Issue 15 - June 2001 Editor: Elizabeth Ferris

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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Network News

International News in Brief

National News in Brief

Upcoming Meetings

Past Meetings


A note from the editor: To subscribe or unsubscribe to Uprooted People or to contribute news to the newsletter, contact Elizabeth Ferris.
1. Network News

The Inter-faith Consultation on Peace, Security and Reconciliation was held from 24-25 April 2001 in Freetown, Sierra Leone hosted by the Council of Churches in Sierra Leone and the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone. Participants came from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone as well as from the World Council of Churches and other agencies. The statement analyzed the situation in West Africa and agreed:

  • That we will work together to encourage the heads of state of our three countries to hold a joint meeting as a way to resolve the current conflicts:
  • That we call our respective governments to implement existing regional treaties and agreements regarding mutual non-aggression;
  • That measures must be taken to better stabilize the borders between our countries, and that public consultations must take place regarding the mandate for any external interposition forces;
  • That we will strengthen collaboration with other civil society actors to reduce cross-border proliferation of small arms;
  • That we will undertake joint visits to camps to assess the protection rights and other needs of refugees and internally displaced persons;
  • That we will work with UNHCR and other actors to encourage the timely and safe return of all displaced persons and refugees to their homes;
  • That we will widely disseminate the commitments made in this declaration through our religious communities and the public media;
  • That we will continue active collaboration and follow-up actions to ensure the implementation of the above commitments through an appointed joint coordinating committee.
    For further information, contact Melaku Kifle

  • From 11-13 June, the leaders of the religious communities in Macedonia came together in Morges, Switzerland in a meeting facilitated by the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, to commit themselves to working for peace in their country. Their joint statement, the first of its kind, said that "our churches and religious communities are not involved in the conflict, and we strongly reject any effort to allow ourselves to be involved and to be manipulated, as well as any misuse of religious symbols and language for the purpose of violence". The statement affirms that "peace is too important to leave only to the efforts of politicians. Peace is also a responsibility of the churches and the religious communities." Representatives of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community of Macedonia, the Catholic Church in Macedonia, the Evangelical Methodist Church in Macedonia, and the Jewish Community in the Republic of Macedonia signed the statement. (The complete text and photos are available from the WCC website.)

    On 30 June, the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees in Canada will come to an end as a result of the re-structuring of Canadian ecumenical work through the coalitions. Eleven of the specialized coalitions will be merged into a new ecumenical board will work through an executive director who will supervise four or five team leaders in areas of Canadian policy, international rights, CIDA overseas development contract and services. The work will focus on the priority areas of aboriginal rights, Canadian social policy, global economic justice and international human rights. Although the outlines of future directions are still not clear, refugee and migration issues may be covered under Canadian social policy and international rights. Tom Clark, the coordinator of ICCR for the past 17 years, will be leaving his position.

    The Latin American Ecumenical Network on Uprooted People will meet in Barranquilla, Colombia from 22-25 August to share experiences on current work, to jointly analyze the situation facing uprooted people in the region and to develop common strategies. The participants from South and Central America will also consider how to strengthen regional relationships to increase the effectiveness of their programmatic and advocacy work.

    Together with six other Christian organizations, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe has issued a joint statement which welcomes the European Commission’s plans to create legal channels for labour immigration and underlines the fundamental importance of making Europe "a welcoming society" with a humane, transparent and coherent immigration policy. The comments were made in the course of a detailed response to EU plans for a harmonized policy on asylum and immigration, set out in two Communications by the European Commission last November. The statement also calls on the EU to respect the dignity of undocumented migrants, to include accession countries in the migration debate, and to improve the quality for decision-making o asylum cases. The statement also raises concerns about admissibility procedures at airports and borders and states that "it is vital that no state will be obliged to lower its current standards in order to align itself with the harmonised standards, that safe third country policies must be exercised with caution if at all". The statement calls on the Commission to explore the possibility of an "asylum visa" to be issued by a member state embassy where an individual expresses an intention to claim asylum. The statement further calls for creation of a coherent system for swift recognition of refugees’ professional qualifications. Finally the statement expresses extreme concern about certain proposals to categorize all countries as high, medium, or low risk and to make asylum decisions accordingly. The statement was issued by the Churches Commission for Migrants in Europe (CCME), Caritas Europa, ICMC, JRS, Quaker Council for European Affairs, Justice and Peace and COMECE.)

