town). This process assumes significance in places like Darjeeling where the rights of access to and use of, sources of livelihood are apportioned on the basis of territorially anchored identity. The unfolding Tibetan-host relationship characterized by conjunction and disjunction relative to local circumstances makes it possible to appreciate the significance that the Tibetans attribute to their refugee identity and the ‘spatial practices’ by means of which the Tibetans produce and maintain a sense of ‘place’ in a contested environment.

The Causes And The Impact Of Domestic Violence Among Bhutanese Refugee Women In Sanischare Refugee Camp

Experiences from the field - Compiled by Gobardhan Niroula

“Domestic violence is not simply an argument. It is a pattern of coercive
control that one person exercises over another. Abusers use physical and
sexual violence, threats, emotional insults and economic deprivation as
a way to dominate their victims and get their way” (Scheter 2008).

Domestic Violence (DV) is a dilemma for many refugee women among the Bhutanese communities of Sanischare camp. In domestic violence, one person (usually the man) controls and dominates the other (usually the woman) precisely by virtue of a series of gender privileges (usually male privileges) which he has at a societal level. A specific characteristic of domestic violence is the victim’s fear of the abuser. Moreover, the abuser is often perceived as all-powerful and all-knowing.The result of DV is a clash, with reciprocal emotions and/or physical abuse, in a continuous fight for dominance among one another.

In the Bhutanese refugee community, women have faced the some form of different domestic violence in their life time. Some women despite facing domestic violence, do not consider violence seriously nor do they report to the authorities. This is mainly because some women think that if they bring their family issues to the public’s attention, it would mess up their social status because society might blame the victim along with the perpetrator. Similarly some women think that it is their destiny that brings violence in their lives and it is the result of their sins committed in their previous life.

Domestic violence also represents a hidden obstacle to economic and social development. By sapping women’s energy, undermining their confidence, and compromising their health, domestic violence deprives society of women’s full participation. Bhutanese women who experienced domestic violence in the family may develop serious emotional, behavioral and developmental problems. They are likely to: use violence at community in response to perceived threats, attempt suicide, to use drugs, commit crimes, especially sexual assault, use violence to enhance their reputation and self esteem, become abusers in later life, easily give up and have low self esteem.

The Main Causes of Domestic Violence Seen in the Sanischare Refugee Camp

Alcoholic family member: Majority of the Bhutanese refugees of Sanischare camp do not have work. Middle aged and school dropout refugee members remain idle inside the camp. Due to the alcoholic habit of a male member, refugee women of Sanischare camps are exposed to domestic violence. UNHCR protection unit and Bhutanese refugee women forum have several worse case scenarios on aforementioned issue. There is no proper monitoring for selling alchohol in Nepal. Due to the uncontrolled alchohalic habit of refugees of Sanischare camp there are several DV cases.

Mixed marriages: In Bhutanese refugee community of Saniscahre camp there are 7% cases of mix marriage. It is the marriage between Bhutanese refugee male and Nepali/Indian female. Resettlment option is pending for the people who did mix marriage after the resettlement program started. BRWF (Bhutanese Refugee Women Forum) Deputy Secretary states that there are couple of cases of domestic violence in mix marriages of sanischare camp where the family members beat and ignore the non refugee spouse because due to ‘her’ the cases of entire family members are on hold for RST process. The victim women does not want to report the DV to the protection unit because she is scared that this can result in divorce with her husband ad she may loose her children and resettlement opportunities.

Dowry related violence: Dowry has become an expected part of the marriage transaction in India and Nepal, with future husband demanding ever-increasing dowry both before and after marriage. Dowry demands can escalate into harassment, threat and abuse. Refugee community of the Sanischare camp is also effected by it. Family members of Nepali male married to the refugee girls is the most significant examples of such violence. Nepali family blames the daughter-in-law that she lacks the status quo and identity in society because she belongs from a refugee family. She cannot be a good mother because she lacks culture, tradition and customs. 40% of the refugee women who were divorced were married to a Nepal male and were victim of domestic violence in her life time due to dowry.

Sex workers: Due to the obligation and to adopt modern life style it is reported that some refugee women work as a sex worker. When she returns to camp she is harassed by her own family members and even sexually harassed by her own community male members.

