The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees Effects of Refugees on the Host Country Director: Natalie Rana
ÂŠ 2006 Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc. (IDIA) This document is solely for use in preparation for Philadelphia Model United Nations 2007. Use for other purposes is not permitted without the express written consent of IDIA. For more information, please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Introduction _________________________________________________________________ 1 Background _________________________________________________________________ 2 Economic Implications _____________________________________________________________ 4 Case Study: Malawi _______________________________________________________________ 5 Environmental Implications ________________________________________________________ 6 Case Study: Guinea _______________________________________________________________ 6 Political Implications ______________________________________________________________ 7 Social Implications ________________________________________________________________ 8 Past Action ______________________________________________________________________ 9
Current Status ______________________________________________________________ 10 Case Study: Tanzania_____________________________________________________________ 11 Malawi: Updates _________________________________________________________________ 12 Recent Actions___________________________________________________________________ 13
Key Positions _______________________________________________________________ 15 Africa __________________________________________________________________________ 15 Asia____________________________________________________________________________ 16 The Middle East _________________________________________________________________ 16 European Union (EU)_____________________________________________________________ 17 Latin America and the Caribbean __________________________________________________ 18 The United States ________________________________________________________________ 19 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) ___________________________________________ 19
Summary___________________________________________________________________ 21 Discussion Questions _________________________________________________________ 22 Works Cited ________________________________________________________________ 23
Introduction The colonization and division of Africa left the fate of state borders and political organization in the hands of colonial powers, devastating the continent.
decolonization, countries such as Burundi, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, and Somalia have been the source of refugees caused by civil wars and political violence, traced to the separation of ethnic and political groups as well as the forcible combination of groups possessing opposing views. This violence stems from the unnatural process through which the African continent was divided both during and after the colonial period. While much attention is directed towards refugees and their rights, the international community must also recognize how these refugee populations affect the state to which they flee. Although allowing refugees to seek safety is honorable, it must be noted that it is a large burden on the state. Also, there are many cases in which a state’s government does not want refugees within its borders but cannot control refugee movement due to limited immigration policies. It is difficult for many African states to adequately document refugees, making it hard to regulate a large population increase. Because Africa is known for less-developed and developing states, one cannot expect these states to be equipped to handle a sudden population increase. The developing nations of Africa often cannot provide sufficient resources for their own people, making the issue of incoming refugees more complex.
predominant populations of many of these states are very poor and react negatively towards refugees who put further economic pressure on their situations. Refugees are also seen as a threat to everyday necessities, such as food and water. Additionally, refugees typically do not hold the same political and social ideologies as the locals of the host state. Therefore, disagreements, which often become violent, arise surrounding these differences. Violence may also surface due to political oppression refugees have faced in their country of origin. They may attempt to organize a militant group with certain ideals for which they were previously persecuted. This type of act will also
prolong the conflict that caused them to flee their state in the first place, further burdening the host country. Moreover, if a country accepts refugees, it can be interpreted that they are making a political statement on one side of a conflict or another. This statement can cause conflict with the country from which these refugees originate, creating an even larger problem for the host country. Lastly, the impact of a refugee population on the environment must be examined, as it too has bearing on the welfare of the host country. Because of the climate in Africa, there is already a strain on arable land for farming, potable water and wood. A large refugee population increases this strain and depletes resources at a rapid rate. Additionally, land must be cleared, and temporary roads and arrangements must be made so that refugee camps are more accessible to aid workers. While it is possible for refugees to enhance the economic, political and environmental conditions of the host country, this has not happened throughout Africa, or in the rest of the world. It is in the hands of this committee to discuss and create durable solutions and remedies for the past, current and future situations of struggling host countries within the African continent.
Background A refugee, as defined by the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, is: every person, who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part of the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality.1
Since the colonization of Africa, and the continent’s consequent struggle for independence, violent conflicts have caused refugees to flee their countries in search of safety. Because Africa’s organization into states was arbitrary and poorly planned, the borders often divided ethnic similarities and combined people of different cultures, 1
African Union, “Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa,” African Union, www.africa-union.org/Official_documents/Treaties_%20Conventions_%20Protocols/Refugee_Convention.pdf (accessed October 9, 2006).
ethnicities, and traditions. The results of such actions were soon fully seen as cultural and political strife quickly spurred civil wars.
