Despite French and Malian government declarations of success against
Islamist insurgents in the north of Mali, successful presidential
elections in August, and the partial deployment of the United Nations
Multidimensional Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), security conditions in
the country have not yet returned to normal.
In the wake of fragile security gains, the prevailing story of Somalia these days is one of progress. The terrorist group Al Shabab was forced from control of the country’s major cities more than two years ago, and Western donors are eager to support the country’s new president. In the past year, rebuilding and economic development in the capital, Mogadishu, has flourished. And yet, in spite of this growing stability, more than one million Somalis remain displaced within the country. In Mogadishu, the United Nations estimates that there are some 369,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in makeshift camps. Some camps are teeming with thousands of families, whereas others consist of just a few dozen people living on private, undeveloped lots. As the city develops, many of these IDPs are being forced from the places that have been their home for years – sometimes decades.
“I just need peace.” Those are the words of Tsehaye, a 35-year-old Eritrean man who has survived
torture in his own country, detention in Israel, and years of uncertainty as he waits to hear if he will
be recognized as a refugee. RI met Tsehaye in Tel Aviv while researching the experience of African
asylum seekers in Israel. Tsehaye’s experience is not unusual. It is the harsh reality for thousands
of refugees and asylum seekers in Israel, where a policy of deterrence denies them their freedom,
the right to work, access to healthcare, and trauma counseling. The threat of deportation also
looms over people like Tsehaye, as Israel has yet to grant refugee status to a single person from
Eritrea, despite that country’s long record of human rights violations.
The Syrian refugee populations in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey all face significant challenges. Thousands of people leave Syria for these countries every day, but once safely across the border there is no guarantee of finding adequate support for day-to-day needs such as shelter, food, or healthcare. Longer-term assistance, including education and psychosocial care, is still in the developing stages more than two years into the crisis, and it is sometimes neglected in deference to more immediate needs as the emergency grows.
Recurrent climate-related shocks in West Africa’s Sahel region are having severe impacts on vulnerable populations. Increasingly, those unable to feed themselves or their families have no option but to leave their villages, resorting to new forms of migration that bring with them serious protection risks. New resilience-building initiatives launched by regional bodies, the United Nations, and donors have the potential to begin to tackle the root causes of these populations’ vulnerabilities. However, a lack of coherence and coordination is seriously threatening the effectiveness of these initiatives. With implementation still in the initial stages, there is a window of opportunity to address these shortcomings before significant time and resource commitments are made.
Les chocs récurrents liés au climat dans la région Ouest-Africaine du Sahel ont des impacts conséquents sur les populations vulnérables. De plus en plus, ceux qui n’ont pas les capacités de se nourrir ou de nourrir leurs familles n’ont d’autre option que de quitter leurs villages, en ayant recours à de nouvelles formes de migration auxquelles sont associés d’important risques en matière de protection. De nouvelles initiatives de résilience lancées par des organismes régionaux, les Nations Unies, et les bailleurs de fonds pourraient s’attaquer aux causes profondes de la vulnérabilité de ces populations. Cependant, un manque de cohérence et de coordination menace considérablement l’efficacité de ces initiatives. Leur mise en œuvre en étant encore à son stade initial, il est encore temps de remédier à ces déficiences avant que ne soient pris des engagements significatifs en temps et en ressources.
Two years ago, South Sudan gained independence from Sudan and became the world’s youngest country. After more than two decades of civil war, it was hoped that this separation would finally lead to peace for the people in the South. Unfortunately, independence has not brought stability to the entire country, as ongoing border clashes and internal violence continue to cause displacement. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in South Sudan, with more being displaced every day.
In 2009/10, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolutions 1888 and 1960 establishing Women’s Protection Advisors (WPAs). These officials are tasked with building capacity to address conflict-related sexual violence within UN peacekeeping missions and reporting incidents for the monitoring and reporting arrangements as a basis for Security Council action against perpetrators. Today, six WPAs are assigned to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan. The rollout of WPAs in that country has been marked by recruitment delays and training gaps which have ultimately led to poor practice in data collection, endangering sexual violence survivors. While Refugees International welcomes the initiative to address conflict-related sexual violence within peacekeeping missions, immediate measures must be taken to ensure that WPAs use an approach centered on the wellbeing of the survivor, following internationally recognized guidelines on safe and ethical researching, documenting, and monitoring of sexual violence in emergencies.
