Issue 12 -- September 2000

A Newsletter of the Ecumenical Network of churches in solidarity with people compelled by severe political, economic and social conditions to leave their land and cultures.

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UNHCR-NGO Reach-Out Process

Network News

International News

Upcoming Meetings


More Websites...

How to contact WCC International Relations Staff

Uprooted people are those who are forced to leave their communities: those who flee because of persecution and war, those who are forcibly displaced because of environmental devastation and those who are compelled to seek sustenance in a city or abroad because they cannot survive at home... World Council of Churches policy statement, 1995.
The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance will be held from 31 August - 7 September 2001 in South Africa. Although dates for the NGO Forum have not yet been confirmed, the Forum is likely to be 29 August-2 September 2001. The First Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) meeting took place in Geneva 1-5 May 2000 and agreed that the slogan of the World Conference will be "United to Combat Racism: Equality, Justice, Dignity." Five broad themes were also adopted for the provisional agenda:

  1. Sources, causes, forms and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

  2. Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance;

  3. Measures of prevention, education and protection aimed at the eradication of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, at the national, regional and international levels;

  4. Provision of effective remedies, recourse, redress, [compensatory] and other measures at the national, regional and international levels;

  5. Strategies to achieve full and effective equality, including international cooperation and enhancement of the United Nations and other international mechanisms in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and follow-up.

This is the third UN decade to address the question of racism and there is some skepticism in the NGO community that this time the governments will take the necessary measures to effectively counter racist attitudes and behavior among their people. Nonetheless the World Conference offers an opportunity for churches and NGOs to raise awareness about the effects of racism and xenophobia and to advocate for strategies to achieve real equality, including in their own organizations. Like other UN conferences, this World Conference should be thought of as a process and there are many meetings scheduled.

An Inter-Sessional Open-Ended Working Group will meet in Geneva from 15-19 January 2001 (tentative) and will begin dealing with substantive items of the Provisional Agenda and with the Draft declaration and programme of action for the conference. The Second PrepCom will take place in Geneva from 30 May-8 June 2001 (tentative).

There will also be regional PrepComs.

In addition four expert seminars are planned. Seminars in Europe (on the theme of protection of minorities) and in Asia (on trafficking) have already been held. NGOs wishing to attend the remaining two expert seminars should write to the contact person.
Four regional NGO meetings are also planned to feed into the NGO Forum although dates have not yet been set for these meetings.

In addition to these official meetings, WCC is planning a series of regional consultations for churches around the topics of racism and xenophobia. WCC has addressed a letter to Mary Robinson, High Commissioner for Human Rights, identifying a number of concerns by the churches, including xenophobia and discrimination against migrants and refugees, the particularly negative effects of racial discrimination on women, the situation of the Roma and the Dalits, and the effects of casteism.

Pauline Muchina, from Kenya living in New York, will serve as a consultant to the WCC preparatory process towards the World Conference. She will assist churches and partners towards a concerted and effective preparation for the UN Conference as well as their participation in the conference itself and will facilitate WCC regional and inter-regional preparatory meetings.

For further information...

High Commissioner for Human Rights Click on World Conference Against Racism at the top of the Home Page.

NGO Liaison for the World Conference: Laurie S. Wiseberg, Room 4-025 Palais Wilson,

NGO website for the World Conference:

WCC website:
Contact person: Marilia Schüller

The International Human Rights Law Group has produced an excellent Guide to Participating in the UN World Conference against Racism, which is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French in hard copy. It will shortly also be available on the web. For copies, contact Alison Stewart, Special Projects Coordinator, IHRLG, 1200 18th St. NW, Suite 602, Washington DC 20009 USA. E-mail:

The Inter-Church Committee on Refugees in Canada is planning to produce a study kit entitled "Remembering Uprooted People at the World Conference Against Racism, Xenophobia, and Contemporary Forms of Intolerance" which will include background information, study guides, and resources, including a suggested worship service. For further information, contact Inter-Church Committee for Refugees, 129 St. Clair Avenue West, Toronto, ON M4V 1N5, e-mail:


The UNHCR Standing Committee was held in Geneva from 5-7 July. In UNHCR’s schedule, this is the Standing Committee which deals specifically with protection concerns. Three papers relating to protection were considered: the Note on International Protection, complementary forms of protection and the use of detention. These papers may be found on the UNHCR website and the NGO response may be found on the website of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies ( In their interventions on protection, a number of Northern governments focused on irregular movements, trafficking, the need to control migration, and the difficulties of upholding refugee protection given the current characteristics of global migration.