Trafficking: Back in 2012, two refugee women (who were siblings) were rescued from Brothel from Mumbai, India with the help of local Indian NGO that has been working in human rights sector. When she was brought to the camp many local male men approached them and abused them verbally and sexually. Due to the help of protection unit and BRWF, those two siblings were able to establish their life.

Psychological violence: It is the repeated verbal abuse, harassment, confinement and deprivation of physical, financial and personal resources. Undermining an individual's sense of self esteem can have serious mental and physical health consequences and has been identified as a major reason for suicide. Head of the household giving small amount of money to the female members in order to run a family is the best example seen in the Bhutanese refugee community of Sanischare camp. Or Abusive husband limits the movement of wife inside the camp or imposing strict rule to the wife to make only recoomended friend is another cases seen in the Sanischare camp.

Polygamy: In Sanischare camp it is very common to see the practice of polygamy. During interviews we found both active and inactive polygamy cases. In active polygamy cases of Sanischare camp there are many cases of domestic violence.


Domestic violence has always been a challenge in the refugee community of Sanichare camp. The major issue in DV is the unwillingness of women to report incidents of violence. There were several reasons associated to this: this includes the assumption of masculinity in men. In the Bhutanese refugee context, where men have the provider role, can succumb to violence if this role is taken away. Alcohol use have contributed to domestic violence in Sanischare camps.

Ending domestic violence requires long-term commitment and strategy involving all parts of society. Community based strategies can focus on empowering women, reaching out to men and changing the beliefs and attitude that permit abusive behavior. Addressing the immediate practical needs of women experiencing abuse; providing long-term follow up and assistance; and focusing on changing those cultural norms, attitudes and legal provisions that promote the acceptance of and even encourage violence against women, and undermine women's enjoyment of their full human rights and freedoms.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Increasing World of the Displaced

-Priyanca Mathur Velath & Aparajita Das

As this issue of RWO goes online the shocking reality confronting us is that the number of displaced people is the highest ever today in the world. This number is only increasing with every passing day. While the main reason for this is being attributed to the exodus from Syria, the recent addition to this has been the flight of more than 300,000 people from Mosul, Iraq, after swathes of it are being captured by Sunni extremists. To make things worse Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region is not receiving Iraqis who are fleeing the attacks by Sunni militants. While refugees from the war-torn nation Afghanistan continues to form the largest single group of refugees, new refugees are also emerging from recent conflicts in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Ukraine.

In fact Syria’s tragic story reminds us of the irony of fate, of how in the past five years civil war has converted the world’s second largest refugee-hosting country into the world’s second largest refugee-producing country. A grim reminder of how realities change when people fearing their life, are forced to flee their homelands, leaving behind all they had. Figures point out that by the end of 2013 there were 6.5 million Syrians displaced within their own country, making them the single largest group of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world. Meanwhile Syrians continue to pour out across their borders into the soils of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

Another recent flash point has emerged within Pakistan with the exodus of refugees, now living in miserable conditions after fleeing fighting in North Waziristan. Reports claim that nearly 466,000 people have poured out of the tribal agency borderingAfghanistan following the start of a long-awaited effort to stamp out the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups who have made the region their home. In Kenya’s Turkana county, people fleeing from the internecine conflict in South Sudanare on the verge of starvation in the crowded shelters. The county is reeling under famine like situation. And what is worse is that around 70 percent of refugees are children under the age of five years.

There are more than 16 million refugees right now hosted by some country or the other and 33.3 million IDPs. These numbers are likely to go up as reasons for forced displacement varies – in some cases the state has failed to provide safety, some due to persecution, civil war and in Iraq it is the violence perpetrated by a non-state actor. At the same time we must not forget to acknowledge and applaud agencies/ institutions which are attempting to rehabilitate refugees/ returnees/ IDPs such as in Sri Lanka.