    The Conference of European Churches and the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe organized a consultation entitled "Living in Community - Towards equal opportunities and overcoming discrimination: the Situation of Roma in Central and Eastern Europe". The meeting, held in Bratislava in May, called on churches to become more actively involved in empowerment of Roma and to build new inclusive communities. The recommendations include specific suggestions in the areas of theology/churches, social conditions, education, migration and the political field. The recommendations are available now and the final report will soon be available.

    The Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe in conjunction with the Evangelical Church in Germany will organize the Third European Conference on Migrant Churches from 4-7 October in Hamburg. This corresponds to the decision of the CCME General Assembly in 1999 to enhance its commitment to black and migrant churches and their full participation in the activities and network of European churches. Previous conferences were held in 1978 in France and in Germany in 1982.

    The Conference of European churches, following up a consultation in 1999 in Driebergen, has now established a working group to coordinate activities and initiate new actions. The group met for the first time in Geneva in January 2001, bringing together representatives from Romania, Ukraine, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Austria. The working group’s mandate is to sensitize CEC member churches to the widespread problem of trafficking in human beings within Europe. The meeting heard reports from working group members on how the problem of trafficking is affecting each country and agreed on an action plan for the coming two years. The working group will compile a list of NGOs working on prevention of trafficking or assisting victims, compile a list of churches already working on this issues, collect case studies which can be use din church work, create educational material for clergy, churches and schools, produce worship and liturgical materials, and find examples of "good practices" used in combating trafficking.

    The Bishops Conference of the European Community, quoting the Pope’s call for solidarity, has urged the EU to respect the right to asylum set out in the 1951 Convention. They said that access to the asylum system for refugees should be ensured, that they should be received in conditions which guarantee respect for human dignity and that their asylum applications should be processed in accordance with the highest standards. They underlined their particular concern at the situation of migrants with irregular status who are to often "victims of exploitation that denies their human dignity"; "a person who exercises his or her right to search for better living conditions by legitimate means should not be considered as a criminal simply for doing so".

    The Christian Conference of Asia is organizing a conference on "Refugees’ Rigths and the Churches’ Response" to address the causes, situations, problems and rights of refugees and displaced people and how best to integrate this issue into the churches’ ministry. The meeting will be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 18-23 2001. The consultation is expected to produce an advocacy paper on the Asian churches’ response to refugees and displaced people and a comprehensive agenda for action.

    The Joint MECC/WCC Working Group on Refugees, Migrants and Displaced People will hold its annual meeting in Beirut, Lebanon from 3-7 September. The working group, which brings together representatives of Middle Eastern churches working with uprooted people, will share updates on country situations, develop regional analyses, and agree on priorities for common action during the coming year. Particular attention will be devoted to the situation facing Palestinian refugees throughout the region.

    An ecumenical group led by the Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program, USA traveled to Guam in January to advocate for the release of 39 Burmese asylum-seekers detained in local prisons by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). More than 800 Burmese currently live on Guam, a US territory, and are applying for asylum. The ecumenical group worked with political and church authorities to secure the detainees’ release later that month.

    Senior officials of US Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Moslem communities organizations visited New York City’s Wackenhut detention center in early May. Delegation members described a locked, windowless, airless, brick-and-concrete building housing dormitories with 12-40 beds in each. Their statement, submitted as written testimony at a US Senate Immigration Subcommittee hearing on US asylum policy said "We are deeply troubled by the way our country is treating people who come to our shores fleeing persecution."

    Churches in Australia are preparing to celebrate Refugee Sunday on 26 August, with a national celebration planned for 24 August 2001 in Brisbane. As part of the programme, a Refugee Sunday poster competition was held which will feature on this year’s Refugee Sunday poster. Twelve of the best posters have also been selected for the 2002 Refugee Sunday calendar.

    In its submission to the review of Australia’s Offshore Humanitarian Program, the National Council of Churches in Australia has objected to the capping of Australia’s offshore humanitarian program and the notion that refugees facing persecution could be ‘ranked’ to determine who gets a visa. Instead NCCA has called on the government to broaden the threshold criteria to determine who is a ‘refugee’ and a ‘family member’ and to use more expansive definitions which are embodied in the OAU Convention and the Declaration of Cartagena. NCCA has also called on the government to extend the right of family reunion to Temporary Protection Visa Holders while suspending the 12,000 place gap on the Humanitarian Program.