In these papers, UNHCR proposed to launch of process of global consultations on protection around the theme of three concentric circles of protection. The inner circle encompasses the basic globally agreed framework principles of the 1951 Convention. A primary objective of the consultation will be the reaffirmation of the Convention as the universal foundation of refugee protection. The second circle includes the interpretative questions around the Convention, such as persecution perpetrated by non-State agents and gender-based persecution. Consultations on this circle are intended to develop approaches, tools and standards to address areas which are inadequately covered by the international protection regime. The outermost circle consists of the "gaps" -- that is, the situations the Convention does not adequately, or at all, cover. UNHCR hopes through the consultations to achieve some clarity about how the international community can respond in these situations.

The consultations will take place with governments, NGOs and experts over the next year and are conceptualized as part of the process of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

UNHCR-NGO Reach-Out Process

In March 1999, UNHCR launched a process of "reaching-out" to the NGO community to consider ways of enhancing NGO work on refugee protection. An international steering committee was set up to guide the process and has met a number of times over the past year. Regional reach-out consultations were held in Bangkok and Nairobi. In July 2000, the Steering Committee met to determine the future of this process. Although the process is likely to take a different course, the NGOs felt that much work remains to be done. A meeting of NGOs will be held around the UNHCR Executive Committee meeting (2-6 October) to consider alternative ways of improving the effectiveness of NGO activities in the field of protection.

Network News

The Global Ecumenical Network on Uprooted People will meet in Geneva from 24-26 September. In addition to reviewing the situation facing uprooted people in the regions, the meeting will devote particular attention to the issues of racism and xenophobia and to globalization and migration.

The North American Church Consultation met in Villahermosa, Mexico in April on the theme "The Human Costs of Globalization: Migration in Mexico." Bringing together church representatives from Canada, the US, Mexico and Guatemala, the meeting verified that the conditions of migrants are increasingly precarious, especially for migrant women and minors. The group insisted that detention centers must not demean the migrants and must ensure their dignity. The group made a number of recommendations including calling on the US and Canadian governments to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, recommending that governmental officials that have contact with migrant women and children undergo sensitivity training, and calling on Christians and all persons of good will to respond to the immediate needs of migrants with generosity.

The annual meeting of the Middle East Working Group on Uprooted People will be held in Cairo, Egypt from 12-14 September. The Working Group will review the situation of uprooted people in the Middle East and develop strategies to respond to the needs of refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. A meeting of the Amman Process, which brings together churches from the Middle East and Southern Europe, is tentatively scheduled for Beirut, Lebanon from 12-14 January 2001.

The Churches Commission on Migrants in Europe (CCME), which now incorporates the work formerly done by the European Churches Work on Asylum and Refugees, has set up three working groups, all of which have met in the last few months. Working groups on "Monitoring Migration Policies," on "Racism and Xenophobia," and on "Church Involvement with Refugees," include participants from all regions of Europe. Minutes of these meetings are available from CCME at

The World Council of Churches is convening the Founding Meeting of a new global advocacy instrument, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, from 8-10 December 2000. This Alliance seeks to bring together a wide range of church-related organizations to work together on commonly-identified global advocacy issues. Representatives from WCC, regional ecumenical organizations, international ecumenical organizations, Roman Catholic organizations, church-related agencies and networks will meet to launch the Alliance, to adopt certain guiding principles for participation in the Alliance, and to agree on two issues for advocacy for the next 3 years. A small office to support the work of the Alliance will be established this fall. For more information, contact Maria Vila at WCC.