The bigger crisis, yet again, is of the paucity of humanitarian aid to handle such figures of displaced persons. Reportedly only thirty per cent of the record $16.9 billion asked for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had rolled in from donor countries.Antonio Guterres, head of UNHCR, has grimly warned that “There is no humanitarian response able to solve the problems of so many people….It’s becoming more and more difficult to find the capacity and resources to deal with so many people in such tragic circumstances.” Besides, as Alexander Betts notes, “The nature of displacement is very different…the cases of displacement are very different, and the needs of the displaced population are very different.” (i)

In India, the 16th General Election in May 2014, resulted in a decade-old Congress-led government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) being ousted by a new government, now in place, of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). It faces the challenge of implementing the recently passed Land Acquisition Bill, 2013 which will decide the fate of all those displaced by developmental projects. Not being a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and yet home to numerous refugee groups, India continues to face the challenge of finding comprehensive legal solutions for not just refugee but also IDP populations within it. (ii)

The UN Refugee Agency is continuing with their campaign “1 family torn apart by war is too many”. The agency with the support of the international community including media, NGOs and INGOs need to intervene even before a war breaks out. With complex conflicts among different sects, borders, claims over territories, persecution of minorities, often lot of time is wasted who will intervene and when and to what extent. There have been cases of intervention in the past but very few countries are ready to share the burden of refugees who are fleeing to escape horrors of war or for life. The first attempt should be to ensure the fleeing people’s physical safety and then to integrate into the host society or repatriate them back. In all this lot of mental trauma is involved which often remains unhealed for the entire lifetime.

On this note, to commemorate World Refugee Day (June 20) this issue of Refugee Watch Online, brings together a host of perspectives of those forcibly displaced from different countries and regions. We begin with a guest post from Pakistan, by Imran Khan Laghari, a practicing refugee lawyer in Pakistan and also Executive Director of Human Rights Alliance. Laghari highlights the challenges of continuously sharing the burden of hosting huge numbers of Afghan refugees for over three decades now that a non-signatory country like Pakistan faces.

The remaining four articles have all been written by Masters Students of the Political Science Department, St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore. Ashwathy Vijayan, on return from her summer internship at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies in Colombo, reflects on the current status of the resettlement process in the island nation of Sri Lanka that is still recovering from the aftermath of a twenty-six year old civil war wherein the government led a military campaign against militancy.Kriti Chopra, during the course of her summer internship in New Delhi at the Indian Council for World Affairs in New Delhi explored the tragedy of the persecuted and unwanted Rohingya refugees from Burma, who are also seeking refuge in large numbers in India. The perils of development-induced displacement are deliberated on by Sonam Wangchuk Nadikpa, who during the course of field work for his Master’s Thesis, had spent some time on two dam sites in Sikkim. Finally we have a round up of the crisis inSouth Sudan presented by Kaikho Osha. We end this issue with some recent updates in the News section.


i)See Nick Cumming Brice http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/21/world/refugees-at-levels-not-seen-since-second-world-war.html?_r=1
ii)India grants asylum and provides direct assistance to some 200,000 refugees from neighbouring countries. As the country lacks a national legal framework for asylum, UNHCR conducts registration and refugee status determination (RSD), mostly for arrivals from Afghanistan and Myanmar. More than 24,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of diverse origins are protected and assisted by the Office in India. http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49e4876d6.html

Challenges of Refugees in a Non-signatory Country: A Situation Analysis of Pakistan

- Imran Khan Laghari


Unlike other refugee receiving countries of the world, Pakistan has been host to one of the largest population of refugees since three decades, the majority of whom originate from Afghanistan. Pakistan is home to 1.6 six million registered and 1.4 million unregistered refugees. Government of Pakistan warmly welcomed millions of Afghan refugees upon their arrival in the country. Not only government but also people of Pakistan initially welcomed Afghan refugees due to their shared cultural and religious heritage, and considered it their duty to help and host these refugees. In Pakistan, refugees have access to basic services (health, education and shelter), freedom of movement and liberty to earn livelihood in non-signatory country. Refugees have received numerous supports from different institutions of government. Registered refugees are having proof of residence card to access the basic services and movement.

Historical Background

Between 1979 and 1997, UNHCR spent more than USD 1 billion on refugees in Pakistan. In addition to this, large amounts of ‘unofficial aid’ were given to refugee camps. But after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from the region in 1989, the West lost interest and aid sharply decreased. This prompted a change in attitude from the Pakistan government; it became eager to rid itself of the ‘burden’ of these refugees and began strongly encouraging them to repatriate.

