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/* Written May 12 11:30am 1995 by uneoo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
on igc:soc.culture.burma */
/* -------------" ADELAIDE VOICES: DEC'94/JAN'95 "----------- */

[Adelaide Voices is some kind of activist news journal which
most contributors found to be social justice/human rights
advocates. A copy of AV can be ordered from Adelaide Voices,
PO Box 6042, Halifax Street, South Australia 5000.]

(by Dr U Ne Oo -- Dr U Ne Oo is a Burmese refugee campaigning for
human rights.)

The outflow of thousands of Hutu refugees from Rwanda pouring
into neighbouring Zaire has shed some light on thenature and
meaning of refugees: refugees are people who have fled from
persecution and violence.

Most of the refugee movements around the world and the
underlying rood causes for their flight, however, are not
necessarily as obvious. While the public media usually focus on
the most sensational aspects such as extremen violence, the
movements of 18.2 million refugees today are hardly as

The public perception of refugees, in large measure, is that
they try to escape poverty and seek to enjoy asylum in richer

Such perceptions have little credibility when examining the true
statistics of poverty and refugees: there are more than one
billion people living in absolute poverty worldwide who have not
become refugees. Furthermore, most of today's refugees reside in
their neighbouring countries whose local residents also live in

The root couses of the flights of refugees have been varied:
armed conflicts, generalised violence, gross and persistence
violation of human rights, repression of minorities and the
violence entailed in the breakdown of law and order.

There are anxieties in national governments that the granting of
temporary asylum and giving humane treatment to refugees may
encourage more refugees to enter their territory. Furthermore,
such alien populations are vilnerable to being manipulated as
scapegoats and targeted for persecution by political groups
which are seeking public support.

The national governments normally justified the inhuman
treatment to refugees as a necessary deterrent element. A
deprivation of food and basic necessities are often made as a
means to discourage the refugees' stay in their territory.

The international community therefore needs to give attention to
such incidents and advocate that the treatment to refugees and
asylum seekers be as humane as possible.

When refugees return to their home countries, the logistic
support of the international community is the most crucial
element in the success of such an operation. Since these
refugees usually return to an environment of continuing social
and political strife, ongoing moral support and attention to
their situation is necessary.

Successful reintegration programs require financial support. The
assistance to refugees in the repatriation programs is normally
inadequate an has often been described as "the cooking pot and
hand shake".

The financial support to rebuild the communities and life of the
refugees is useful not only for short term but also for long
term stability.

The community attitude to these refugee crises normally is
sympathetic, but lacks understanding of the underlying root
causes, such as human rights situations. It is therefore
necessary to support and join human rights organisations such as
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to help in
resolving the problems.

Only when human rights are respected in those refugee producing
countries, will there be an end to the refugee problem.

/* -------------------------------------------- */

(by Dr Robyn Grove -- Dr Robyn Grove is external relations
officer with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in
Sydney )

Mass migration and the movement of refugees are both a symptom
and a cause of the turmoil in the world today. It is estimated
that in 1994 up to 80 million people are on the move for a
multitude of reasons: as economic migrants, guest workers,
internally displaced persons who are the victims of conflict ,
famine or drought and refugees.

Refugees, currently thought to number 20 million, move for very
specific reasons which distinguish them from other migrants.
They flee from their homelands in fear of losing their lives or

Today nearly 15,000 people a day become refugees; one in every
120 people in the face of the earth has been forced into flight.
Nearly four million people from the former Yugoslavia have come
to depend on international emergency assistance since late 1991,
when the horrific term "ethnic cleansing" entered our
vocabularies. One tenth of Somalia's entire population is
outside its borders, also kept alive by international aid.

Half a million Liberians have received similar life-sustaining
assistance since 1990. New upheavals continue to drive out new
victims: last year 280,000 fled political repression in Togo;
500,000 were uprooted by the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan;
60,000 from the clan-based struggle for power in Tahikistan and
100,000 from ethnic strife in Bhutan.

In 1994, as the wourld watched in horror, two million Rwandese
fled genocide to become refugees. Those who do not cross the
borders of their country for whatever reason, are known as
internally displaced persons. They are currently numbered at 25

The situation of the world's refugees is not entirely one of
unbroken gloom. Sometimes conflicts subside and it is possible
for refugees to return home and to pick pu the pieces of their
lives. In 1993, 3 million refugees did so, including inn our own
region, 360,000 Cambodians who had been living in exile on the
Thai border for more than a decade. Almost 2 million Afghans
returned home in 1993. Currently more than 1.3 million
Mozambicans are returning home from 6 African countries.

Meanwhile othefr solutions continue to be found for refugees
unable to repatriate. Significant - if much smaller - number
have been either to integrate permanently in the countries where
they first sought asylum or to resettle in third countries where
they have begun new lives.

