Internal Displacement and Statelessness; the theory and practice
Internal Displacement and Statelessness; the theory and practice
The Refugee Convention of 1951 defines the term ‘refugee’ in words that are very much self-explanatory when it says that a refugee is an individual who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
The people who have to flee their homes and sometimes their countries face challenges that are not always simple to cope up with. Not only do they leave behind all of their wealth and resources, they also have to quit on their cultural practices, habits and their statuses in the society just because when moving to another country, they have to live as a minority, and they no longer have the same legal protection that they might have enjoyed in their own homeland. These are a few reasons why it is essential that we take responsibility for the resettlement of every individual that has to leave his/her home and settle in a foreign environment especially when that person is forced out of his/her own state as opposed to leaving by choice. Another drawback that these refugees have to deal with is that in many cases, they do not have the option to return to their homes and resume their lives from where they left off.
Following the Second World War, the Refugee convention was originally drawn up for the benefit of personnel who were escaping their homes following events that took place on January 1, 1951, in the European continent. After being extensively improved upon, the convention expanded its focus universally to include all the people who were feeling their homes. The laws of the convention in its present state present us with the minimum standards that require adherence to when it comes to the treatment of refugees. The rights that have been granted to the refugees all across the world under the Refugee Convention include the rights to have access to courts, to basic education facilities, to be furnished with all the documents that required for the refugees to live in another state in peace and to have access to work. The convention does not, however, extend these rights to people who there are serious reasons to believe may be involved in wars of crime against humanity, or in crimes against politics, or to people who may be found guilty of the acts that may present opposition to the efforts of the United Nations. The convention also does not include individuals who enjoy citizenship or equivalent status in the country where they seek asylum.
The Determination of Refugee Status (RSD)
Individuals, however, could only be afforded access to the rights that we discussed above if they pass through the process of Refugee Status Determination or RSD. This is a legal and an administrative process that is being employed by not just the UNHCR but also a number of governments to determine whether or not a person fits the persona of a refugee. Through the year 2013, the UNHCR registered a shockingly handsome number of refugees that stood at 203,200 people during that year alone. Only in 2012, the number was only as small as 125,500.
The flawed implementation of the Refugee Convention
All of these efforts on the parts of the International personnel were very optimistic when we compare theory to an actual situation which could pretty much be described as a failure on the part of these international organizations including the UN. This is because when the time came when the people of Rwanda needed assistance following the issue of the genocide in the country, and the international authorities were not able to provide that. So despite the fact that there was, in fact, a refugee resettlement program negotiated, the authorities failed to pull through on its implementation. There were three groups that had formed through the grievance in the country, and none of these groups were granted the relief that they had been promised. So rather than implementing the agreements that had already been settled on with the government, the UN official found themselves overwhelmed by the refugees that fled their country following the assassination of the Burundi president.
The responses of the UN authorities following the war seem even graver of injustice when we look into the reaction of the same authorities following the war in the former Yugoslavia. So while there may have been flaws in the way the UNHCR approached the situation in the former Yugoslavia, they did, in fact, reach there soon after the uprising commenced. And even within this situation, the UN had taken an approach that was not well thought through. (Anderson, 1995, p.i) Getting back to the point, the international authorities differ in their reaction, and there is no telling their reaction to any particular uprising in the future because the authorities apparently do not react well to a situation that overwhelms.
Who are Internally Displaced people?
We can see that there are a number of international organizations including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and also a number of NGO’s that have been safeguarding the constantly struggling for the protection of the rights of refugees. The situation for Internally Displaced Person, however, can become tricky sometimes, and this is why we are going to discuss the problems that they mostly encounter versus how well we think we are solving those problems for them.
The definition of IDP’s that we generally recognize as the UN definition describes the people that fit into this category as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.” When looking for differences in between refugees and internally displaced people, the greatest one is evident from the definition which is that refugees do not actually cross international borders.
The rights of the Internally Displaced Persons
Even though there is no internationally recognized instrument that protects the rights of the Internally Displaced Persons, during the year 1998 however, the UN General Assembly and the UNHCR studied the guiding principles that addressed the plight of these IDPs. So they may not be a medium that is binding, it is still a medium that had been extended extensive support in the International Community. A few of the requirements of these guiding principles highlight what basic rights should be extended to those that have been displaced internally. One of such requirements is that which says that no individual is to be displaced forcibly, and this right extends to displacement both within and beyond the border. Another one of the rights highlighted require for these IDPs to be treated humanely, and this is to be no discrimination against them once they are displaced. These principles also state that the persons displaced will have the right to live life with dignity that right shall not be infringed in any way whatsoever. (Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, 2010, p.1)
Other rights that have been extended to these IDPs include the right to life standards including quality health, hygiene and nutrition conditions, the right to live as a family unit, the entitlement to be registered and to be furnished with the necessary documentation. These principles also forbid that these displaced persons be recruited into the armed forces through the use of force and without proper consent from them. (Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law, 2010, p.1)
How can policies help improve the living conditions of IDP’s
Apart from addressing the matter of sovereignty, there is also a terrible need for us to work out international standards for dealing with the issue as a single unit. There have already been many efforts that have been initiated by the various UN agencies and also a number of NGO’s where they have used these international principles to advocate for and protect the rights of the IDPs with the intention of empowering them. (Cohen R. , 2006, p.115)
The Internal Protection Act; an excuse to escape responsibility
The International Protection Act (IPA) is based on the idea that where a refugee has a safe place within the country to relocate to, he/she cannot be treated as a refugee and, therefore, would not be afforded the rights that a refugee should have. This was a rule that had exploited many of the rights that the international authorities make efforts towards extending to people who have been forced out of their houses. This issue holds great significance because there were a number of women who were the victims of domestic violence in Pakistan and they were refused to be treated as refugees in the United Kingdom purely based on the excuse that they had the option to relocate within the country. (Ghrainne, 2015, p.127)
So when on one hand, the UN guarantees that the people who have been displaced will be provided all of the right that they should be given and where they build laws that can guarantee those rights, Acts such as these present loopholes to escape the responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the International community. This is a weakness that requires attention, and this is a loophole that is making all of the efforts moot in practice.