While the connections between
decolonization and conflict can sometimes be unclear, most (if not all) of the conflicts can easily be traced back to this period of independence. Economic, political, and social discord can all be related to the differing ideologies contained within a countryâ€™s borders. Because much attention is directed to the rights and protection of refugees, the focus on countries that accept large numbers of refugees is often lacking. While the issue of protecting refugee rights is an important one, it is the last part of the refugee definition that is frequently neglected by the international community. Since the first refugee crisis, neighboring and non-neighboring countries have been temporary, and in some cases permanent, homes to them. The willingness of a state to allow people to seek refuge within its borders has been seen as a heroic gesture; however, the burden placed on these states is too often neglected. When examining the nature of host countries in Africa, it is vital to keep in mind that African states are developing nations lacking polished economic, political and social infrastructures. A sudden population increase within a host country due to refugees is usually extremely detrimental to the nation. Additionally, environmental costs have been seen in host countries, as an added population further stresses natural resources intended for the residents of the host country. Since it is difficult to examine the range of effects refugees pose on their host country, for the purpose of organization, we will look at the issue from four different categories: economic, environmental, political and social. Before examining the problem, it is necessary to understand the international standards regarding refugee rights and the host country. In 1951, the United Nations adopted the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which outlines international guidelines governing the protection and care of internationally displaces people.2 It states that host countries must offer the same protection they do for nationals and aliens in 2
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, â€œConvention relating to the Status of Refugees,â€? Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/refugees.htm (accessed October 22, 2006).
terms of employment, wages, property, and other related areas. The convention calls for “treatment [of refugees] as is accorded to nationals,” or “treatment [of refugees] as favourable as possible and, in any event, not less favourable than that accorded to aliens generally in the same circumstances.”3 In Africa, the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa sets out similar guidelines, emphasizing that refugees should seek asylum “at a reasonable distance from the frontier of their country of origin,” as a safety precaution.4 Keeping these international agreements in mind, the economic, environmental, political and social implications of refugees on the host country can be examined.
Economic Implications Because refugee populations seek asylum primarily for temporary safety, they usually do not contribute to the economy; rather, they place a considerable amount of stress on it. The developing nature of African states additionally complicates the situation, as is reflected by their Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is used as an indicator of a nation’s economic strength. Since many African countries have unstable GDPs, an influx of refugees usually makes matters worse. The UNHCR has created a map that evaluates the number of refugees per USD $1 GDP, per capita
Gross Domestic Product: Total value of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States during a specific period. In 1991, GDP became the US government’s primary measure of economic activity in the nation, replacing gross national product (GNP), which is the total value of goods and services produced by labor and property supplied by US residents (but not necessarily located within the country). Source: www.tgbr.com/tgbr/terms.html
from 1999-2003. This map reveals that Zaire, Ethiopia and Tanzania contain 1,000 or more refugees per $1 GDP per capita, meaning that for every $1 of economic activity, the country is forced to support more than 1,000 refugees.5
Ibid. African Union, “Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa,” African Union, www.africa-union.org/Official_documents/Treaties_%20Conventions_%20Protocols/Refugee_Convention.pdf (accessed October 9, 2006). 5 UNHCR, “Number of refugees per 1 USD GDP per capita, 1999-2003,” UNHCR, www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/home/opendoc.pdf?id=42b02ba32&tbl=STATISTICS (accessed October 24, 2006). 4
Case Study: Malawi Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, constantly struggles to feed its own people.6 According to the UNHCR, “about 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty datum line.”7 While Malawi has complied with international standards set by Malawi
the UN and other international bodies regarding refugees, inadequacy of resources stands between the government’s complete compliance with these standards. Malawi is one of the states most cooperative and accepting of refugees at the government and local level.
presented in Malawi involves complex economic and resource issues. While the UN has commended Malawi on its
populations, there are certain limits to what the government can do. Because its own population suffers from malnutrition and poverty, Malawi cannot be expected to provide for refugee populations.
Since its economic infrastructure
relies on agriculture, and its food stores are already scarce, Malawi must reform its economy. Refugee International recommends that the government “invest in and implement a stronger food security policy that includes private sector
UNHCR, “Country Operations Plan, Country: Malawi,” UNHCR, www.unhcr.org/home/RSDCOI/432197c32.pdf (accessed October 24, 2006). 7 Ibid.
involvement, effective management of grain reserves, long-term development strategies, and the creation of a food security taskforce.”8
Environmental Implications Due to the fact that the arrival of refugee populations is normally sudden and unexpected, host countries are, for the most part, unprepared to provide food, shelter, or resources for incoming refugees.