    The Annual General meeting of the Conference of Churches of Western Australia has called on the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Mr. Philip Ruddock to provide better treatment for refugees. In particular the churches called on the Minister to review processing times in overseas Embassies and High commissions and provide these offices with the resources to significantly shorten processing times for refugee and humanitarian visas. They also asked the Minister to provide settlement services to all refugees, including those on Temporary Protection visas and highlighted the lack of compassion that appears to permeate the Ministry’s practices.

    In April, church and community leaders in Victoria, Australia held a public hearing to highlight the punitive and restrictive policies on asylum-seekers. The final recommendations to the government and the wider community covered: Australia’s detention practices and the rights of asylum-seekers, the impact of detention on the mental health of asylum-seekers, the needs and problems of asylum-seekers in the community, Australia’s international obligations, and the morality of the Federal Government’s policy on asylum-seekers. (from NCCA newsletter, available by e-mail and write "newsletter" in the subject line.)

    The Middle East Council of Churches will hold its biannual Gulf Conference in Kuwait from 5-9 November 2001 around the theme "Witnessing for God: Christians and Muslims in the Gulf". Among other subjects, the conference will look at the effects of materials on Christians and Muslims in the Gulf and on appropriate and inappropriate ways of witnessing.

    2. International News In Brief

    20 June 2001 will be the first-ever World Refugee Day. UNHCR has developed a new flyer for the occasion which is available in English, French and Spanish.

    UN High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers has launched the "UNHCR 2004" process which began on 1 June 2001 and whose main objective is to ensure that UNHCR is properly structured and appropriate positioned to carry out its role as the main institution in place internationally to enable efficient and effective multilateral governance of the refugee problem. UNHCR hopes to situate itself so that it can assist all States in establishing good governance for refugees which bears in mind the specificity of refugees n the context of contemporary population movements, including internal displacement, migration and trafficking of human beings. To achieve these objectives, the following actions will be required: a review of the concept and contents of UNHCR’s mission as a multilateral institution; identification and promotion of a global governance structure for refugees; a strategy to achieve global accession and adherence to the 1951 Convention as well as adherence to complementary regional instruments; and a coherent funding base grounded on the principles of solidarity and burden or responsibility-sharing. Chaired personally by High Commissioner Lubbers, the 2004 process will be staffed by an external resource person, a UNHCR officer, and a secretary.

    UNHCR reports that the number of people ‘of concern’ to UNHCR as of 1 January 2001 is 21.1 million. This figure represents a slight decrease from the 22.3 million people of concern in January 2000. However, the decrease is largely the result of the counting method used as UNHCR used to count returnees over a two-year time period and is now counting them for only 12 months. The largest population increase was in Pakistan where the number of Afghan refugees rose by an estimated 800,000 people. Afghans constitute the single largest refugee population with an estimated 3.6 million people or 30 percent of the global refugee population. Civilians from Burundi constitute the second largest group, with 567,000 refugees living mainly in Tanzania. 497,400 Iraqis are the third largest population, living mainly in Iran.

    UNHCR continues with its prioritizing exercise of restructuring the agency’s work in light of financial realities and internal discussions. The internal review was split into three parts: defining the Office’s "core" mandate, making suggestions for restructuring on the basis of savings, and looking at fundraising methods. Among the many offices affected has been the Centre for Documentation and Research which has now been closed.

    As of 1 June, UNHCR is reporting a budgetary target for 2002 of US$825 million which is equal to the projected income for the year. This represents a reduction of $130 million or about 14% over the initial budget. In the last few months, UNHCR has gone through a budget reduction process in which 939 of the agency’s 4828 posts were abolished (with an additional 174 new posts created). High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers is seeking a stronger base of funding, saying "when our stakeholders give us a job to do, they also have to make sure we have the adequate resources". (UNHCR News, 1 June 2001)

    Mary Ann Wyrsch has been appointed the new UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. Ms. Wyrsch previously served as Deputy Commissioner for the US Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1998-November 2000. Since then she served as Acting INS Commissioners. Her responsibilities in UNHCR will include the function of controller, responsibility for information systems and technology, management of human and financial resources and the supervision of communication and information. She succeeds Mr. Frederick Barton who served as deputy to the previous High Commissioner Sadako Ogata.