As of 2011, UNHCR had registered 1.7 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but there are still an estimated 1.3 million unregistered refugees, bringing the total number of refugees to nearly 3 million. Approximately 85 per cent of the refugees are Pashtuns, while the remaining are Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and other ethnic groups. Forty per cent of refugees live in camps or refugee villages, while the remainder lives dispersed in urban/rural areas.

National Reception

Refugees received warm reception in Pakistan. Government of Pakistan has opened borders for refugees during the major influxes of Afghan refugees that were during the Soviet war in 1979 and United States’ War on terror in 2001. Government has established numerous camps for Afghan refugees along the border and even provided food assistance to the Afghan refugees without the support of United Nations.

Assistance for Refugees

At first instance government of Pakistan provided support to Afghan refugees. Later, with support UNHCR government issued Roshan Cards (passbooks) to Afghan refugees. Through these passbooks refugees could access to food assistance, healthcare and education. Besides, government helped UNHCR in voluntary repatriation.

Voluntary Repatriation

The Government of Pakistan (GoP) has a quadripartite agreement with Afghanistan, UNHCR and Iran and is once again actively encouraging and facilitating ‘voluntary return.’ The 1951 UN Convention requires that repatriation must be voluntary in every sense. Refugees must not be threatened or coerced. They may return unconditionally and spontaneously, and may do so at their own pace. They must not be arbitrarily separated from family members and they are entitled to be treated with full respect and acceptance by citizens of their host and home country, including the full restoration of their rights. They must be able to return in safety and with dignity under conditions of legal safety, physical security and material security.

In March 2010, the government of Pakistan adopted a strategy for Afghan refugees called the Management and Repatriation Strategy of Afghan Refugees(AMRS) in Pakistan 2010-2012. The key objective of this strategy was the voluntary repatriation of all Afghans. This mass repatriation, which was facilitated by UNHCR starting in 2002, was one of the most rapidly organized voluntary repatriation movements in history. Till date, approximately 3.5 million people have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan alone. UNHCR and the international community alike, calling it a ‘remarkable operation’ that, provided a ‘solution to what seemed an intractable refugee situation’, have praised the movement.

However, many refugees who returned have found it difficult to survive and integrate in their ‘homeland’, as some have never lived there before, and many have been forced to consider seeking refuge once again, either in another part of the country or by crossing an international border. Further, the security situation has steadily deteriorated in Afghanistan due to continued fighting between local and regional elites. There has been a resurgence of Taliban forces targeting aid personnel. Approximately 60 per cent of the country has been designated insecure. There have been some repatriated Afghan refugees, who have claimed to have been forced to return through threatening or coercive means.


The Government of Pakistan, with the support of UNHCR started registration process of refugees in 2005. This process was officially completed in 2007. Under it more than a million refugees received identity cards, named as Proof of Residence Card (POR Card) after registration. Refugees having POR card can access health care, education and earn livelihood. Refugees holding POR card have freedom of movement. The refugee card is a crucial document that enables Afghans to legally remain in Pakistan and thereby provides protection against risks such as harassment, extortion, arbitrary arrest and illegal detention as well as deportation under Pakistan's Foreigner's Act.


The Government’s plan to issue more than a million such cards this year is welcome as it will provide 330,000 Afghan children below the age of eighteen, birth certificates for the first time (allowing them access social services and basic rights – such as school enrolment, and allows or the issuance of documentation). This becomes an important protection for refugee children as it helps to prevents statelessness, makes it easy for children.

However, the Government of Pakistan has also announced that after 30 December 2015, there will be no further extension of POR cards for Afghan refugees. It is now considering cancelling the refugee status of all remaining Afghan refugees, a move which is receiving considerable international attention and could cause up to 3 million refugees – the world’s largest single cluster – to lose state protection and face the possibility of expulsion. Cancellation of these cards will be a big blow. It highlights the intention of the Government of Pakistan of removing unregistered refugees to Afghanistan as well. These are Afghans who have been left out of the registration process due to the absence of a male family member, bribery of government or NGO workers, and fear of registration due to a lack of proper information.