Therefore, they are either integrated into local
communities or provided with makeshift refugee camps that often offer overcrowded, unsanitary, and impoverished conditions. Refugees must compete with local inhabitants for resources, jeopardizing the surrounding environment. During the beginning stages of refugee movement, environmental depletion is almost unavoidable. For example, many times aid workers build roads to more easily access refugee camps.9 While such an action may be detrimental to the environment, the UNHCR sees it as necessary to more adequately provide resources and aid to refugees.
Case Study: Guinea
In the early 1990s, about 800,000 people fled Liberia and Sierra Leone and looked to Guinea, one of the poorest countries in the world, for refuge.10 However, Guinea lacked the resources for such an influx, and the refugees integrated themselves into local towns and households. In addition to dealing with the incoming refugee population, Guinea was also dealing with internal migrants leaving arid lands in search of more fertile
Refugee International, “Malawi,” Refugees International, http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/country/detail/2935/?PHPSESSID=5cfliegen3C (accessed October 24, 2006). 9 UNHCR, “Environmental concerns during refugee operations,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/protect/opendoc.html?&tbl=PROTECTION&id=3b03b6f44 (accessed October 22, 2006). 10 United Nations Environment Programme, “Environmental Impact of Refugees in Guinea,” United Nations Environment Programme, http://www.grid.unep.ch/guinea/reports/reportfinal3b.pdf (accessed October 24, 2006).
areas, resulting in highly concentrated and overcrowded environments, quickly depleting resources. In the Guckedou region, the refugee population outnumbered the indigenous population by a ration of 10:1.11 Evidence of deforestation abounds, and over-cultivation steeply reduced the fallow system, causing severe soil
environmental factors affect rural areas, but they are also a factor in the urban capital of Conakry. Sanitation is lacking, and human waste has
Fallow: Agricultural land that is plowed or tilled but left unseeded during a growing season. Fallowing is usually done to conserve moisture. Source: www.geographic.org/glossary.html
contaminated underground water runoff. Water supply is limited as there is an increased demand for potable water where supply is already scarce. While the problem is obvious and the solution has been posed, a continuing dearth of resources makes remediation almost impossible.
The solutions “are often sectoral, ad-hoc, short term, poorly
coordinated, and concentrate only on the most affected areas.”12 While government objectives have been set, progress has not been made, as the supply of resources is further depleted.
Political Implications A state’s decision to accept and recognize a refugee population may be complicated by the fact that many refugees flee due to political persecution. As refugees may still be hateful of the oppression they have recently faced, they may be inclined to plan a counter-strike against their home country. As Salehayen and Gleiditsch of the Centre for the Study of War, explain, “[F]or sending countries, the emigration of people implies that politically relevant populations live outside of the boundaries of the state, where they are beyond the security and jurisdiction of the government.”13 While fear for welfare and safety is instilled in most refugees, counter-action remains a possibility after some time has elapsed. 11
Ibid. Ibid. 13 Salehayen, Idean, and Kristian Gleiditsch. “Refugees and the Spread of Civil War,” Centre for the Study of War, International Research Institute, Oslo, Norway. 2004, 6. 12
While it is a noble act for a country to receive a refugee population, they are tacitly making a political statement. By letting refugees enter their borders, governments of host countries can be seen as implicitly accepting the belief that these refugees were deprived of fundamental human rights. This cannot be ignored as it could transform what was once a domestic issue into an international issue. Currently there is a refugee crisis in Chad due to the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan. There are myriad refugee camps in Chad, some of which fall very near to the border of both countries. These populations are easily susceptible to political influences by Sudanese rebel groups, such as the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA). There is concern that Oure Cassoni and Am Nabak, two of these bordering refugee camps, will become militarized by the SLA.14
Social Implications The social infrastructure of a host country undergoes changes due to incoming refugees. At first, the inhabitants of a country may see the arrangement as temporary, and not necessarily harbor negative feelings towards refugees.
Depending on the
situation within the host country, locals may even be sympathetic. However, in Africa, where many countries suffer from extreme poverty, tension quickly arises between local communities and refugee populations. Because resources such as potable water and wood are limited, competition can lead to strife. Moreover, the refugee population can be seen as a group of outcasts based on their refugee status, culture, or ethnicity. While some states have graciously integrated refugee populations into local communities, this usually causes problems with the locals. An anonymous Angolan refugee, recalling his experience, said: People here don’t like refugees and they call us amakwerekwere [derogatory local term referring to black African foreigners]. Even the authorities are not concerned for us and are deciding our status rather arbitrarily. To tell the truth; integration here is not such an easy thing. The authorities should be the first ones to defend and plead for us. I don’t think there will be any
Refugees International, “Sudanese Refugees In Chad: Situation Stabilizes but Challenges Remain,” Refugees International, http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/5559?PHPSESSID=5cfliegen3C (accessed November 21, 2006).
change for refugees in this country. If so, the only remaining solution would be for us to resettle in another country.15
While ideally host governments could “plead” for refugees and follow the guidelines protecting refugees from discrimination set out in the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, it could be against the government’s best interests to correct the behavior of their locals. Locals may feel as if the government is supporting refugees more than an already struggling and deprived population. Because the burden refugees place on a state is so great, strife and conflict are seemingly unavoidable.