    This year’s Nansen Refugee Award will be given to Luciano Pavarotti in recognition of the work he has done to raise awareness about the plight of refugees. Further information on the Nansen award, including a summary of Fridtjof Nansen’s work for the cause of refugees, a list of previous recipients, the criteria for candidacy and the procedure for nominating is available from the UNHCR website.

    The UN Commission on Human Rights debated the issue of migrant workers (agenda item 14a) on 11-12 April. The report of Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro was introduced. Mexico, the US, the Philippines and Ecuador extended invitations to the Special Rapporteur to visit their countries. For a brief overview of the statements given under agenda item 14a, including the report of the Special Rapporteur, the report of her visit to Canada and interventions by NGOs and government delegations, see: Three resolutions were adopted by consensus: on the convention and the human rights of migrants (both introduced by Mexico) and a resolution sponsored by Ecuador on the protection of migrants and their families. The Mexican resolutions relate to the World Conference against Racism and the work of the Special Rapporteur. The Ecuadorean resolution encourages all states to consider in their regularization programmes the promotion of reunification of migrants and their families as well as other migrants’ rights issues. Other activities during the session of the Commission on human rights included a lunch even on migrant workers organized by the Women/Gender caucus. Another session was organized on gender, racism and migration in Asia. The Steering Committee of the Global Campaign for the Ratification of the Migrants’ Rights Convention and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights organized a lunch session on "The Migrants’ Rights Convention: A tool for governments to fight racism and xenophobia?"

    The UN Human Rights Commission extended the mandate of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons for another three years in a resolution that was adopted by consensus and co-sponsored by 53 states. The Commission recognized the central role of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and encouraged the further dissemination and application of the Guiding Principles which will be helpful in forthcoming meeings of the ECOSOC humanitarian segment. The commission also called upon the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to play a stronger role in ensuring the promotion of the rights of IDPS.

    Uruguay is the latest country to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Previous ratifications have been received from Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Cape Verde, Colombia, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Uganda. The following 10 states have also signed the Convention, the fist step towards ratification: Bangladesh, Chile, Comoros, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Paraguay, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Turkey. Only four more ratifications are necessary for the Convention to enter into force.

    The Coordinator of the Senior Network on Internal Displacement, Dennis MacNamara has presented his report to the UN Secretary-General which calls for the establishment of a dedicated bureau for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) within the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA). He also suggested establishing an IDP focal point at the field level where necessary and creating a special fund for IDPs. NGOs following these issues have a number of concerns, including questions about the ability of OCHA to coordinate the work of UN agencies and its ability to advocate for access to IDPs vis a vis governments. Given the urgent protection and assistance needs of IDPs, many NGOs fear that creation of a new, small coordinating office will not have the needed impact on the lives of internally displaced people. The unit for IDPs within OCHA is envisioned to have 5 staff members and NGOs are encouraged to second staff to the office. Dennis MacNamara has accepted the position of deputy representative of the UN Secretary-General in East Timor.

    Four regional preparatory meetings have been held in preparation for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance: Europe, last October in Strasbourg; the Americas (North and South) in Santiago in December; Africa in Dakar in January; and Asia, including the Middle East in Teheran in February. These four regionally-based conferences produced extensive declarations and plans of action. The Inter-sessional Working Group for the World Conference met from 6-9 March to begin elaborating the Declaration and Program of Action to be adopted at the conference in Durban in September.

    Churches and NGOs have been very active in seeking to influence the Draft Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. At the preparatory committee meeting, held in Geneva from 21 May - 2 June, NGOs suggested alternative texts to strengthen the sections on migration-related issues.for the programme of action.

    The Working Group on Migration and Trafficking issued a statement which was adopted by the Asia-Pacific NGO meeting for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance which includes a summary of the manifestation of racism and xenophobia in the experience of migrant workers and trafficked persons. The statement urges governments in the region to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; recognize the positive political, economic and social contributions of migrants by ensuring their full participation in society; investigate and address the root causes of migration; and develop mechanisms to monitor and act on cases of racism and xenophobia committed against migrants and trafficked persons.

    Following the regional conference against racism held in Santiago de Chile, participating organizations decided to set up the South American Network for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Immigrants in order to share information about the situation of immigrants in their countries, to strengthen their initiatives tot promote the human rights of migrants, to articulate the participation of South American organizations at the World Conference against Racism, and to obtain the ratification of their states of the International Convention for the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families. For more information contact Juana Kweitel.

