Forcibly displaced: trapped between the hammer of armed conflict and the anvil of international inaction

 

We hear every day about a wave of forced displacement within the borders of a country or beyond, or the sinking of a boat crowded with asylum seekers, or the arrest of a group of asylum seekers or sending them back to face their fate! Whatever the means of transport or route and destination, perhaps it is always the best of bad options, chosen by people not for a picnic, but forcibly, after being denied their basic rights and had nothing left but to cling to their right to life. The journey of forced displacement is always risky, and many of those who are fleeing the conflict do not reach safety.

 

This is how 2013 entered the list of the worst years in terms of the pace of displacement and the number of displaced people around the world and the highest since the early nineties. More than six million people were forced to leave their homes and possessions, and nearly a third of them have resorted to other countries, while the rest were displaced within the borders of their home countries according to the statistics of the High Commissioner of the United Nations for Refugees for the first six months of 2013. By the beginning of 2014 and with the ongoing armed conflict in Syria and the low probability of it coming to end soon, the total number of people who have been displaced within the country or fled abroad since the beginning of the conflict exceeded 9.3 million, while Syria’s population was estimated at 22.4 million.

 

Syria had hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees over the past decades before the start of the conflict in 2011 and before its spaces became narrower for them and its own citizens. The current waves of forced displacement in the Middle East, came to add on the chronic problem of Palestinian refugees - which did not find its way to a permanent settlement after more than 60 years - and to affect and be affected by it.

 

More than half the Palestinian refugees in Syria, who number more than 550,000, were displaced inside the country while more than 100,000 fled to other countries according to the statistics of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. It should be noted that many of the Palestinian refugees have faced great difficulties in entering neighboring countries - especially those which already host Palestinian refugees - or stay in these countries. It is perhaps ironic that clinging to the right of return came to be the foundation stone for justifications put forward by some governments for restricting the entry of Palestinians.

 

Responding to the requirements of displaced persons and refugees require an international stance towards the suffering of millions of people trapped in the cycle of conflict in Syria and the neighborhood, and serious action to protect their rights at a time when the death toll exceeded 100,000; a stance still short of sending a clear and serious message to all parties to the conflict, to respect minimum human rights standards and refrain from targeting civilians or imposing blockade on entire regions in order to starve the population, a form of collective punishment, or to resort to tactics such as forced displacement and forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, as it was short of responding to the largest humanitarian appeal in UN history, which was only 70% funded by the end of 2013.

 

In the absence of effective remedies for the causes of the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, and putting an end to human rights violations and impunity, fighting renewed there in early 2013 in the worst  wave of violence since years. More than 30,000 people were forced to flee the country and enter eastern Chad to join nearly 250,000 Darfuri refugees who have already spent the past decade there after fleeing the ravages of the conflict, living under ongoing scarcity of resources necessary to secure their needs and basic rights as refugees. The situation gets more tragic in Darfur region, where the number of displaced persons since the beginning of the conflict exceeded the threshold of two million, because of the constraints imposed by Sudan to restrict access to the region.

 

This issue of Mawared sheds light on the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons. It also provides an overview on the situation and the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in various countries: displaced people in Syria and the Syrian refugees and the Palestinians in the neighboring countries, the policies pursued by Israel towards refugee and displaced Palestinians, the displaced in Darfur and taking refuge in Chad, refugees in Israel, Iran, Libya and Egypt. The issue also provides a selection of legal documents and electronic resources on the subject of refugees and internally displaced persons.

 

Mazen Jaber

Human Rights Education Information Officer

Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa- Amnesty International




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