Past Action The UNHCR has been dealing extensively with the refugee situation in Africa since shortly after its establishment in 1950, but most of the measures taken have not provided durable and long-lasting solutions. One of the most well-known resolutions proposed to the refugee crises in Africa is based on three steps: repatriation, integration and resettlement, but there are inherent problems in this resolution.16 Repatriation, for many refugees, is impossible as they fear persecution on return to their country of origin. Integration and resettlement more specifically deal with the host country, as some host governments are unwilling to allow these processes because of the burdens refugees will place on the nation. For example, in Kenya, “there were demonstrations protesting the closing of a refugee camp due to concerns that the economy would crumble without the refugees’ economic contribution.”17 As is the case with many issues the UN addresses, resolutions have been difficult to implement. Many of the resolutions the General Assembly (GA) has passed simply commend governmental efforts to integrate refugees and provide resources, condemn
Southern African Migration Project, “To be a refugee in South Africa,” Southern African Migration Project, http://www.queensu.ca/samp/sampresources/migrationdocuments/documents/2000/3.htm (accessed October 22, 2006). 16 UN, “A Crisis in the Dark : The Forgotten Refugees,” UN, http://www.un.org/Pubs/chronicle/2006/issue3/0306p38.htm (accessed October 21, 2006). 17 Ibid.
those who do not aid refugees, and ask for more international involvement.18 However, the international community has not acted sufficiently on these efforts, leaving many host countries desperate for assistance. Some solutions, however, have actually provided tangible benefits to African states. One of the more effective means of addressing the environmental implications of the problem is an approach that was adapted by the UNHCR. The phases of assistance to refugees are divided into three categories: emergency, care and maintenance, and durable solutions.19 The emergency phase deals with the beginnings of a refugee influx. During this phase, refugee camps are just being built and arrangements to reach these camps are being conceived. The care and maintenance phase can begin once the refugee camps and other preparations have become more stable and the primary refugee needs have been dealt with. During this time, more attention can be given to programs addressing the environment and the depletion of resources resulting from work done in the emergency phase. Once basic steps have been taken, like cleaning refugee camp grounds, more durable solutions can be addressed with the help of other organizations and more importantly, the locals.20
Current Status Although host countries can provide a safe haven for a refugee population, a protracted refugee population stresses resources and burdens the state. Because conflicts discussed earlier in the brief are still raging, it can be concluded that prolonged crises only increase the burden placed on the host country. Refugee crises, especially in Africa, have continually promoted violence and security threats. According to the State of the World’s Refugees 2006, a report released by the UNHCR: [T]he failure to address the problems of the Rwandan refugees in the 1960s contributed substantially to the cataclysmic violence of the 1990s’. But more than a decade after the genocide 18
University of Minnesota, “Assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa,” University of Minnesota, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/resolutions/48/118GA1993.html (accessed October 22, 2006). 19 UNHCR, “Environmental concerns during refugee operations,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/protect/opendoc.html?&tbl=PROTECTION&id=3b03b6f44 (accessed October 22, 2006). 20 Ibid.
it appears as though the lesson has not been learned; dozens of protracted refugee situations remain unresolved in highly volatile and conflict-prone regions.21
The extended stays of large refugee groups have plagued the lesser-developed countries of Africa as they struggle to support their own populations. At the start of 2006, the UNHCR stated that the persons of concern (including refugees, asylum seekers, some internally displaced people and returnees) reached 20.8 million, which is a 6 per cent increase since 2005.22 Currently, more than 5 million of these 20.8 million people are located in Africa.23
Case Study: Tanzania Like many host countries in Africa, Tanzania
Tanzania views its refugee population as a considerable burden.