    More than 124 of the UN’s 189 member nations signed the Convention against Transnational Crime in Palermo in December 2000. Eighty signed the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and 70 signed the Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. These are intended to provide a framework for international cooperation against organized crime, with an emphasis on victim protection. Measures include criminalisation of traffickers and smugglers with appropriate penalties, protection of victims in receiving countries and information-sharing between countries on trafficking methods. Further information is available.

    The International Organization for Migration estimates that each year 700,000 women and children are trafficked worldwide. Its "Return and Reintegration of Women victims of Trafficking" project began in February 2000 and has assisted some 150 women and girls to return from Kosovo to their home countries. IOM has become an increasingly attractive area for human trafficking as a result of its geographical proximity to Eastern European countries, insufficient border control, established smuggling routes, and limited law enforcement capacity.

    Reach-Out, the refugee training project initiated by NGOs as part of the UNHCR-NGO initiative has opened an office in Geneva and begun developing a series of training events for NGO staff on refugee protection in the regions. Reach-out constitutes a three-year programme to disseminate basic refugee protection knowledge through workshops targeting senior and mid-level humanitarian assistance practitioners from the broader NGO community. For further information, contact Reach Out Project, P.O. Box 372, 1211 Geneva 19, Switzerland.

    3. National News in Brief

  • Africa

    UNHCR reports that more Eritrean refugees are registering for repatriation from Sudan after a first UNHCR convoy returned 934 refugees to Eritrea on 12 May. That convoy marked the beginning of a major repatriation operation organized by UNHCR and the governments of Sudan and Eritrea for the return of 174,000refugees to Eritrea from neighboring Sudan. Some of the 174,000 remaining refugees have been in camps for more than 30 years.

    The security situation in West Africa continues to be a major cause for concern. Renewed fighting in Liberia has led to the flight of many Liberian refugees, some of whom have sought entry in Guinea. However, the Guinean government has closed the border with Liberia and refused to allow Liberian asylum-seekers to enter the country. UNHCR has protested this, but still has not been able to visit the border areas due to the dangerous security situation. UNHCR is presently caring for over 80,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, the majority of whom live in sites and villages close to the insecure Guinea/Liberia border. UNHCR is arranging the transfer of these refugees to a new site 36 kilometres northeast of Nzerekore.

    In recent weeks, more than 2,200 people have fled to Gambia following an upsurge of fighting in the neighboring Senegalese province of Casamance between government forces and the separatist Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC). The conflict in Casamance Province began in 1982 and has simmered on since then, sometimes erupting into all-out war. Several peace agreements have broken down in the past with hard-line elements of the MFDC insisting on independence from Dakar. UNHCR began transferring the refugees from the border to a transit camp at Dwinella in Kiang province. Presently UNHCR cares for 12,400 refugees in the Gambia, including 1.675 from Senegal who arrived before the latest upsurge in fighting.

    Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS Dispatches, no. 93) reports that storm clouds are gathering in Burundi as both government and rebels talk of war. Rebels are currently returning to Burundi from Congo. Although peace talks continue, the parties are not willing to compromise.

    In South Africa, the Department of Home Affairs has agreed to withdraw its controversial "safe third country" policy directive. Human rights groups had protested this policy in which border posts would be ordered to turn back asylum-seekers considered to have transited ‘safe’ neighbouring states. Human Rights groups had challenged the policy on grounds that it was unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of both the 1951 Geneva Convention and the OAU Convention.

    A study conducted by Jesuit Refugee service on internal displacement in Kenya found that 90 percent of respondents displaced by tribal land clashes feared to return home due to ongoing hostility. Some 26,500 Kenyans have been displaced by land clashes dating back to 1992. Poverty, unemployment, food and water shortage, poor housing and lack of education are among the problems faced by the displaced people who live in camps or settlements. (The research will shortly be available on the JRS website.)

    UNHCR and the World Food Programme have issued an appeal to donor countries to assist Western Saharan refugees living in Algeria. The 155,000 refugees, who have lived in camps since 1976, are completely dependent on food assistance as the isolated, desert location of their camps makes agriculture impossible. UNHCR has been forced to reduce its spending for the Western Saharan refugees by more than $660,000 due the agency’s financial shortfalls. Refugees will not receive clothing or new tents and construction of new water wells will be deferred. Food rations have been severely reduced.