In its rush to normalize relations with Myanmar, the international
community – particularly the United Nations – must not ignore the
increase in abuses being committed against ethnic minorities in Rakhine
and Kachin States, and it must take a stronger stance in defense of the
human rights of affected populations. Ten months after violence forced
them into displacement camps in central Rakhine State, Rohingyas are
living in fear of multiple dangers: flooding and disease caused by the
rainy season, indefinite periods of displacement and segregation and the
consolidation of ethnic cleansing, arbitrary arrests, being forced by
officials to sign away their rights to citizenship, and a lack of
protection from further attacks. Meanwhile, in Kachin State, a peace
agreement remains out of reach almost two years after conflict there
resumed. Roughly 100,000 people are stuck in displacement camps, and
international humanitarian agencies are being denied access to the tens
of thousands living in non-government controlled areas.
Two years after the Syrian revolution began, there is much wider recognition of the dire humanitarian needs inside the country, and support for expanding cross-border aid activities is increasing. The United Nations, a handful of international non-governmental organizations, and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent all have humanitarian operations inside Syria. The Syrian regime, however, significantly restricts their ability to conduct these operations. As a result, relatively little humanitarian aid is available in Syria. Broader aid distribution is urgently needed. This will require donors to develop means of assistance that rely less on traditional agencies and actors, such as supporting the networks of local Syrian groups and activists which have successfully delivered aid. With the modest resources currently available for distributing aid in a challenging environment, innovative methods to efficiently identify and meet the needs of those inside of Syria must be developed, tested, funded, and expanded appropriately.
In the fall of 2012, hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fled their homes following fighting between the M23 rebel group and the Congolese army. In North Kivu province alone, 914,000 people took shelter in camps and with host families. Unfortunately, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) only coordinates support for those persons living in official camps – 112,000 people, or one ninth of the displaced population.
Displaced persons in remote areas, particularly those living in “spontaneous settlements” and with host families, have been left out of coordination mechanisms, and in many cases they have received little to no assistance or protection. Gender-based violence (GBV) is rampant, and programs to protect women and girls are insufficient. Now more than ever, aid actors in the DRC need to improve aid coordination and ensure that assistance is based on vulnerability rather than status.
Au cours de l’Automne 2012, des centaines de milliers de personnes ont fuit leur maison en République Démocratique du Congo (RDC) à la suite d’affrontements entre le groupe rebelle M23 et l’armée congolaise. La province du Nord Kivu a vu à elle seule 914 000 personnes se réfugier dans des camps et auprès de familles d’accueil. Malheureusement, l’agence des Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés (HCR) coordonne seulement l’assistance destinée aux résidents des camps, 112 000 personnes, soit un neuvième de la population déplacée. Les personnes déplacées en zones reculées, en particulier celles vivant dans des « sites spontanés » et dans des familles d’accueil, ne peuvent bénéficier des mécanismes de coordination mis en place, et reçoivent trop souvent peu voire pas d’assistance ou de protection. Les violences basées sur le genre (VBG) sont endémiques, et les programmes de protection destinés aux femmes et filles sont insuffisants. Désormais, et plus que jamais, les acteurs humanitaires en RDC doivent améliorer la coordination de l’aide humanitaire et s’assurer que la mise en place de l’assistance se fait selon des critères de vulnérabilité plutôt que de statut.
The recent increase in displacement due to conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has multiplied the risk of gender-based violence (GBV). At the same time, coordination efforts by the international aid community are failing to address the needs of women and girls. In 2009, United Nations Action on Sexual Violence in Conflict drafted a comprehensive strategy for combating sexual violence in the DRC, which was then adopted by the DRC government. However, challenges with leadership, information sharing, and funding are hindering implementation of this strategy and actually obstructing urgent response to beneficiaries. To ensure effective prevention and response to GBV, the current coordination mechanism should be abandoned in favor of a structure better suited to humanitarian crises.
In December 2012, the Government of Kenya announced a directive that
would force all refugees living in cities to relocate to camps, and shut
down all registration and service provision to refugees and
asylum-seekers in cities. This effectively empowered Kenyan security
services to unleash a wave of abuse against refugees. That Kenya has not
yet gone ahead with a forced relocation plan has led some to believe
that the worst has been averted. Yet the directive caused severe harm
even without being implemented. Many refugees felt forced to leave
Nairobi following severe harassment. The directive has also been a
set-back to Kenya’s notable advances in enabling urban refugees to
support themselves, and it has put the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR)
global urban refugee policy at risk.
