Should refugees be given protection in a foreign nation as per the international laws and treated on par with the citizens of a particular nation?

During the World War, the rights of the refugees were frequently abused as there was no reliable agency or laws to manage their status.   Refugees led a miserable life and were often tortured.  Even today refugees in several parts of the world suffer in their home nation due to ignorance by the international community.   The UNHCR was an international organization founded by the UN in the1950’s to help in rehabilitating the refugee.  As per the UN Refugee Convention of 1951, refugees should be offered rights as per the international laws and should not be forced back into the original nation as their lives would be at stake.   In all cases, the reason for seeking refugee status should be considered and given due respect (Burma Library, 1996).

The UNHCR gives a lot of importance to refuges.  It considers the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 in certain conditions and gives criteria regarding management of refugees.   The UNHCR respects the feelings of the refugees for not getting back to their home nation due to the fear that they may suffer due to differences in religion, caste, ethnic group, nationality, etc.   The word refugee is often used by the UNHCR to suggest not only war situations, in which a certain group of people may be displaced, but also internal disturbances or freedom struggles (UNHCR, 2007).   The OAU Convention of 1969 and the Cartagena Declaration have expanded the term of ‘refugees’ to include not only war situations but other ones.  The International community has given a lot of respect to the refugees in protecting their needs and their rights (UNHCR, 2007).  They also help the refugees to lead a new life in a new nation as they may fear to return to their original nation.   The UNHCR considers that they may be no reason for another state not to offer protection for refugees.  However, it is not a migration agent, and would only ensure that refugees get some amount of protection in a foreign nation they are seeking asylum (UNHCR, 2007).   Frequently, there may be certain situations considered to be immigrant rather than refugee.  The UNHCR has set certain criteria to ensure that nations can make out the differences between immigrants who try to enter a nation in the name of leading a better life and those that enter a nation merely to seek protection of their lives.   This has to some extent helped to reduce instances of people seeking refugee status.

The influx of both refugees and immigrants from one country to another is known as ‘mixed movements’.   This has in fact blurred the reputation of refugees who try to seek help from another country.  However, the press, the Government and the people have been unable to make a distinction between refugees and non-refugees (UNHCR, 2007).   The UNHCR feels that for example, certain restrictive measures can be universally applied, and hence prevent people from smuggling or trafficking banned substances (Kelley ; Durieux).   Many people feel that the UNHCR’s strategy in protecting international refugees has been successful.  However, the UNHCR has also faced certain problems with relation to refugee protection.   In certain situations, the UNHCR has applied solutions to tackle this problem.  The refugees often require a comprehensive plan to meet their needs.   The UNHCR has been able to bring put such a plan.  Multilateral cooperation and agreements would certainly help to improve the situation of refugees (Kelley & Durieux).   The number of refugees and people who are displaced due to internal problems is about 50 million.  They may belong to several nationalities including Palestine, Tibetan, Indian Muslims, Sri Lankan, Nepalese, Indonesian, Iraqi, Iranian, Kurdish, etc (Bello, 2003).  The refugee groups continue to face several problems in the foreign nation.   They are not given chances of getting employed and earning a livelihood, nor are allowed to ensure proper education for their children.

Violence, terror, disasters and disease is a common problem that affects the refugee camps ( Bello, 2003).  Another problem that is commonly faced by humanitarian aides that is given for the refugee camps is that the supplies meant for them are frequently looted or misused.   Women too experience a number of problems.  Some of the common problems faced by women include gender discrimination, violence, sexual abuse, trafficking, infection with STD’s, unreasonable abduction, etc ( Bello, 2003).  Internally displaced refugees should be ensured certain rights, and in case their rights have been violated by the government, protection as per international laws should be ensured.   The UN has set up a verification unit in Guatemala to ensure that the rights of the internally displaced refugees are not violated.  During an internal struggle, there would be many groups or fractions which would be fighting with the elected government for power.   Usually, there should be a common understanding between the government and various groups to protect civilians and refugees.  This kind of mutual understanding should have prime focus and should be implemented by all means.   Several international agencies such as the officials of the UNHCR should be invited as observers to ensure that the rights of the refugees are not violated.   The government should be able to help the internally displaced refugees, economically and should also ensure that they are allowed to resettle and receive compensation for their property (Bello, 2003).   However, in most cases, the rights of the internally displaced refugees would be violated.  In many situations, the internally displaced would not like to demand enforcement of their rights.