    JRS-Zambia reports that the immigration department has made it much harder for refugees to get self-employment permits, the usual way refugees attempt to rebuild their lives in Zambia. Until now, refugees had to show a viable registered business in order to get a self-employment permit. New requirements for a self-employment permit require that the refugee show at least US$25,000 in assets. In a country with a per capita income under US$400 per year, this condition is insurmountable for most refugees. This will also make it impossible for refugees living in rural settlements to establish themselves legally in cities or towns through obtaining the permits. Many refugees have been in Zambia for over 20 years. (JRS dispatches, no. 90)

    A total of 667 refugees who had fled the Tanzanian Zanzibar and Pemba Islands returned home from Kenya earlier this month. Some 1,000 refugees refuse to return for fear of reprisals by authorities (although the Tanzanian government has given assurances for their safety.)

    The International Organization for Migration organized the first Pan African workshop on "Migration for Development in Africa" in Libreville, Gabon. The workshop established the conceptual framework for the programme which aims to mobilize Africa’s human resources in the diaspora and to associate them with the development of their home countries. According to the World Bank, some 80,000 highly qualified African nationals leave their home countries every year to work in Europe or North Africa, not counting the sizeable numbers of students who leave the continent every year to study abroad and who never return to Africa.

  • Asia

    Approximately 100 Montagnard asylum-seekers from Vietnam have been forcibly repatriated by Cambodian authorities and their fate remains unknown. Over two hundred are under the protection of UNHCR. Hundreds of others are reported to be hiding in northeastern Cambodia. In February 2001, thousands of Montagnards protested their treatment by Vietnamese government with regard to land rights and their right to live openly as Christians. In response, the Vietnamese government sent more security police into Montagnard villages. While the Cambodian government agreed in May to grant temporary asylum to the Montagnard asylum-seekers, subsequent deportations were reported later that month by Human Rights Watch.

    The Hong Kong government has implemented New Conditions of Stay for foreign domestic workers. Previously domestic workers were given the chance to change employers within their first year of employment. Under the new rules, domestic workers will not be allowed to change employers in the first 2 years of the employment contract. Those who break their contract will not be allowed to submit a new and valid contract before they leave Hong Kong and it is now a criminal offense if a domestic worker remains in Hong Kong for more than 2 weeks after her employment is terminated, no matter the reason for termination (sexual assault, failure to pay wages, etc). The government alleges these measures are necessary to confront the high rate of "job-hopping" (for more information, contact Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos)

    In February, a breakthrough in talks between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan agreed on a joint verification process of refugees in camps in order to determine their nationality status with a view to ultimate repatriation to Bhutan. Nepal is the site of one of the world’s most overlooked refugee dilemmas. Forced to flee Bhutan for Nepal and India in the early 1990s, more than 90,000 people are now entering their tenth year of life in the refugee camps in Nepal. Many of the refugees, mostly ethnic Nepali Hindus who farmed the southern hills and plains of Bhutan, were arbitrarily stripped of their nationality prior to their expulsion from Bhutan in the early 1990s after changes to Bhutan’s nationality laws that deliberately discriminated against the southern Bhutanese. The verification process, agreed in February is proceeding in Nepal, but slowly. As of 1 May a total of 1586 people had completed the process. The Joint Verification Team is made up of representatives of the Nepal and Bhutan governments. The team had set verification of 300 families per month. With the present pace, the JVT would take six years to complete all registered 15,000 families in seven different camps. Bhutanese human rights groups report that the government of Bhutan in the meantime is continuing the distribution of land left behind by the refugees to people from northern Bhutan.

    The situation in Afghanistan continues to be appalling with an estimated 600,000 Afghan internally displaced people and 180,000 new refugees arriving in Pakistan. One million Afghans are considered to be at risk of famine. The sanctions against the Taliban authorities do little to rectify the humanitarian crisis facing the Afghan population. The sanctions are intended to turn over usama bin Laden to a country where he can be "brought to justice" and halt illegal drug activities and the virtual elimination of the illicit cultivation of the opium poppy, but they come at a time when drought is having a devastating effect on the population. Both Pakistan and Tajikistan have periodically closed their borders to the Afghans, saying they do not have the resources to provide for the refugees.