Who are Stateless people and what are the problems that they have been facing?
The understanding of the term Statelessness has to come from another key term which is Nationality. Nationality could be described as any individual’s status as fitting the membership of any particular state and in also involves the benefit of legal benefits that the state that the individual belongs to offers. Stateless people are the ones that are not privy to this membership of affliction with any state in particular and the condition that such a person faces a disadvantage from is termed as ‘Statelessness’. (Kohki, 2010, p.7)
People in a number of cases become stateless through no faults of their own and the factors that may lead to this statelessness may include the dissolving and the reforming a country’s border, unwillingly giving up one country’s nationality and not getting the nationality of another of being born outside of wedlock to parents whom both belong to varying nationalities. Since these people have no country of their own, they are considered refugees no matter where they go. (Kohki, 2010, p.4)
Statelessness is a source of major concern for us. As per the recorded research that is present with the UNHCR, there are close to 12 million people in the world who are stateless. This is an issue that has not seen very much of the spotlight over time and for this very reason, the stateless people are also known as the ‘forgotten people.' (Kohki, 2010, p.4) These are the people that go through many problems because they have no citizenship, and so they could find it very difficult to go through life normally. These people may find it difficult to go through normal legal procedures, are likely to face trouble in gaining access to identification documents, and they may not even have access to the authorities because of their status. (Kohki, 2010, p.4)
The stateless people: the victims of deprivation of Rights
There were a number of treaties that had attempted to protect the rights of the minorities, the stateless people included, but when it came down to the execution of these treaties, the world has always failed to provide refuge to the stateless. The term ‘Stateless’ itself implied that the person in question had no refuge and the protection of their government no longer applied to them. The problem and the intensity of it are clear from the sole fact that there are hardly any statistics when it comes to people who have no homeland to call their own and let's not forget through no fault of their own. So while there are about 1 million stateless people that are actually ‘recognized’, there are also more than 10 million de facto meaning people who are actually stateless but are not defined as such under the law. (Ardent, 1961, p.279)
It has been a very long time since we have been addressing a number of issues in parity with one another even despite the realization that the issues like refugees, statelessness and IDPs may be similar to one another, but the problems that every group faces can never be the same. The stateless people have been addressed as the forgotten people because there is little we have been doing for them. This is because when we deal with statelessness under the general umbrella of the issue of refugees, the people who are stateless become a minority and consequently are not considered as important. This trend calls for a change in approach on our parts.
In order to deal with each of these problems effectively, we have to free them from general definitions and each issue should be dealt with as a separate one. There should be separate laws and treaties governing the problem of IDPs, and they should in no way link back to the regulations that concern refugees. There are not as many stateless people in the world as there are refugees, and if the issue is dealt with as a distinct concept, we could achieve a great deal of success in getting these people the right to legal protection and belonging. It might also become easier for us to study the issues that lead to people becoming stateless and pondering over what could be done to prevent them from happening in the future.
List of References
Advisory Service on International Humanitarian Law. (2010). Internally Displaced Persons and International Humanitarian Law. ICRC.
Anderson, D. (1995). The UN's role in the former Yugoslavia: A Failure of the Middle Way. Parliamentary Research Service .
Ardent, H. (1961). The Origins of Totalitarianism. Cleveland: The World Publishing Company.
Cohen, R. (2006). Developing an International System for Internally Displaced Persons. International Studies Perspectives, 87-101.
Ghrainne, B. N. (2015). The Internal Protection Alternative Inquiry and Human Rights Considérations - Irrelevant or Indispensable? International journal of Refugee Law, 126-141.
Kohki, A. (April 2010). Overview of Statelessness:International and Japanese Context. Yokohama: UNHCR.
Norwegian Refugee Council. (n.d.). A Definition of Internally Displaced Persons. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from Workforce Humanity: http://workforcehumanity.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Defining-IDPs-NRC.pdf
UNHCR. (n.d.). Flowing Across Borders. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from The UN Refugee Agency: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html
UNHCR. (n.d.). Refugee Status Determination. Retrieved March 30, 2016, from The UN Refugee Agency: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a16b1d06.html
United Nations High Commission for Refugees. (2010, December). Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Retrieved from UNHCR: http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html
United States Holocaust Museum. (n.d.). The Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Before the Genocide: Part I. Retrieved March 31, 2016, from USHMM: https://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/cases/rwanda/turning-points/the-rwandan-refugee-crisis-part-i