They prefer to remain silent and suffer as they fear that it would trigger violence.  For long periods of time, these refugees are virtually forgotten by the rest of the world.   Many internal ethnic groups of several countries are discriminated by the government and majority groups (Bello, 2003).  Many of these internal groups face several brutalities such as torture, death, disappearance, violence against women, etc.   In the past, the UNHCR has acted as an intermediary in ensuring that the internally displaced refugees can exercise their rights and can return to normal (Bello, 2003).   The UN ensured that an agreement between the Guatemala Government and rebel groups was signed allowing the internally displaced to exercise their rights.  They were also permitted to return to their communities.   Many of the people who required resettlement and compensation for their lost property were also provided.  This was ensured through the handwork and the sincere efforts of the UNHCR.   The process of rehabilitation of the refugees in Guatemala was very slow, as about 250, 000 civilians required help.  Two kinds of refugees required help in Guatemala, collective refugees who were in community groups and those groups of unorganized people.  Many of these people fled to forest and rural areas (Fitigu, 2005).   The Government considered such people to flee from the law and hence attacked them.  In the forest areas, military processes were common, and the refugees lost their lives due to attacks.   Many refugees also migrated to urban areas to seek jobs.  However, such individuals were frequently discriminated.   Through the 1996 peace talks, the refugees were guaranteed a resettlement program.  The Government slowly began to look into the specific requirements of the refugee communities.   Many of the international organizations were permitted into Guatemala to observe the refugee rehabilitation program and ensure that the funds were utilized in an appropriate manner.   They also ensured that the refugees were allowed to exercise their basic rights as per international standards (Fitigu, 2005).

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Refugees frequently misuse international borders and cross them without any consideration, thus selectively choosing the nations they would like to seek asylum.   Canada and the US recently signed a Safe Third Country Agreement to ensure that the US-Canadian borders were modified in such a way that asylum seekers could be helped (Macklin, 2003).   According to this agreement, an individual claiming to be a refugee and seeking asylum would be permitted protection in the first nation of arrival once he/she gets to the port of entry located at the border of these two countries (Macklin, 2003).   Hence, any individual who enters Canada seeking asylum would be deflected back into Canada and not allowed to pass into the US at the international border.  The US or Canada would be providing refugee status to the individual as per the 1951 UN convention and the 1961 Protocol.  The Canadian and the US Government have incorporated the specifications of these two Conventions into their national laws.   The Agreement changed the manner in which the border between US and Canada functions.  This Agreement was specifically imposed following the 9/11 attacks (Macklin, 2003).   The main reason for implementation of this Agreement is to prevent the asylum seeker from selectively choosing the country they would be seeking asylum.   The agreement is purposely drafted in such a way that it is very narrow in its approach and cannot be applied when the asylum seeker moves from the US to Canada or visa-versa through the airport.  The agreement is also prospective in nature.  This law ensures that once an asylum-seeker arrives into one of these countries, he would be awarded refugee status.   The laws do not permit US or Canada to send back the refugee to their host nation.  This ensures that a person in need would be given adequate protection (United States and Canada Safe Third Country Agreement, 2002).   The US and Canada has followed some of the nations in the European Union who have specifically drafted such laws.

Many other nations are looking into the US-Canada Agreement to make similar laws that can effectively curb such security issues and at the same time ensure that the refugees in need are given adequate amount of protection.   The US is looking to make similar agreements with other nations regarding refugee management.  Both the US and the Canadian Security Boards are sharing vital data such as fingerprint information with each other ( United States and Canada Safe Third Country Agreement, 2002).  The Dublin Convention is a similar agreement signed by the European nations to manage the movement of refugees between the European borders.   The Agreement between the US and Canada is usually applied over the land borders, because it would be more difficult to monitor the movement of the refugees through land than civil aviation.   The US and the Canadian rules regarding refugee management have been harmonized following this agreement.  The Agreement also ensures that the Refugees are not sent back to their home nation in any case, as this would be violation of international refugee laws.   The refugees are given protection in the country of arrival.  To some extent, the agreement between the US and Canada would act as a security measure and prevent uncontrolled movements of people across the border.   However, if a refugee is not satisfied with the level of protection he/she is offered in one country, he may be further denied help by preventing their movement into the other country.   This could be a limitation of this Agreement (United States and Canada Safe Third Country Agreement, 2002).