Thus in the absence of a formal refugee protection regime in Pakistan, under international and national law, refugees continue facing numerous protection issues in the country. These protection issues are increase in harassment, intimidation, physical torture, arrest, illegal detention, deportation and limited freedom of movement. There is very limited access to refugees’ settlements and vice versa due to security situation in the country. On the other hand their stay is perceived in the context economic migration and terrorism both by government of Pakistan and locals. This situation continues to make the life of refugees difficult.


“Pakistan begins issuing new cards to 1.6 million refugees”, UNHCR Briefing Notes, http://www.unhcr.org/530c76849.html

Towards Success: The Sri Lankan Resettlement Process

-Ashwathy Vijayan

The second term of His Excellency MahindaRajapaksa as the Sri Lankan President was undoubtedly the outcome of the decisive nature of his first term. His decision-making has been attributed to being the major reason for the end of the thirty year old conflict between the militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan Army. Aristotle had once said, “It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace.” Prophetically, ensuring durable peace has been the biggest challenge for both, the Sri Lankan government and President. No one had imagined of a warless state or a phase where people could think about development in Northern Sri Lanka. The victory over LTTE has not just given this beautiful island its share of peace but also its government a chance for development and integration.

Towards durable peace - Resettlement Criteria

In its path towards this focus, the first step of the Sri Lankan government was the formation of a Presidential Task Force (PTF) with Basil Rajapaksa as the chairman and S.B. Divaratne as the Secretary. This 19 member force was appointed to focus on the development and security in the Northern Province. They were given the authority to prepare strategic plans, programs, to resettle IDP’s, and rehabilitate and develop the economic and social infrastructure of the Northern Province. In 2014, looking back at the development and reconciliation of Northern Province, anyone would congratulate the PTF for its contribution and hard work.

However the challenge that the government and the PTF faced was regarding giving temporary shelters to the IDPs i.e. the persons internally displaced due to the protracted conflict in the island region. This issue was sought to be addressed through the united efforts of the government, PTF, NGOs and army.Around 95 per cent of people had been provided temporary shelters in Menik Farm ever since civil war ended in May 2009. These people have now been resettled back into their original places of habitation. Mr. Divaratne explains the four criteria that were followed in the process of resettlement. Firstly, he asserts, the resettlement process was voluntary. The second criterion was that displaced persons were resettled in their original places of habitation. Third, the process was sought to be dignified and safe. Fourth, the Sri Lankan army was involved in this resettlement process. The resettlement policy also envisaged criteria like involving informed choice of the displaced family/persons through facilitation of “go and see visits” prior to resettlement. Besides, the provision of housing or assistance of shelter and livelihood development was also made to the resettled families.

With these criteria PTF has been able to resettle (as per the latest data available dated April 30th 2014)153,265 families and 509,282 persons in the Northern Province. To be exact 16,350 families in Vavuniya, 31,188 families in Jaffna, 40,333 in Mullaitivu, 41,074 in Kilinochchi and 24,320 in Mannar. However programmes are underway to resettle about 60 families and 7,288 IDPs still remaining. Along with these 1,194 families in Jaffna are in welfare centers and about 4,560 with their friends and relatives.

Challenges to Resettlement

Demining: For the purpose of demining, Humanitarian Demining Unit was set up under the Sri Lankan Army. The demining process which included both technical and non-technical surveys was prioritized to facilitate rapid resettlement. It has an impressive record in demining operations although the forest areas will take some more time to be cleared completely.

Prior Arrangements for Resettlement: Foreseeing the fear and tension in the minds of the IDPs, arrangements were made for the IDPs to visit their places of origin before resettling. Special actions were taken up by the government to ensure the availability of basic facilities when the people were resettled. Security forces ensured protection and transport facilities during the movement of IDPs.

Restoration of Basic Structure: There has been rapid rehabilitation of infrastructure through the 180 Days Program.

Provision of Temporary Shelters: The first priority regarding the process of resettlement was to provide temporary shelters to the IDPs and the responsibility of providing proper shelter was take up by the government, army and NGOs. The PTF consulted several humanitarian agencies and decided on three types of shelters i.e. temporary, semi-permanent and permanent houses. Immediate actions were taken up to provide cash grants and shelter materials for the people to either repair damaged houses or to construct temporary shelters. Once the livelihood activities progressed, semi-permanent houses were constructed in place of temporary houses.

