Refugees’ Tragedies & Continues Sufferings Constitute A Real Challenge to Human Rights & Dignity [Archives:2001/18/Law & Diplomacy]

April 30 2001

Prepared by Abdulkadir M.
Environment / Development Specialist
There is every likelihood that one day any of us could face the tragedy of being a refugee/forced immigrant, since nowadays no one has immunity against it, finding oneself without a home, a country and without dignity.
This is the reality that millions and millions of human beings are facing today. The plight of being transformed into refugee/displaced persons who depend totally on others benevolence/charity offerings for their day to day survival/livelihood.
Why does this happened in the so called civilized world? This is occurring due to many factors such as the followings:
– Living in a world of inequality which continuously generates more and more poverty and poor people amidst overgrowing wealth and opulence for few groups/individuals. A few nations are controlling more than 80% of the world’s productive resources and assets. This is a world of unequals: 20% extraordinary very rich in contrast with 20% totally deprived people living under abject poverty conditions compelled to live in hunger, fear of starvation, social injustice, discrimination, lack of access to assets, to opportunity of socio-economic justice or lack of protection from unexpected events and disasters. Most are man-made, plus fear of wars and of persecution. Such world naturally produces a large number of forced immigrants, and refugees/displaced persons each year. Hence, without taking an effective global/national/regional actions to alleviate or reduce the above mentioned factors and others, it will be impossible to avoid the forced immigrants, refugees or displaced persons.
Accordingly, all nations, mainly the developed countries and empowered rich people have to seriously, address this real human rights challenge and violations by adopting measures and actions necessary for realizing a balanced development. This should be directed at empowering the poor people and nations through a pro-poor, sustainable development policy. This would include a real and balanced implementation of the Universal Human Rights, Laws, Conventions and Declarations before, during and after the human tragedy.
Accordingly, there is an increasing need to review the definitions of: a refugee, a displaced Person, or a Forced Immigrant.
-Key players are UNHCR, country of origin, host country and the refugees.
Since the mid of 1990, a strong pressure and support groups have been coordinating the aid/assistance to refugees and displaced persons. They have targeted poor people in the process of management and evaluation of humanitarian aid/assistance. And it is in this context that UNHCR presented itself as one of the excellent organizations committed to accelerating such participation processes. (See “Participatory Evaluation of the Humanitarian Aids” and “UNHCR opens up its evaluation reports to public scrutinity and invites NGO participation in evaluation missions”, 1999). These have to be based on real transparency and accountability of managing the humanitarian aid, which will be verified practically by the new unit established in 1999, which is the “Evaluation and Policy Analysis Section, directly accountable to High Commissioner of Refugee Affairs Assistant”. Accordingly, we hope that the process of humanitarian and relief assistance should be assessed more than merely by focusing on the amount of aid given to the powerless refugees, specially for those pouring into poor developing countries.
Secondly, the refugees have to be given the right of participation in articulating and managing their needs. This gives the impact of aid more importance rather than focusing on its superficial results or contents. Thirdly, we must always remember that we are talking about people…individuals who, given the chance, have the potential to make significant contributions to the world around them. But in order to achieve their potential, they need and deserve to live a decent life as human beings. They need to have all of the rights, dignity and aspirations, including their protection from aggressive attitude and actions mainly from assistance/aid providers and host countries. Particularly the managers of health care providers should exhibit decency, sensibility and public relation skills in terms of human rights, dignity. They should also have substantial awareness in respect of refugees’ socio-economic, psychological, emotional and mental conditions. All parties concerned have to fight the atrocities inflicted on the refugees in the context of their total dependence on charity and outsiders for their daily basic needs. Every one should realize that this type of life is poisonous and will lead to creating and developing what is known as “dependence culture”. In other words, they will become less motivated and continuously expect others to provide for them all the basic needs to survive a decent livelihood as respected human beings, including the right to work and health services.
– Refugees/Displaced Persons in least Developed Countries: These countries, such as Yemen, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan are bearing much socio-cultural burden and they cannot afford to fulfill all duties and responsibilities required from host countries of refugees. This is because they themselves are suffering from acute poverty and unemployment to the tune of 50%, 60%. Hence, the refugees are facing further hardships ranging from access to appropriate health services, malnutrition, and over-crowded housing to lack of education and income-generating opportunities. As the director of Sana’a Refugee Health Center (ICD) stated recently (YT march 19, 2001), refugees need jobs, good housing, food, education, security and empowerment in order to attain good health. This is not easy in Yemen because so many Yemenis are poor themselves. However, she didn’t offer any suggestions or solutions to ease/solve urban refugees suffering in Yemen. Further more it is not totally true that the RHC (ICD) people are offering fair health services to every one, irrespective of their ethnic background. At least for cancergeonic, cardiac and other similar patients who need continuos treatment and costy medicines. If the urban patient doesn’t have the refugee card and if he/she is a Somali of Yemeni origin the problem is still more serious. Some staff of UNHCR office in Sana’a justified the ICD refusal to treat refugee patients without a card even if they have been registered officially for more than three years. Most of them are women and children who stand waiting in front of the UNHCR office daily. This creates despair and more sufferings, specially for refugee women who keep hoping that the program of issuing their identification card will start soon as assured by the UNHCR resident representative in Yemen, (YT – February 5th 2001). More than 77% of the registered refugees constitute Urban Refugee about 55% of whom are living in Sana’a, excluding another 100,000 of them who are still unregistered. Most of these are the newly arrived Somali refugees. Truly speaking, the Yemen people and government generously hosted the Somali refugees and are bearing a substantial socio-cultural costs on account of them without receiving appropriate aid and assistance as has been promised by regional and international organizations.
In order to alleviate the above-mentioned problems and suffering of refugees living in least developed countries, such as Yemen, the following actions and alternatives maybe taken:
– The international agencies concerned have to provide urgently, the necessary technical, financial, socio-economic aid and assistance to help poor and least developed countries in order to cope with these huge number of refugees pouring mainly into Yemen and surrounding neighboring countries.
– More qualified, special health centers, run by local, regional and international NGOs are needed. The refugees should be encouraged to participate actively in the process of management and evaluation of humanitarian assistance operations as has been affirmed and encouraged by all donors and concerned organizations including UNHCR.
– The donors, the agencies and humanitarian organization concerned have to assist the refugees, mainly urban ones, in providing income-generating micro credit facilities necessary for financing small enterprises/works for improving their precarious standard of living.
– Alternatively, in order to alleviate the socio-economic burdens of the poor countries caused by hosting these huge number of refugees, the majority of whom are vulnerable groups being victims of war (mostly Somalis), they should have the right to be resettled in the developed countries. Presently the origin countries such as Somalia are still unstable and suffering.