There is an inherent fear that refugees could be harboring small arms, and this could be a threat to the host nation security.   The home nation has the responsibility of protecting refugees as per the international criteria laid down by the UNHCR.  On one hand, the host nation plays the role of protector and on the other hand, it also has the responsibility of preventing any violence that may result from arms and ammunition harbored by the refugees.   The refugees may harbor weapons as they may feel more secure with these objects.  The refugee camps located in war zones and regions of conflict especially face this kind of a problem.   Many of the refugee camps are targeted by the host nation to carry out an array of activities including sending the refugee into their enemy territory to create instability.   Cross-border activities are especially carried out in several regions of the world including Pakistan, Rwanda, Thailand, Sudan, etc.  Many host nations arrange training camps in the refugee quarters and encourage insurgency of these refugees to cause destruction across the borders.

Besides, the hatred of the refugees against their home nation (which has displaced their lives), may be a driving force to create problems back in that nation.   The international community has not looked into this problem of the wrongful militarization of refugee camps.  This can often be an issue of regional and international crisis (Forced Migration, 2007).   Many of the countries engaged in war look into areas of refugee camps for creating cross-border insurgency and violence.  Militarization of refugee camps can also lead to several other problems including disruption of the normal path of recovery for the refugee, violence, looting, violence against women, abuse, etc.   Further the property of the refugee may be usurped by the host nation security (Forced Migration, 2007).  This problem of insecurity and violence in the refugee camps can be curbed to some extent by deploying international observers at the security camps or having UNHCR personnel.   This would especially curb the problem of removing any weapons that the refugees may be carrying and also guaranteeing them security as per the international humanitarian laws.

The UNHCR may also recruit third party observers, for example officials from a neutral nation to tackle the problems that occur at the refugee camps (Forced Migration, 2007).  There are certain guidelines laid down by the UNHCR to ensure that everything goes on smoothly at the refugee camps.  These guidelines are made as per the international standards (Forced Migration, 2007).   The Great Lake crisis is a classical example of how violence and serious crime can be committed against the refugees (Lynch, 2002).  The international community was at that time unprepared to handle any violence and abuse occurring to the refugees.   If the refugee camps are not handled in an appropriate manner, it could have a serious effect on the political issues of the host nation (Lynch, 2002).   Certain international criminal laws also apply with relevance to refugee camps.  Another reason why military presence in the refugee camps is not preferred is because a civilian kind of environment is not created, which is utmost required for development and rehabilitation (Lynch, 2002).   This also helps to safeguard the interests of the refugees themselves.  Hence, it should be ensured that the refugees are handled as per the international laws.   The international laws regarding refugee management should be given respect and require that the refugees be given a high level of protection, comparable to that of the citizens of that particular country.

Several issues need to be tackled to ensure that are allowed to exercise their rights and not face discrimination in the foreign nation.  Fear of terrorism and creating violence is often impeding the manner in which the home nation is allowing the refugees to exercise their rights.   The Agreement between Canada and the US regarding movement of refugees across the border is an example of how the new nation would be reasonably limiting the movement of refugees.   It prevents refugees from choosing the nation that they would be protected in, but at the same time guarantees their protection.  However, there should be certain means by which an individual who is not happy with the status he/she is receiving in one nation would be free to select another.   The problems that the refugees are facing in the original nation should be given due consideration.  The UNHCR to some extent has created awareness in several nations in ensuring the refugees are allowed to exercise their rights.   However, to this day, in several unnoticed territories, violence against the refugees goes ignored.  International communities and the UNHCR should ensure that refugees are given proper status in the new nation.   It is also vital that the refugee camps are observed by the international communities and the UNHCR to ensure that their basic human rights are not violated.   It is also essential that internally displaced communities are treated as per the international rules and treaties to ensure effective management.

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