HEADLINES: Refugees

Kurdish officials are opening a second refugee camp to shelter a growing number of Syrians fleeing the bloody uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Local lawmakers in Iraq’s Dahuk province voted Wednesday to open the camp. The object is to ease overcrowding at the first one in the small village of Qamishli where Dahuk immigration director Mohammed Abdullah Hammo said there are several hundred Syrians. He said most of them are Syrian Kurds who are trying to avoid being pulled into the struggle between Assad’s regime and opposition forces. [Associated Press] In related news, according to Human Rights Watch, President Assad’s forces have placed landmines “near the borders with Lebanon and Turkey” along routes used by refugees trying to flee the fighting inside Syria. The group said that it had been told by a 28-year-old former Syrian Army deminer that he and a group of friends removed around 300 mines from the Hasanieih area in early March. [BBC]

Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) warned on Wednesday of a “mounting refugee crisis” in a remote, barren region of South Sudan, where some 80,000 people are running short of water in inaccessible camps that are likely to turn into swamps with the April rains. South Sudan’s Upper Nile state hosts the largest concentration of refugees fleeing violence in neighbouring Sudan, the majority running from aerial bombardment and fighting between the government and rebels in Blue Nile state. The rapid influx of new arrivals, exhausted from long walks and lack of food and water, is putting massive pressure on humanitarian agencies. The United Nations (U.N.) has been forced to airlift tents, plastic sheets, blankets and mosquito nets into the two refugee camps to meet demand. In an indication of the inhospitable environment, refugees outnumber local populations by six to one. [Reuters]

As the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) draws down its mission at the Shousha refugee camp in southeastern Tunisia, local employees from the nearby town of Ben Guerdane grow anxious over the likelihood of losing their jobs at the camp. There here have been attendant “signs of protests” from at least one laid-off worker. Since the official end of the conflict in Libyan on October 20th last year, all Libyan refugees have left the camp and many refugees of other nationalities have been repatriated as well. As a result, UNHCR partner organizations have had to reduce their operations in the Shousha camp, which is now home to only 2,927 refugees and 182 asylum seekers. [allAfrica.com]

Fatma Soleman’s small table at a special International Women’s Day bazaar in a suburb of the Egyptian capital, Cairo, was a bustle of activity as visitors admired handmade jewelry, colourful bags and gold-embroidered wallets on display. For the past 12 years Soleman has been teaching hundreds of refugee women in Cairo how to create handicrafts and successfully sell them. “I teach women that they can do it,” she said. “I’m working to help refugees become self-reliant.” Since she fled Eritrea 20 years ago, Soleman has been driven by a desire to move beyond the difficult life of being a refugee. “There are jobs if you want to work [in Egypt], but it depends on you,” she added. Egypt is a signatory to the Geneva Convention for Refugees, but it bans them from seeking lawful employment, posing a survival challenging for the refugees. [Middle East Online]

1 comment to HEADLINES: Refugees

  • Jennifer Doherty

    Hello, This is such an excellent article,

    So if an island nation is submerged beneath the ocean, does it maintain its membership in the United Nations? Who is responsible for the citizens? Do they travel on its passport? Who claims and enforces offshore mineral and fishing rights in waters around a submerged nation? International law currently has no answers to such questions.

    United Nations Ambassador Phillip Muller of the Marshall Islands said there is no sense of urgency to find not only those answers, but also to address the causes of climate change, which many believe to be responsible for rising ocean levels.

    “Even if we reach a legal agreement sometime soon, which I don’t think we will, the major players are not in the process,” Muller said.

    Those players, the participants said, include industrial nations such as the United States and China that emit the most carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases. Many climate scientists say those gases are responsible for global warming. Mary-Elena Carr of Columbia University’s Earth Institute said what is now an annual sea level rise of a few millimeters will increase dramatically by the year 2100. “The biggest challenge is to preserve their nationality without a territory,” said Bogumil Terminski from the University of Geneva. International legal experts are discovering climate change law, and the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is a case in point: The Polynesian archipelago is doomed to disappear beneath the ocean. Now lawyers are asking what sort of rights citizens have when their homeland no longer exists.
    t present, however, there appear to be at least three possibilities that could advance the international debate about ‘climate refugee’ protections and fill existing gaps in international law.

    The first option is to revise the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees to include climate (or environmental) refugees and to offer legal protections similar to those for refugees fleeing political persecution. A second, more ambitious option is to negotiate a completely new convention, one that would try to guarantee specific rights and protections to climate or environmental ‘refugees`.

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