Refugee Rights News






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July 17, 2014

“It is a joke”. Ongoing conflict and controversies over "return" in Sudan's Darfur region

(17 July 2014) The International Refugee Rights Initiative released a new report today,"'It is a joke'. Ongoing conflict and controversies over 'return' in Sudan's Darfur region". The report brings the voices of the displaced to light, documenting their experiences around the controversial issue of return. It reveals that although the security situation in Darfur remains precarious, internally displaced people (IDPs) are coming under increasing pressure by the government of Sudan to leave the camps.

Although some of the displaced are returning, they are doing so in small numbers and in highly precarious circumstances. They are making rational choices, but they are doing so in a context of almost impossible odds. It is clear, therefore, that return is failing to take place in anything akin to “voluntarily, in safety and with dignity”, as required by the UN Guiding Principles.

Since the current conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region began in 2003, an estimated three million people have been displaced. Darfur may have faded from media headlines, but conflict and displacement have continued, and is now again on the increase. Over 300,000 have been displaced since the start of 2014, in part because former Janjaweed fighters, re-equipped and re-hatted as the government’s Rapid Support Force (RSF), have gone on the offensive.

The report, based on interviews with 119 individuals across the five states of Darfur, shows that despite the ongoing violence, people are moving to their villages temporarily or permanently. Those who are returning describe their motivation in terms of worsening conditions in the camps and reported numerous difficulties and dangers upon return.

This “return” – or rather the movement of displaced persons within Darfur – was described as happening in several ways.

Read the full press release.
Read the full paper. (In Arabic).


July 3, 2014

IRRI Submits Evidence on UK and International Engagement with South Sudan

On 3 July 2014 IRRI submitted a statement to the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Sudan and South Sudan in response to a call for written evidence into “UK and International Engagement with South Sudan 2011-2014. While mindful of the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan that unequivocally deserves the attention of the international community, our intervention urges the UK government to ensure that it maintains its focus on the crucial demands of state-building in the world's newest state.

As the statement argues, if there is only an emergency response to the current situation without sufficient attention being paid to longer-term reconstruction, cycles of violence and displacement will remain unbroken and humanitarian assistance will be palliative.

Read the full submission here.


June 20, 2014

The Role of Citizenship in Addressing Refugee Crises in Africa’s Great Lakes Region

(20 June 2014) On the occasion of World Refugee Day, the International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) is launching a paper aimed at policy makers dealing with refugees. Based on nine case studies across the region carried out by IRRI over six years, it contends that the framework of citizenship can contribute positively to a better understanding of, and better policy responses to, forced displacement in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

In the context of the paper, citizenship is understood both as access to legal citizenship, and more broadly as a recognition of the right of a person to belong in a community and the power of that acceptance/belonging as a means of accessing other rights. While there are many causes of political conflict and displacement in the region, unequal or inadequate access to citizenship has been a major contributing cause.

Not only has the failure to ensure inclusive citizenship contributed to displacement, but it has also made it harder to resolve. Exclusive understandings of national citizenship limit refugees' access to citizenship in host states and inhibit local integration. The regional adoption of refugee policies that focus on encampment in isolated areas further undermine a refugee’s right to belong – these policies send a strong message that refugees cannot live as equals to the citizens of their country of exile and can only belong in a limited geographic space deprived of freedom of movement. At the same time, the continued operation of these exclusionary policies has made return “home” impossible for many.

This paper, therefore, makes a series of recommendations for how a deeper understanding of the connections between citizenship and displacement can be integrated into policy responses to displacement that will allow for more sustainable solutions.

Read the full paper here.


April 2, 2014

Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home

"We could not wait for our dead bodies to be found first"

(Kampala, 2 April 2014) Nearly a quarter of a million South Sudanese have fled to neighbouring countries, with Uganda taking the largest number – around 87,000. The International Refugee Rights Initiative's report, Conflict in South Sudan: Refugees seek protection in Uganda and a way home explores the immediate predicament facing these recently arrived refugees, and the longer-term implications for peace and security in South Sudan.

The report draws on interviews with Ugandan officials and refugees reflecting on the cause of their displacement. Those interviewed were adamant that the current crisis was a result of a major failure of governance in the country: “[t]his conflict is about politics. It is about greed for power.” They also talked about ethnicity being instrumentalised and manipulated by those in positions of power in order to create “sides” in a fight for control: “...this conflict is not ethnic. The problem is leadership and democracy.”

These refugees, most of whom had been displaced during the previous war in Sudan, are again living in camps in exile in precarious circumstances. They are afraid for their own security and are lacking adequate healthcare, with the humanitarian crisis growing by the day:  “[w]e had to look for safety as soon as possible and Uganda was the place because we had been here before.” said one refugee woman. The fact that many are not strangers to displacement reinforces the tragedy that is unfolding, creating a terrible sense of déjà vu for those who had returned to South Sudan, full of optimism, leading up to and after independence. 

Read the full report here.


January 2014

Comparison of the Kampala Convention and the IDP Protocol of the Great Lakes Pact

The Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Africa – the Kampala Convention – was adopted by the African Union (AU) Heads of State Special Summit in Kampala, Uganda, on 23 October 2009. It is the first independent legally binding regional instrument in the world to impose on states the obligation to protect and assist IDPs.

The Convention entered into force on 6 December 2012, after having been ratified by 15 African countries. Since then, on-going efforts to ensure additional ratifications have brought Angola, Malawi, Mali and Rwanda on board.

The Protocol on the Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons – the IDP Protocol – was signed as part of the Pact on Security, Stability and Development in the Great Lakes Region by the Heads of State and Government of eleven member states3 on 15 December 2006, under the auspices of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR). All member states have ratified the Pact, of which the IDP Protocol is a part.

Read more. (En français)