In June, the Eglise du Christ au Congo together with the Ministry for Refugees and Emergencies organized a consultation on the right to asylum in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The consultation dealt with the concept of uprooting, international protection during war, the rights and obligations of refugees in their countries of exile, the "church of the stranger," the difficulties facing refugees in the DRC and how Africans themselves can deal with internally displaced people and refugees. The consultation developed a number of recommendations to UNHCR, to NGOs, to the Congolese government and to the Eglise du Christ au Congo. In their final declaration, the participants committed themselves to working with uprooted people, to raise awareness about their situation, to defend the rights of refugees, to mobilize the necessary funds to support them, and to seek a durable peace to bring an end to uprooting in the region. Copies of the report in French are available from

The Christian Conference of Asia is organizing a consultation of church leaders in the Mekong sub-region from 18-22 September in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Participants from Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand will review the situation of migrants in the sub-region and discuss ways of engaging the churches with these migrants.

International News

A report from Pax Christi details the apparent suicide of an Algerian asylum-seeker in the transit area of the Frankfurt, Germany airport on 6 May 2000. Ms. Naimah H had been kept in the transit area of Frankfurt airport since September 1999. Her asylum claim was denied and an appeal rejected. Because she had no travel documents, she was forced to remain in prison-like conditions in the transit area of the airport. According to church organizations, Ms. Naimah H. was no longer able to stand the pressure. According to members of church organizations involved in the Airport Social Service, 18 persons tried to commit suicide at Frankfurt Airport last year. As of May 2000, 42 persons are living in the transit area; 10 of them have been there for more than 100 days. The situation in the transit area has been a matter of long-standing concern to church and human rights organizations. In spite of promises from political leaders that the situation would be improved, there has been no improvement. On the contrary, a special facility for the internment of minors has been installed at Frankfurt Airport. For more information and suggested actions, contact Paul Lansu.

The Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights decided to appoint Mr. David Weissbrodt as Special Rapporteur with the task of preparing a comprehensive study on the rights of non-citizens over the next three years.

Jack Straw, British Minister for Immigration called for the rewriting of the 1951 Refugee Convention in a speech to a high-level European Union conference in Lisbon in June 2000. Specifically, he called for modifying the Convention to require asylum-seekers to apply for shelter from outside of the European Union. This statement was made despite the British Government’s reaffirmation of the importance of the Refugee Convention in October 1999 at the Tampere European Council of Ministers and the practical difficulties in re-negotiating such a widely/supported piece of international law.

The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez would like to invite more extensive NGO and civil society cooperation in fulfilling the responsibilities entrusted to her. In particular, she invites all concerned organizations interested in establishing contact and cooperating in her work to write a brief note to her office giving:

  1. a brief description of the organization (including name and address) and the categories of migrants they work with, and
  2. a brief list of the key issues and concerns affecting the migrants they work with.
The UN Commission on Human Rights established the position of the Special Rapporteur to examine ways and means to overcome the obstacles existing to the full and effective protection of the human rights of this vulnerable group, including obstacles and difficulties for the return of migrants who are non-documented or in an irregular situation. Address: Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. E-mail (please write to both addresses): and

The UN Economic and Social Council recommended in July 2000 that the UN General Assembly proclaim 18 December as International Migrants’ Day.

Upcoming Meetings

A number of meetings are scheduled for late September/early October, including:

  • 24-26 September: Global Ecumenical Network on Uprooted People
  • 26-29 September: UNHCR-NGO Consultations
  • 30 September-1 October: European Council on Refugees and Exiles
  • 2-6 October: UNHCR Executive Committee
Challenges for International Humanitarian Law is being organized by the Institute for Human Rights of Abo Akademi University and Turku Law School in Finland from 20-24 November. This one-week intensive course is meant to provide insights into new developments of and challenges for international humanitarian law. For more information, contact the Institute for Human Rights, Abo Akademi University at Gezeliusgatan 2, FIN-20500 Turku/Abo, Finland or consult their website at


UNHCR has released a draft of an International Refugee Day Toolkit which was produced by John Morrison. The toolkit includes a wealth of information on existing refugee days and refugee weeks held in 26 countries. While there is no international refugee day (although most respondents to the toolkit survey felt it would be a good idea to have one), the toolkit contains a wealth of information about how such days (and weeks) are used to raise awareness of refugee situations. Countries included in the toolkit are: Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Kenya, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom, USA, Zambia. To contribute information or to receive a copy of the draft toolkit, contact Shannon Boyd, Public Affairs, UNHCR (

The Canadian Council for Refugees has instituted a network and newsletter on Women fleeing Gender-Related Persecution. The first newsletter includes reports on gender/based persecution in a number of countries and describes the planned activities of the network. To join the network and receive the newsletter, contact: or or Canadian Council for Refuges, 6839 Drolet, No. 302, Montreal, QC, H2S 2T1 Canada. Information is requested on the status of gender-related persecution in your region and country. The network is planning an international conference on the subject to be held in Montreal in May or June 2001.