Projects to build Permanent houses were later on taken up by government, Sri Lankan Army, India and other INGOs.

Water and Sanitation: Ensuring safe water and proper sanitation was also given importance. About 15,000 wells were cleaned or renovated during this period as most of the wells in resettled areas were contaminated and damaged. In this regard, National Water Supply and Drainage Board took lead with support of UNICEF. Some NGOs also played a major role in the cleaning and reconstruction of wells.

Some of the other major challenges the government faced during the initial resettlement process were the reconstruction and development of roads and railways, transport facilities, health services, housing, education sectors, water supply and sanitation, restoration of electricity, revival of agriculture, fisheries sector, banking sectors, private investments etc.

Anyone who visits these areas can evidently witness the rapid development that has happened here. In a short span of 5 years, government has reached out to almost every corner with its development programs.

A Permanent Peace?

The biggest challenge that still remains is the process of reconciliation and this has to come from within Sri Lanka, its people and its government. This country alone has borne the brunt of a thirty year war. It is the Sri Lankan people, both Sinhala and Tamils, who have been affected by the war. People have just started to live in an expectation of peace. They are still trying to convince themselves that no bomb blasts are going to happen nor are they going to lose their family in war, no one is going to come and take away their kinds to join the militant groups. People have started to see a new light towards normalcy. And thus, they have to be given some time to adjust themselves and reconcile. What Sri Lanka needs is reconciliation and not polarization. Bringing the Tamils and Sinhalese together and restoring their mutual relations has somewhere fallen by the side.

It is imperative to give attention to the process of psychological reconciliation. It is important to build a bridge of trust amongst the communities. It is debatable if this can happen with the withdrawal of army from the North. With the benefit of hindsight it can be seen that the roots of the entire conflict lay on the issue of ownership of land, which came up along with the differences between religion and language. Besides colonial rule has also contributed its share in dividing both the communities and leaving a major attitudinal change among both. The real reconciliation process thus will come up only with the acceptance of both the communities of each other as the equal owners of this island and not as threat to each other.

Post-conflict, India and Sri Lankan relations have embarked on a new chapter with rigorous cooperation in various fields. However the conflict did create stress within the nations and its political affairs. With the end of the military operations, both countries are focusing on issues of relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation. There is also focus on a permanent political solution of the ethnic conflict. With the change in Indian government after a decade, there are chances that both countries will start focusing more on strategic relations. Today with the current phase of progress it looks likely that though a permanent and durable peace will take a while, but stability is certainly a possibility for the region and this beautiful island.


*Photographs and graph taken from the presentation made by Mr. SuntharamArumainayaham, Government Agent/District Secretary, Jaffna District on 7th May 2014
*IDP current status and details provided in person and emailed by Mr. Divaratne, Secretary, Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security-Northern Province

The Demand for Power and the Tussle with Nature – Sikkim’s Dilemma

-Sonam Wangchuk Nadikpa

It was on May 27, 1927, at Ranikhola near Gangtok, that the first micro hydroelectric project was commissioned in Sikkim. But while the demand for electricity kept on increasing, the period from 1927 to 1957 witnessed a clear neglect of the power sector. It was the post 1993 period that saw the commissioning of numerous micro hydroelectric projects. (Government of Sikkim 2013) Now with a liberalized power policy and an accompanying shift towards mega-hydroelectric projects the state of Sikkim is officially poised towards gain. (i)

However the construction of series of mega-hydroelectric projects raises concerns about displacement of locals, the ecological sustainability of the region and other survival issues. The 2013 Uttarakhand floods warned hilly states like Sikkim against haphazard construction of dams in the name of development. Despite this today there are about 28 Mega Hydroelectric projects in a small state like Sikkim, some completed and some ongoing. (Lepcha 2014) To explore the ground situation, I visited Sikkim, my home state,to conduct field work for my Masters dissertation titled Energy Insecurity in India: A Case Study of Hydroelectric Projects in Sikkim. I met locals and officials affected by Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project (East Sikkim) as well as Dikchu Hydroelectric Project (East Sikkim).

Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project

The Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric project (510 MW), a run-of-river scheme located in East Sikkim, is one of the first projects commissioned in the cascade development of Teesta River on 31 March 2008 as an undertaking of the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) (ii) It aimed at improving the financial requirements of the state as well as ensuring surplus power to power scarce neighbouring states. It intends to improve the living conditions of locals, increase employment opportunities and thereby control the migration of jobless people to other regions of Sikkim. Officially, the NHPC has also extended rehabilitation and resettlement measures to the displaced persons, which includes compensation for land, house, standing crops and other properties, free education to the children of the displaced locals.

My fieldwork in Lower Samdong, AapDharaand nearby villages like Lower Kambal, amidst people affected by the Teesta Stage V project site, showed that people living near the project site had gained through employment opportunities (wage labourers or contract jobs). Even the local grocery shops had flourished as the officers working in the project site would purchase huge amounts of local grocery. Some people opined that the surrounding areas of the project had gained through construction of better roads. Heath facilities have been provided for the people living near the project site. In addition medical camps for the villages have been organized by NHPC in collaboration with Sikkim State Hospital.

However with the boon comes the bane. The disadvantages of the hydroelectric project according to the locals were majorly environmental. The villagers I met are worried about imbalance in the ecosystem due to the felling of forest trees by the power developers. They worry that the habitat of endangered animals might be destroyed near the project site. Thirty two year old resident of Aap Dhara village, Anil Kumar Rai who works in a nearby veterinary hospital alleges that there have been drastic changes in the environment due to the project.

Besides, hydropower wastes are directly dumped into the river which kills marine life causing an imbalance of river ecology. An investigation report titled “Environmental and Social Impacts of Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project, was released by Manju Menon and Neeraj Vagholikar of Kalpavrish, a Delhi-based Environmental Action Group on May 2004. The report highlights that during the construction of tunnels large amount of muck and rock debris have been dumped directly into the river which will have negative bearing on the biodiversity of the area.

There have also been instances of submergence of land leading to displacement of people. Land within 50 metres of the damsite has been acquired citing dangers involving in the project. My field work led me to a small house submerged near the damsite along with its surrounding land. The issue of submergence can also be seen in the houses of Abhi Chandra Sharma, aged 75 years, a resident of Lower Kambal Village and other residents. There have been reported cases of unjust land acquisition along with allegations of disproportionate and discriminatory distribution of compensation money. Small-time farmers complained that they were given less amounts when compared to those in higher influential positions. Keshab Bhattarai, a resident of Lower Samdong as well as Rudra Prasad Ojha, a farmer now residing in Rakdong (East Sikkim), whose lands in Lower Samdong were acquired, complained of indiscriminate compensation amounts. Affected villagers even blamed the state government along with the project developers for such inequality .Some of the villagers are also facing water shortages due to water diversion and allege that this affects agricultural productivity.

Dikchu Hydroelectric Project

Tenkilometres away from the ongoing Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project, is the Dikchu hydroelectric project (96 Megawatt), an under construction run-of-river project on the Dikchu River, a tributary of Teesta River at Dikchu village in East Sikkim (taken up by Sneha Kinetic Power Projects Private Limited (SKPPPL), a private conglomerate).The power house is located in Dikchu village whereas the dam site is situated up north in a village name Lingdok. When I went to meet officials at the power house of Dikchu, they were reluctant to share any information about the dam.

The residents here are worried about the impact on the environment of the felling of trees. Noise and air pollution due to the ongoing construction are also cause of concern for them. I interviewed the locals and all of them added that their houses have been damaged due to the blasting activities in the project site. Residents Hem Prasad Chettri and Pushpa Lal of Lingdok village alleged that constant blasting at the construction site has created deep cracks in their houses. There has been official acceptance that the blasting for tunnel-construction has damaged nearby buildings. This has also resulted in landslides in the area. However for such damages villagers are unlikely to get any kind of compensation. During my meeting with a group of Lingdok villagers a consensus also emerged that the animal species living near the project site are on the verge of extinction. (iii)

Displacement of people living on the proposed project site and the area to be submerged has become an emotional issue. Most of the projects are located in the remote areas where people are illiterate and have few options of gainful employment. Thus the state government or developers are successful in acquiring their lands at cheaper price. There have been rehabilitation and resettlement programmes but they are neither satisfying nor adequate. The displaced people are given a small piece of land in nearby or distant places which is fit neither for living nor for cultivation of any crops.