Depuis que des groupes islamistes radicaux ont pris le contrôle du nord du Mali en début d’année, l’attention locale et internationale s’est concentrée sur des plans visant à chasser les insurgés grâce à l’intervention d’une force militaire dirigée par l’Afrique. Mais cette stratégie a laissé dans l’ombre les besoins encore insatisfaits et croissants des Maliens déplacés, dont la majorité a fui vers le sud du pays. Bien qu’il soit facilement possible d’accéder à eux, les Maliens déplacés n’ont à ce jour reçu que très peu d’aide. Étant donné que le gouvernement civil et l’armée malienne sont tous deux en déroute, il faudra du temps pour que le processus politique puisse se remettre en route, et que l’armée se consolide pour reprendre le nord. Pendant ce temps, répondre aux besoins des déportés du sud doit devenir une priorité. D’autre part, étant donné la probabilité d’une détérioration grandissante des conditions humanitaires dans le nord ainsi que le sud, la coordination de la réponse humanitaire doit être améliorée. Il est crucial que l’on apporte un soin particulier à ce que des plans d’urgence humanitaires bien développés et disposant de ressources soient mis en place et prêts à être déployés.
Since hard-line Islamist groups took control of northern Mali earlier this year, regional and international attention has focused on plans for an African-led military force to drive out the insurgents. But this focus has distracted from the unmet and growing needs of displaced Malians, the majority of whom have fled to the country's south. Although easily accessible, they have received only limited assistance to date. With both the civilian government and the Malian army in a state of disarray, it will take time to get the political process on track and the army in shape to retake the north. In the meantime, meeting the needs of those displaced in the south must be prioritized. In addition, given the likelihood of a further deterioration of humanitarian conditions in both the north and south, coordination of the humanitarian response must be improved and far more emphasis must be placed on ensuring that well-developed and resourced humanitarian contingency plans are in place and ready for implementation.
The civil war in Syria has forced large numbers of Syrians from their homes, and in many cases from the country entirely. Refugees continue to flee in record numbers, and there are currently almost 400,000 registered or waiting for registration in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey combined. The United Nations has said it expects this number could reach 700,000 by December 31, 2012. About half of all the registered Syrians are living in camps, but the other half remain in local host communities trying to get by on their own.
In Syria, women and girls are being targeted for rape on a massive scale. This is one of the primary reasons many are fleeing to Turkey, Jordan, and Iraq. As refugees, however, these women and girls remain vulnerable to multiple forms of gender-based violence (GBV). This crisis requires urgent action. The United Nations Refugee Agency should immediately prioritize protecting Syrian women and girls to ensure they receive greater assistance and prevent further violence against them.
There are currently 1.36 million Somalis displaced within their own country. These internally displaced persons (IDPs) face major protection challenges – including abuse and aid diversion by camp gatekeepers, as well as the threat of forced evictions. These vulnerabilities are not new to Somalia’s displaced population, but the context is changing. Refugees International recently conducted assessments of IDP settlements in Mogadishu and Hargeisa, Somaliland. In Mogadishu, security and stability is improving, and the election of a new president in September has generated cautious optimism throughout the capital. To the north, the relative stability of the self-declared autonomous region of Somaliland has primed it for long-term development opportunities. Unfortunately, while conditions in parts of Somalia are improving, the country’s internally displaced population is at risk of being left behind.
Despite an abundance of natural resources, Rakhine State is the second-poorest state in Burma. The simmering tension that exists between the Rakhine and stateless Rohingya communities has been stoked by poverty for decades. However, in June 2012 that tension boiled over. What began as inter-communal violence was followed by a wave of state-sponsored persecution of the Rohingya, along with a refusal to allow humanitarian agencies access to the northern part of the state, where the majority of Rohingya live. In October, Rohingya and other Muslim communities were attacked again, resulting in the destruction of thousands of houses, the displacement of tens of thousands of people, and an unknown number of deaths. In the state capital, Sittwe, tens of thousands of displaced Rohingya are now living in segregated, squalid camps outside of town and cut off from their livelihoods. The conflict has brought much-deserved international attention to the long-neglected situation of Burma’s Rohingya. The fact that it is taking place during a period of dramatic change in the country’s governance presents the world with a chance to finally put an end to discrimination against the Rohingya and restore their citizenship.