While refugees could
potentially yield benefits in more developed states with stable economic, social, and political
contribute minimally to their host state’s already desperate circumstances.
could very well aid the economy, as they may take jobs that locals are unwilling to accept; however, this has not been the case, as refugees have only increased competition with locals. In 2003, the government of Tanzania established a temporary asylum program that provided admittance into the country for only a year. After this year, the refugees would 21
UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 5 Protracted refugee situations: Political and security implications,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3c92 (accessed October 29, 2006). 22 UNHCR, “Refugees by Numbers 2006 edition,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/basics/BASICS/3b028097c.html (accessed October 9, 2006). 23 Ibid.
have to return to “safe zones” within their country of origin.24 This policy was inconsistent with the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, as it only allowed a very temporary asylum arrangement for refugees. By the end of 2004, when large influxes of refugee populations stopped arriving, western Tanzania had been host to 400,000 refugees distributed among eleven refugee camps. Meanwhile, another 200,000 refugees were to be found in the Mishamo, Ulyankulu and Katumba regions.25 A number of failed programs have prevented progress in Tanzania and created additional complexities. In an effort to improve upon their controversial policies regarding the reception of refugees, in 2005 the government crafted an arrangement that would allow ad hoc committees to interview new incoming refugees from Burundi and Democratic Republic of the Congo. These committees were composed of local officials from the immigration office and the Minister of Home Affairs (MHA) and dealt solely with refugees arriving from Burundi and DRC. Refugees coming from other nations became the responsibility of the National Eligibility Committee.26 However, these evaluations were not implemented in all regions of Tanzania and the government often banned the UNHCR from monitoring the process. Currently, many refugees are returning to their homelands due to the Tanzanian government’s threats of expulsion. With the help of the UNHCR, this return has been made safer, but is still dangerous. The UNHCR has also continually supplied aid in the form of food and security to refugee camps within Tanzania. Despite these efforts however, violence has continued to be a problem in and around the camps.27
Malawi: Updates While refugees entering Malawi were first allowed to integrate into local villages, in June 2006 they were asked to return to refugee camps. These refugees had previously 24
Ibid. UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 4 Responding to emergencies: Box 4.3 A hostcountry perspective: the case of Tanzania,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3c8b (accessed October 30, 2006). 26 U.S. Department of State, “Tanzania,” U.S. Department of State, http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61596.htm (accessed October 30, 2006). 27 Ibid. 25
left their camps and opened businesses in small Malawian towns. According to an article released by the Angola Press in August 2006, “the Malawi Department for Disaster Preparedness, Relief and Rehabilitation is having difficulty keeping the country’s 10,000 refugees, mostly from Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, and Burundi, in designated areas.”28 Shortly following the call to return to their camps, the refugees obtained a court injunction stopping the order. UNHCR commissioner Maria Nowa-Phiri is appealing the injunction “because...government [has] an obligation to ensure that [refugees] are in safe places.”29 Due to violence between locals and refugees regarding land and business rights, refugee camps are deemed safer by the UNHCR.
suggested that the government release the number of refugees so that they could be better supplied with resources from the international community.30
Recent Actions Before further examining the dilemmas surrounding protracted refugee situations, it is important to understand what defines a protracted refugee crisis. According to the UNHCR, a protracted refugee situation is: one in which refugees find themselves in a long-lasting and intractable state of limbo. Their lives may not be at risk, but their basic rights and essential economic, social and psychological needs remain unfulfilled after years in exile. A refugee in this situation is often unable to break free from enforced reliance on external assistance.31
While this definition gives attention to the effects of such a situation on the refugee, it should also be considered that the country of origin, but more importantly the host country accepting these refugees, become implicated as well. The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 has recognized this flaw in the definition used by the UN, and additionally focuses on the lack of donor contributions to host 28
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, “Malawi: Refugees Bolt from Camps to Set up Businesses,” U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, http://www.refugees.org/article.aspx?id=1520&rid=1179&subm=33&ssm=97&area=Investigate (accessed October 29, 2006). 29 Angola Press, “Foreign refugees out of control in Malawi,” Angola Press, http://www.angolapressangop.ao/noticia-e.asp?ID=460326 (accessed October 30, 2006). 30 Ibid. 31 UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 5 Protracted refugee situations: Nature and scope of the problem,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3c829 (accessed October 30, 2006).
countries. Without the help of the international community, these refugees will continue to compete with locals for already limited resources. Because many of the countries that host large refugee populations are considered developing nations, refugee crises will remain protracted without international aid. According to the UNHCR, “71 per cent of the world’s asylum seekers, refugees and others of concern to the agency were hosted in developing countries at the end of 2004.”32 Currently, the UNHCR is stressing that host countries must revise their policies regarding asylum and more adequately protect refugees within their borders. However, these solutions lack the durability necessary to provide long-term resolution to the problem. A more lasting solution, which has been examined by the UNHCR, is to foster an increased self-reliance in refugees.