The total number of refugees continues relentlessly to grow. Teh
international framework for meeting the needs of these people,
which includes the Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is being stretch to meet the
new demands of larger and more complex refugee situations. It
has at its core a simple but powerful commitment: refugees must
be protected and helped towards a lasting solution to their

Today, the problems of refugees raise not only humanitarian and
human rights concerns but also fundamental issues of
international peace and security.

The four major root causes of refugee outflows are now well

1. Politics
At base, this is persecution based on who a refugee is (race,
nationality, membership of particular social group) or what he
or she believes (religion or political opinion). Persecution
usually takes place in the context of fundamental political
disputes over who controls the state, how society organises
itself and who commands the power and privilege that go with
political control.

These disputes often erupt during periods of intense change,
when entire social classes or ethnic groups may be perceived to
hold political opinions in opposition to the state (the
professsional classes in Cambodia under Pol Pot or the Kurds in
Iraq under Saddam Hussein).

A recent and alarming trend is for the majority of the refugee
producing conflicts in the world to take places within states
rather than between them (Mozambique, Afghanistan, Bosnia and
Herzegovina, Rwanda).

Weak states are especially prone to internal violence, lacking
as they often do, representative political institutions,
credible mechanisms for resolving conflicts peacefully,
impartial law enforcement or free elections.

The vast majority of refugees today, as in te past, are fleeing
not from targeted acts of individual persecution but from
generalised violence that endangers civilians and radically
disrupts everyday life.

2.  Economics
Poverty inevitably compounds ethnic and communal tensions, with
minority groups often providing convenient targets. More than
one billion people worldwide live in absolute poverty. Economic
deprivation is a major factor in the instibility of conflict
situations which produce refugees.

When the conditions of dialy life, precarious to begin with, are
disrupted by war, the ensuing famine and disease often become
greater threats to the population then the fighting itself
(Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia).

3. Environment
Millions of people have been forced to leave their homes because
the land on which they live has become unihabitable or is no
longer able to support them. In some cases, the cause is natural
disaster; in others, the catastrophe is caused by humans. The
disruptin to habitat may be sudden (Chernobyl or Mt Pinatubo) or
as gradual as the spresding of a desert or the retreat of a

The terminology for describing enviranmentally induced migration
is controversial. People displaced by enviranmental degradation
or natural disaster need help, ideally from their own
government. They do not necessarily require the kind of
international protection implied in the word "refugee".

Occasionally, the destruction of habitat can equate with
persecution - if it occurs as the result of deliberate
governmental action or gross negiligence and no effort is made
to assist or compensate the victims.

In extreme cases, forexample in Iraqui Kurdistan, destruction of
a habitat may be used as a deliberate weapon of war. Long-term
strategies of prevention should address environmental damege as
a potential contributor to refugee flows.

4. Ethnic tensions
Conflicts between ethnic groups have proliferated in recent
years. Armenia and Azerbihan, Bhutan, Burma, Ethiopia, Georgia,
Iraq, Sri Lanka, Sudan and former Yugoslavia are examples. The
190 or so independent states currently in existence contain at
least 5000 ethnic groups. Predictably they do not always live
together harmoniously.

Ethnic tensions can be seen as a root cause of refugee flows for
two reasons. First, they are highly suspectible to political
exploitation. Second, in extremen nationalistic regimes, a
minority ethnic group can be seen as an obstacle to
nation-building, incapable of fitting into a hemegeneous
national identitu (e.g. ethnic Albanians and Bosnian Moslems in
conflict with "greater Serbia"). Members of the minority group
may be exposed to discrimination, forced assimilation,
persecution, expulsion or even genocide.

Coerced departure is a violation of the human right to remain
peacefully in one's home. In Iraq, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Myanmar, Gautemala and Rawanda, human rights violations -
enforced military conscription, arbitrary arrest, detention
without trial, torture, rape and murder - have been at the core
of major humanitarian emergencies.

The refugee's need for protection arises from the violation of
his or her rights combined with his or her home government's
failure to defend its citizens against such violations. This
failure by government is now frequently, and correctly, seen as
a threat to international peace and security.

The would's twenty million refugees are part of a complex
migratory phenomenon. Global migration proceeds across a
specturm of motivation ranging from  those fleeing persecution
and serious danger, to those trying to escape misery and those
who wish to leave behind a lack of opportuinty.

The most privileged move for reasons of personal preference.
Others flee for their lives. The distinction between refugees
and economic migrants is most difficult to distinguish when
people flee from countries where poverty is perpetuated through
the political system.

The line between the voluntary migrant and the refugee is often
a fine one. Yet it is important for states to be able to make
the distinction in a fair and consistent manner so that people
who need asylum are granted it, and so that the protection
system for refugees is not overwhelmed with economically
motivated migrants.