One of the major advantages of the hydroelectric projects that the people accepted was the fact that people were hired contractually. The power developers have also started afforestation programmes, health check-up camps and other awareness programmes. People said that there has been supply of drinking water with water tanks provided. Even though the majority of villagers I met were unhappy with the construction of hydroelectric project, the most interesting point to note is that some locals favour such projects despite of the disadvantages, for these benefits.

In recent months unhappy with the resettlement the locals along with NGOs like Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT) and Sikkim Bhutia Lepcha Apex Committee (SIBLAC) have been staging regular agitations, hunger strikes. Some of their concerns have been aired by television channels and online websites. Locals are becoming more and more vocal about their concerns and disappointed that their concerns are largely unheard. West and North Sikkim has witnessed mobilisation of Lepcha and Bhutia tribes against such protests. Challenging such projects in courts might be one way of resolving their problems. The 97 MW Tashiding Hydroelectric project (West Sikkim), 300 MW Panam Hydroelectric Project (North Sikkim) have witnessed massive protests from the residents as well as from independent organisations of Sikkim. The Panam Hydroelectric Project has been suspended for the time being whereas power developers of Tashiding Hydroelectric project has been challenged in High Court of Sikkim by the public as well as independent organisation like SIBLAC.

But due to immigration of contractual labourers there has been a reported increase in crime and such inflow of outsiders is viewed as a threat to employment of locals. The government needs to scrutinise the projects on grounds of sustainability before sanctioning them. The locals, NGOs and independent environment experts should be involved in the decision making process. In addition to threat to life and occupation these projects are also affecting the cultural heritage of indigenous tribes. Lands of the primitive tribes have been taken away. The heritage and natural beauty of Sikkim is not being preserved.

Picture 1: Overview of Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project in Lower Samdong, East Sikkim

Picture 2: Submergence of land near Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project

Picture 3: Cracks seen in the house of Abhi Chandra Sharma, 75 years of age, who stays in Lower Kambal (area nearby Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project). The cracks were mainly due to blasting activities done by the power developers near the damsite

Picture 4: Cracks seen in the building of Mr. Anil Kumar Rai, age 32 who stays in Aap Dhara. The area is affected by both Teesta Stage V hydroelectric project and to some extent Sneha Kinetic Hydroelectric Project

Picture 5: A house located within 200 to 300 meters where Teesta Stage V Hydroelectric Project has been set up. The building has been evacuated due to its danger of collapsing any time. The building also has full of cracks

Picture 6: House of Mr. Hari Prasad Chettri, Age 42 who is residing in Aap Dhara. He has been given an order to evacuate his house as soon as possible as it is located very near to damsite where construction works are going on as well as swift River Teesta flows nearby

Picture 7: Poor maintenance of river water as well as throwing of debris in the TeestaStage V Hydroelectric Project in East Sikkim

* All pictures courtesy Sonam Wangchuk Nadikpa


i)For each mega Hydroelectric Project being set up Sikkim Government gets 12 per cent of free power. This would mean a profit of 80 to 85 crores annually which will definitely improve the socio- economic conditions of the people of Sikkim and also revenue base which will make the state economically self-dependent in future.
ii) NHPC, where the Government of India has a major stake, in return for setting up the power project allocates the Sikkim government 12 per cent of 510 Megawatt power absolutely free of cost. Financially this free power could mean an annual profit of Rs 80 to 85 crore to the government of Sikkim as mentioned in the salient features of Teesta Stage V Hydroelctric project prospectus published in June 2008.
iii) Teesta eco-region is rich in plants, animals and micro-organisms. It is world’s 12 mega biodiversity zones. The region is also rich repository of 500 odd species of medicinal herbs.


1.“About Energy and Power Department”, Government of Sikkim, (online: Web) http://www.sikkimpower.in/irj/go/km/docs/internet/webpage/AboutUs.html Accessed on November 22, 2013
2.Lepcha, Tseten (2014), Email Interview with the Working President of Affected Citizens of Teesta (ACT), February 23, 2014