By promoting self-reliance, refugees will
inherently place less of a burden on their first or second countries of asylum. The fruits of such efforts have not yet been seen, as the UNHCR awaits the results of the evaluations of the Uganda Self-Reliance Strategy and the Zambia Initiative for local integration.33 Once these programs can be fully evaluated, the international community can decide whether self-reliance is an effective, durable solution. The most promising way to cope with a protracted refugee problem is to deal with the political issues that refugees typically present to their host country and country of origin.34 Additionally, increased sharing of responsibility can lessen the burden placed on the host country and will facilitate the division of labor between countries of origin, host countries and international actors. This concept was recognized by the Agenda for Protection and UNHCR’s 2004 Executive Committee Conclusion on International Cooperation and Burden and Responsibility-Sharing in Mass Influx Situations.35 Both of these documents nevertheless neglect the means of implementing policies of 32
Ibid. UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 8 Looking to the future: Key concerns,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3ce3e (Accessed October 31, 2006). 34 Ibid. 35 UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 8 Looking to the future: Need for greater responsibility-sharing,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3cf2 (accessed October 31, 2006). 33
responsibility sharing. In order to effectively impose such a policy, the parties involved must agree on some basic guidelines, rules, and a framework to address immediate and protracted refugee crises.36 To provide durable solutions, a few often overlooked details must be addressed. Supervision, accountability, funding, cooperation and staff security must all be confirmed to effectively carry out resolutions.37 Supervision is vital to successful policy realization, as it can ensure implementation of UN provisions. Accountability is important because if nations cannot be held accountable for their actions, it becomes increasingly difficult to enforce potentially durable solutions. Funding and cooperation among the international community will give resolutions and projects backing, further promoting their success. Lastly, the safety of the staff working with host countries is significant, as they will personally oversee and aid refugees and possibly deal with government officials.
Key Positions Africa One of the most notable problems throughout Africa is the effort to revise asylum regulations for states throughout the continent. Because many African states still face obstacles in terms of serving as host countries, policies of the past have clearly not been sufficient.
For instance, asylum seekers in Johannesburg often faced human rights
violations despite South Africa’s exemplary policies regarding asylum.38 The state’s policies are currently being revised to prevent application processing delays and to provide official documents faster. If these refugees can be officially documented, human rights violations will diminish.
Additionally, the African Parliamentary Conference
“Refugees in Africa: The Challenges of Protection and Solutions” held in June 2004 laid out specific strategies for making emergency contingency plans for refugee situations, 36
Ibid. UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees 2006 - Chapter 8 Looking to the future: UNHCR: challenges ahead,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/publ/opendoc.htm?tbl=PUBL&id=4444d3cf11 (accessed October 30, 2006). 38 Afrol News, “South Africa’s asylum policies slammed,” Afrol News, http://www.afrol.com/articles/17318 (accessed November 7, 2006). 37
effectively promoting self-reliance, and creating durable solutions of voluntary repatriation, resettlement and local integration; however, the success of such an agreement has not been evaluated and is difficult to determine.39
Asia Many Asian states have become home to refugees fleeing persecution and danger. Like Africa, states in this region have dealt with these refugee populations in different manners. For example, a 2005 Pakistani census determined that there were 3.04 million Afghans who have entered Pakistan since Soviet invasion in 1979.40 On 15 October 2006, Pakistan, with the help of the UN, began a ten-week project to distribute identification cards to more than 1,000 Afghans living within its borders.41 This exercise is costing about 6 million dollars, and the UNHCR is working in collaboration with the Pakistani government to raise these funds. This effort is viewed as “the largest-ever…by any
UNHCR…[hopes] it will further strengthen the asylum space for those Afghans in need of international protection.”42 Moreover, Africa and Asia have recently worked together to manage refugee populations.
In April 2005, states from both continents jointly
launched the Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, which explicitly recognizes “diversity between and within the regions, including different social and economic systems and levels of development.”43 It also promotes open dialogue, an important aspect of devising durable asylum solutions.