For decades, Burmese Rohingya fleeing persecution have sought refuge in Bangladesh. June’s inter-communal violence in Burma’s Rakhine State, as well as subsequent state-sponsored persecution and targeted attacks against Muslim populations, have cast an international spotlight on this neglected population, and offered an opportunity to resolve the status of both stateless Rohingya inside Burma and those Rohingya who are refugees in neighboring countries. This could be an opportunity for Bangladesh to engage fully on this issue and develop its long-awaited refugee policy. Instead, the nation is rallying against the Rohingya by refusing entry to refugees and restricting humanitarian assistance. This response, besides representing a breach of international law, will weaken Bangladesh’s ability to secure international support as discussions of the Rohingya's plight intensify. The governments of Bangladesh and Burma should be engaging in bilateral - and perhaps multilateral - discussions about how to protect the rights of the Rohingya community.
Colombia alberga el número más grande del mundo de personas en condición
de desplazamiento interno (PsCDI), la mayoría de los cuales vive en
zonas urbanas. El conflicto armado continúa desplazando más de 130 000
personas anualmente. Una vez desplazados, estos colombianos enfrentan
con frecuencia pobreza extrema, viven en asentamientos inseguros y
sufren exclusión económica y social. Ayudar a las PsCID urbano a pasar
de una situación de sufrimiento y vulnerabilidad permanente a una de
independencia e inclusión social, transformará a Colombia en una nación
más estable y próspera. La nueva Ley de Víctimas provee un marco
organizativo para alcanzar este objetivo. Aunque el gobierno colombiano
parece contar con la voluntad política necesaria para lograr un progreso
real, problemas de coordinación, excesiva descentralización y una débil
capacidad local, amenazan con desarticular la implementación de la
nueva ley. El gobierno central de Colombia debe proveer recursos y
activar la veeduría de los programas de integración local para las PsCDI
urbano. El gobierno de los Estados Unidos (EE.UU.) y la Agencia de la
Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (ACNUR) deben invertir los recursos
necesarios para el diseño y pilotaje de las iniciativas de integración
local para las PsCDI urbano, así como también profundizar su compromiso
con las autoridades locales y asistir a las organizaciones no
gubernamentales (ONGs) locales en su labor de cabildeo en favor de
programas efectivos para dicha población.
Colombia is home to the highest number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world, the majority of whom live in urban areas. Armed conflict continues to displace more than 130,000 people annually. Once displaced, these Colombians frequently endure extreme poverty, live in unsafe settlements, and suffer social and economic exclusion. Helping urban IDPs move from conditions of sustained suffering and vulnerability to self-reliance and social inclusion will transform Colombia into a more stable and prosperous nation. The new Victims Law provides an organizing framework for achieving this goal. Although the Colombian government appears to possess the political will necessary to make real progress, coordination problems, excessive decentralization, and weak local capacity threaten to derail the implementation of the new law. Colombia’s central government must provide resources and active oversight of local integration programs for urban IDPs. The U.S. government and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) must invest the resources necessary to design and pilot local integration initiatives for urban IDPs, as well as deepen their engagement with local authorities and assist local NGOs to advocate for effective IDP programs.
Since early 2012, Lebanon and Jordan have seen a dramatic increase in
the number of refugees crossing their borders as the Syrian government
intensifies its crackdown on opposition groups. Despite the fact that
neither country has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or the 1967
Protocol, both have accommodated those fleeing Syria, providing services
and assistance despite their own strained resources. As host countries,
Lebanon and Jordan are at a breaking point and need robust support –
for both the host communities and the refugee populations – in order to
maintain the safe havens they currently offer. The international
community must act by creating a solid refugee response that supports
those in need and preserves regional stability.
Another food crisis in the Sahel has put 18 million people at risk. Armed conflict in Mali has now compounded the situation, forcing more than 180,000 people to flee to neighboring countries. These refugees are arriving in remote areas facing acute food and water shortages. While agencies have quickly scaled up to provide life-saving assistance, resources are dwindling and additional support is needed for both Malian refugees and their host communities. Allowing the situation to languish risks lives and threatens to undermine an already-fragile coexistence. Going forward, humanitarian assistance must be accompanied by long-term investments that address the threat that food insecurity, climate change, and regional instability present to the Sahel.