UNHCR has published a number of documents on the Commonwealth of Independent States, including:

  • Directory of NGOs working on involuntary displacement issues in the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States,
  • Report of the Fifth Meeting of the Steering Group and Report of the NGO Consultation
  • Report and Recommendations for the Follow-up to the Regional Conference
  • Joint Conference Room Paper by UNHCR, IOM, OSCE, and Council of Europe
  • UNHCR Catalogue of NGO Capacity-Building Resources for the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Human Rights Watch has published Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh Need Protection which describes the key obstacles to the satisfactory resolution of the Rohingya refugee problem. In 1991-1992, some 250,000 Rohingya sought refuge in Bangladesh and though most returned under a UNHCR-facilitated repatriation programme, 22,000 remain in camps. More than 100,000 additional Rohingya who have entered the country since 1991 now live in precarious circumstances in Bangladesh outside the camps with no formal documentation as refugees. The report documents the difficulties faced by the Rohingya and calls for an increase in UNHCR presence. Available from Human Rights Watch, 1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 500, Washington DC 20009, e-mail:

Every year the Support Group for Displaced People Organizations (GAD) prepares a report about the evolution of forced displacement in Colombia. This year’s report, entitled Report about Forced Displacement in Colombia includes sections on the context, causes and trends in forced displacement in 1999, monitoring sate policies, the response of the international community and civil society and conclusions and recommendations. Detailed appendices include information about displacement in specific regions of the country. Available in English from GAD, Carrera 7 No. 33-49, oficina A, Santafe de Bogota, Colombia. E-mail:

The Relief and Rehabilitation Network has changed its name to Humanitarian Practice Network. This change in name reflects the fact that the word ‘humanitarian’ is more in tune with today’s way of thinking and ‘practice’ reflects the emphasis of the network. Publishing will remain HPN’s primary activity. Good Practice Reviews will be published annually on particular topics with the aim of being used as training manuals by specialist training organizations. Network papers will be produced three times a year as a critical review of a specific thematic or sectoral topic. The successor to the RRN Newsletter will be a twice-yearly publication as a resource document with updates, practice notes and features. The HPN website will also contain the majority of past publications in English and French as well as current publications. For more information, contact Rebecca Lovelace.

War brought us here is a new publication by Save the Children-UK which surveys the situation facing 13 million internally displaced children in the world. The situation of displaced children in five countries is highlighted: Angola, Colombia, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka. The publication pinpoints the gaps between governments’ legal obligations to protect displaced children and the reality of displaced children’s lives and makes specific recommendations to improve international efforts to protect and assist displaced children. To order a copy of the publication or the longer report on which it is based, contact Publications Department, Save the Children, 17 Grove Lane, London SES 8RD, UK or

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ World Disasters Report 2000 focuses on public health and includes articles on the world’s ever-growing humanitarian crisis around health issues. Available for US$25, £15.95 from

In Defense of the Alien, vol. XXII, has been published by the Center for Migration Studies. Edited by Lydio F. Tomasi, the book contains the proceedings of the 1999 Annual national Legal Conference on immigration and Refugee Policy and includes papers on INS reorganization, temporary worker visa policy, immigrant political participation, asylum processing and due process, and immigration policymaking, and immigration law enforcement. Available for US$19.95 from Center for Migration Studies, 209 Flagg Place, Staten Island, NY 10304/1122, e/mail:, website:

The latest issue of Refugee Update analyzes and assesses Canadian Bill C-31, the country’s recently-introduced Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Immigration Minister, through this bill promises to close the back door to those who would abuse the system. NGO activists raise a number of concerns about the immigration bill: it would prohibit anyone who has ever made a refugee claim in Canada from ever making a second claim, it would exclude refugee claims from people who are deemed serious criminals, and could have a negative impact on women. Address: 83 Hamilton Street, Toronto ON M4M 2C7 Canada, e/mail:

The Amsterdam Proposals by Jan Niessen and Susan Rowlands presents a comprehensive overview of European efforts to develop common immigration aned asylum policies with chapters on the proposed directives on Asylum, the Right to Family Reunion, Long-term Residents, Visas and Border Controls, the Admission of Migrants, and Irregular Migrants as well as a chapter on influencing the national and European policy debates. Copies are available from the sponsoring organizations: European Network against Racism (, Migration Policy Group (, and Immigration Law Practioners’ Association (

Humanitarian Affairs Review is the quarterly journal published in English and French with the support of the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO) and Voluntary Organisations In Co-operation in Emergencies (VOICE). The Summer 2000 issue includes articles on Chechnya, Ethiopia, Kosovo, and Iraq as well as articles on child soldiers, AIDS, and on NGO perspectives on current issues. Available currently for €30 for 4 issues from

The International Committee of the Red Cross has published War, Money and Survival which provides economic analyses of war. The publication includes sections on globalization and war, money and war, survival and war, and international aid and provides much-needed insights on the economic dimensions of conflicts. Available from

More websites...


The Advocacy Project --
Helps advocates in civil society to use the new information technology in their efforts to promote peace, justice, and respect for human rights

British Refugee Council --

The Brookings Institution Project on Internal Displacement: Seeks to improve the international community’s response to the global crisis of internal displacement

The Child Rights Information Network (CRIN)’s Desk on Children in Armed Conflict and Displacement -

Church World Service --

Coalition for an ICC Home Page on the International Criminal Court --

The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers --

Danish Refugee Council --

Dutch Refugee Council --

EU Networks on Integration of Refugees --

Global IDP Project --
An independent website and information management service on internally displaced persons

The International Crisis Group --
A private, multinational organization committed to strengthening the capacity of the international community to understand and respond to impending crises.

ICVA -- International Council of Voluntary Agencies --
Informs human rights defenders and organizations around the world on United Nations proceedings and procedures regarding human rights

Jesuit Refugee Service --

Mandat International --
Facilitates the participation of NGO delegates at international conferences in Geneva and provides space for meeting and exchange between delegates

Minority Rights Group --
Promotes the rights of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities

Norwegian Refugee Council --

Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva --

Refugee Studies Centre --

Smart Sanctions --
Swiss government site: a clearinghouse for information related to multilateral sanctions

Swiss Refugee Council --

US Committee for Refugees --
Produces the annual World Refugee Survey, reports on conditions for refugees and IDPs in 120 countries.

Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children --

Intergovernmental Organizations

Organization of African Unity --

Organization of American States --

UN Department of Disarmament Affairs --

UN Documentation Center --
for texts of General Assembly, Security Council resolutions, etc.

UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo: UNMIK --

UN Office of the Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories --

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) --

UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service --
Strengthens UN-NGO dialogue and cooperation in the fields of development education, information and policy advocacy on global sustainable development issues

UN Research Institute for Social Development --

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflicts --

UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaed Persons --

UN Transitional Administration in East Timor --

UN World Conference against Racism --

UN World Summit for Social Development and Beyond --

Beginning in January 2001, Uprooted People will be distributed primarily through e-mail and will be available (as it is presently) on the WCC website. Copies will still be mailed to church partners who do not have e-mail or Internet access. Please return this form by 1 December - or send an e-mail message with uprooted people in the subject line to - to ensure your continued subscription.

E-mail address:

I do not have access to e-mail. Please send my copy by post to the following address:

Return to E. Ferris, International Relations, WCC, 150 rte de Ferney,
PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland.

Contacting WCC International Relations team

E-mail addresses:
Dwain Epps, coordinator:
Salpy Eskidjian:
Elizabeth Ferris:
Mariette Grange:
Clement John:
Melaku Kifle:
Gail Lerner:

Uprooted People provides coverage of information and action relating to refugees, migrants and internally displaced people. It is published every three months by the International Relations team, World Council of Churches, 150 route de Ferney, PO Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.
Tel: 41 22 791 6111
Fax: 41 22 791 6122

Editor: Elizabeth Ferris

Articles may be freely reproduced providing that acknowledgement is made to Uprooted People, the publication of the International Relations team, World Council of Churches.

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