The Middle East The Middle East and North Africa are closely affiliated due to religious faith, similar socioeconomic problems, and close proximity. Since the states that make up the 39
Inter-Parliamentary Union, “African Parliamentary Conference: Refugees in Africa: The Challenges of Protection and Solutions,” IPU, http://www.ipu.org/splz-e/cotonou/action.pdf (accessed November 5, 2006). 40 Ibid. 41 UN, “Afghan refugees in Pakistan begin to register with help from UN agency,” UN, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=20279&Cr=afghan&Cr1= (accessed November 7, 2006). 42 UNHCR, “Afghans in Pakistan get registered for first ever identification,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/cgibin/texis/vtx/afghan?page=news&id=453391fd4 (accessed November 7, 2006). 43 Institute for Security Studies, “Declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership,” ISS,
Middle East and North Africa (MENA) suffer from political and social unrest, they share similar problems when hosting refugee populations.
While they share each other’s
struggle, their interests are divided by cultural, political and economic factors, causing refugees and their host countries to face difficulties.44 According to Catholic Relief Services: Iran contains the single largest number of officially recognized refugees in the world, with 1.9 million Afghanis and Iraqi Marsh Arabs…Similarly, there are millions of Palestinians refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Other countries in the region host significant numbers of externally displaced people who are not officially recognized as refugees, such as four million Sudanese in Egypt.45
The Middle East mirrors Africa with regard to trends of armed conflict and refugees attempting to flee to safety. With large numbers of refugees entering host countries, violence often closely follows. For instance, Jordan has been receiving Iraqi Sunni refugees, further complicating the rise of Islamic militancy in the area.46 Conversely, Iran could possibly benefit from the Shi’a population coming from Iraq, as they could extend influence in Iraq.47
European Union (EU) The EU is typically known for large donations and contributions to Africa; yet, regarding the refugee crises, there is evidence that Africans seeking refuge in Spain are facing difficulties. Because of the restrictive nature of European immigration policies, African refugees attempting to enter Spain by climbing border fences have encountered force by police.48 According to Amnesty International: The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla emerged as particular pressure points [where] Spanish and Moroccan police used excessive force against people, mostly from West Africa, who sought to enter Spanish territory by climbing the border fences. At least 13 people were killed…others were rounded up by Moroccan police, transported to remote desert areas along the border with Algeria and dumped, left to fend for themselves without adequate water or shelter. Amid wide publicity and 44
Catholic Relief Services, “Middle East and North Africa,” CRS, http://www.crs.org/about_us/newsroom/publications/MENA_APSA_2001.pdf (accessed November 7, 2006). 45 Ibid. 46 The Brooking Institution, “Iraqi Refugees: Carriers of Conflict,” The Brooking Institution, http://www.brook.edu/views/articles/byman/20061101.htm (accessed November 7, 2006). 47 Ibid. 48 Amnesty International, “Annual Report: Regional Overview - Middle East and North Africa,” Amnesty International, http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport/middleeast_northafrica.html (accessed November 7, 2006).
condemnation, both governments said they would investigate the killings, but no government officials had been prosecuted or disciplined by the end of 2005.
The EU has created a cohesive set of minimum regulations and efforts host countries must follow within the EU, which is currently being codified into law.49 According to the EU, “both accelerated and regular procedures provide the same safeguards for applicants – for example, the right to be invited to a personal interview – as well as the basic principles and guarantees relating to interpretation and access to legal aid.”50 If implemented, the goals of the EU regarding asylum will enhance the conditions of refugees and the host country. If refugees can seek asylum without violating immigration policies, they will not face persecution. Additionally, from 22-23 November 2006, the EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development was held to discuss migration, as well as the prevention of illegal immigration and human trafficking.51 This conference will espouse a declaration that will take action the African Union (AU) and EU desire.
Latin America and the Caribbean Conflict in Colombia at the end of 2005 led the UNHCR to conclude that, “there were some 500,000 Colombians in the neighboring countries who had fled…escalating violence [and] preferred not to come forward and officially seek protection for fear of deportation or discrimination, or because they were not aware of asylum procedure.”52 Because of this realization, the UNHCR intervened in many areas to help formulate an asylum policy. The UNHCR developed a program in Costa Rica to support Colombian refugees, which targets job placement, microcredit, and self-reliance. Studies reflect that these programs have led to clear improvements as well as increased international 49
European Union, “The European Union Policy towards a Common European Asylum System,” EU, http://ec.europa.eu/justice_home/fsj/asylum/fsj_asylum_intro_en.htm (accessed November 7, 2006). 50 Ibid. 51 African Union, “EU-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development,” AU, www.africaunion.org/root/UA/Conferences/ novembre/SA/22-23%20nov/Aide%20Memo%20-Final.doc (accessed November 7, 2006). 52 UNHCR, “Northern South America,” UNHCR, http://www.unhcr.org/home/PUBL/4492677a0.pdf (accessed November 5, 2006).
cooperation. If the strategies that have proven so successful in Latin America can be carried out with as much success in Africa, perhaps the UNHCR can achieve its goal of maintaining durable solutions.
The United States Because the United States is a developed state and an international leader in technological advancement, its policy towards asylum-seekers is straightforward and generally consistent. The criteria released by the State Department are as follows: [The] candidates for resettlement must be refugees (i.e., they have left their country of origin), demonstrate that they are being persecuted and unable or unwilling to go home, and cannot stay permanently in the host country.53
Because host countries are often unable to endure the burden of a large refugee population, these populations must be resettled. Recognizing that refugees often fear what they will face when they return to their country of origin, the United States accepted 51 per cent of 55,520 refugees seeking resettlement in 2003.54 However, the United State’s political agenda often dictates which African groups are accepted for admission. For example, interest groups may lobby to prevent certain ethnic groups, such as black and Arab Africans, from resettling in the country.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) In the case of refugees, NGOs play the role of providing aid in the form of necessary and fundamental resources. Because these resources are usually scarce and difficult to attain, outside actors are usually the only ones that can provide this type of aid. The first step that most NGOs take is evaluating the humanitarian crisis on an individual state basis. When this is done, the organization can more accurately determine its policies and recommendations regarding each state.
For example, Refugees
International has a website documenting each state’s struggle for food and offers suggestions on how to alleviate the challenges. Yet, because the World Food Programme
UN Office for Coordination of Human Affairs, “A Home Far Away from Home: Third country resettlement of refugees,” OCHA, http://www.irinnews.org/webspecials/RR/502071.asp#top (accessed November 5, 2006). 54 Ibid.
is strained and pressed for resources, it is on the verge of making more food cuts in regards to aid in Africa, reinforcing Refugees International’s strong emphasis on the need for international mobilization.55 Because NGOs share the goal of providing aid at the grassroots level, their policy statements are generally similar.
They advocate the
humanitarian needs of the refugees to alleviate the burden they place on the host country. Among the NGOs involved in Africa are: the Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontiéres, CARE, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the African Salvation Group and many more.
Refugees International, “Southern Africa Food Crisis Deepens,” Refugees International, http://www.refugeesinternational.org/content/article/detail/7770/ (accessed November 21, 2006).
Summary The effect of refugees on the host countries of Africa, a continent that has more than 6.5 million displaced people, must be examined and alleviated with the aid and cooperation of the international community. While one may assign this task to outside states that can provide monetary aid, the cooperation of involved states is vital. The UN cannot implement solutions that have the support of every nation except the host countries burdened by large refugee populations.
Without their backing, durable
solutions cannot be created and implemented. With this in mind, it is obvious that states hosting refugee populations can better determine the most sensible way to treating those seeking asylum within their borders. Because the UN advocates respect for national sovereignty, it serves as an intermediary body between governments and a place for discussion and suggestion; however, solutions must be carried out with the discretion of each individual government. This also brings up the issue of accountability. States should be held accountable for their actions in a manner agreed upon by the international community. Some governments do not want to allow refugees to seek asylum in their state. This must be considered, as sovereignty precludes the committee from forcing any state to change its policies.
Though difficult predicting refugee crises has also been
recommended, as it allows potential host states to more adequately plan for them. Additionally, nations that are currently hosting refugee populations must implement resolutions to help lessen adverse affects. As can be seen throughout the brief, states are struggling with large refugee populations, as they stress already complicated economic, environmental and political situations. It must be noted that differences in culture and ethics create these problems and allow them to continue. If the international community can cooperate and differences can be reconciled, durable solutions will be reached.
Discussion Questions • Is your state a host country? If so, how does your state recommend that African nations deal with the effects of a refugee population? • Has your state contributed in any way to international efforts in Africa? • How does your state think the UN can hold nations accountable for their actions? • How does your state suggest that durable solutions be implemented that still respect national sovereignty? • What international players (states, organizations, groups) are involved in resolving this topic? What have they done thus far, and what can be done in the future? • How does your state feel about alleviating the ethnic/political conflicts that pervade Africa? • Does your state think that it is possible to develop an African asylum policy that will be beneficial to all host countries? • Does your state focus on the environmental effects on the host country? Should they be a large factor when creating solutions? Why or why not? • How does your state’s immigration policy influence its feelings towards refugees and refugee policy? • Does your state think that it’s possible for positive effects to come from a refugee population (i.e. economic, political, or environmental)? If so, how? • What is your state’s biggest concern regarding this topic and how can it be included in a resolution in this committee?
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