    Human Rights Watch wrote to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the occasion of his May visit to Pakistan. In the letter, Human Rights Watch said that security conditions and human rights practices in Afghanistan are far from acceptable for large-scale repatriation and that a repatriation programme would necessitate proper screening mechanisms in Pakistan and Afghanistan to determine whether it is safe for refugees to return and monitoring of the treatment of those who have returned. The organization also expressed concern that Pakistani authorities are preventing UNHCR from registering new arrivals in the Jalozai refugee camp and have announced their intention to forcibly repatriate those who have not been recognized as refugees. Human Rights Watch further called on the High Commissioner to negotiate for full and unimpeded UNHCR access to the refugees in the camp. The full text is available on

    UNHCR does not plan to return to West Timor although financial and logistic assistance will continue until 31 August 2001. However, as of that date all assistance will cease. UNHCR also plans to wind down its operation in East Timor so that by the end of the year there are only 2-3 international staff. The number of East Timorese left in Indonesia is between 50,000 and 100,000. In early June, IOM announced the completion of the registration process by which East Timorese in West Timor indicated their preferred option for the future. The overwhelming majority indicated that they plan to stay in West Timor. 12 international observers were present to monitor the exercise at 507 polling locations. IOM expressed confidence that the registration exercise was without intimidation, but noted that refugees are free to change their minds and will be assisted by IOM to return if that is the case.

    More than 130,000 irregular Burmese migrants were deported by the Thai government in 2000. There are about one million migrants in the country, mostly Burmese fleeing political and economic difficulties, while 106,000 workers from Cambodia, Laos and Burma had been granted work permits. The Thai Labour Minister revealed that the plan to train Thai workers to replace illegal Burmese factory workers has failed as about 80% of them resigned before they completed the training, complaining about the hard work despite being paid full wages and overtime pay. 30 factories closed down after the government implemented its repatriation drive against illegal Burmese workers. Meanwhile the National Security Council urged the government to show neighboring countries that it is serious in expelling illegal workers and called for a more efficient means to repatriate illegal migrants and to prevent their return. A special police unit has been set up to combat the smuggling of illegal Burmese workers. At least 20 smugglers have been arrested with 1,000 illegal Burmese workers. (Mekong News, Mar 2001)

    The Aliens Inspection Committee in Phnom Penh, Cambodia found that 4,031 of thee 4,636 foreign employees in factories and enterprises are without work permits. These include Chinese, Vietnamese, and Taiwanese. The law states that foreigners without work permits should be repatriated. Another 900 illegal foreign workers are currently facing deportation (Mekong News, Mar 2001)

    Rural migrants continue to flow into Vietnam’s cities in pursuit of jobs that dried up after the economic crisis struck Asia. According to Mekong News, the government’s strategy of dealing with people without residence permits amounts to consigning them to a bureaucratic twilight zone in the hope they will simply go back home. Illegal migrants make up almost 20% of Ho Chi Minch city’s population of five million. The migrants are denied access to education, health care, income and unemployment insurance because they can’t register.

    UNHCR has opened a Liaison office in Korea to maintain contacts with the Korean government and public on refugee matters. The office will not deal with North Korean defectors who are not considered refugees but Korean citizens. On 1 January 2001, 46 asylum applications were pending at the Ministry of Justice. Only one refugee (in February 2001) has been granted asylum since Korea became a signatory in 1992of the 1951 Convention. A January 2001 report by the Economist indicates that while 303 North Korean defectors reached South Korea last year (more than the double the number arriving in 2000), far larger numbers are escaping to China and as far away as Burma and Thailand. According to NGOs, some 300,000 North Koreans are in China, although the Seoul government puts the number at only 10,000. These refugees live precariously on the charity of ethnic Chinese Koreans. Although tolerated at first by Beijing, the last two years have seen a crackdown on the refugees, including repatriations and large fines for locals who help or harbour the migrants. So far UNHCR has not been involved nor does it have access to the border areas. The Economist also reports that the first known Korean smuggling ring has been identified.

  • Europe

    UNHCR reports that more than 24,000 people have fled from Macedonia to Kosovo since early May as a result of increased fighting. Half of this number has fled in the past two weeks as the country’s conflict intensifies. They join 1,000 ethnic Albanians who have fled to Kosovo from southern Serbia’s volatile Presevo area, amid new clashes between ethnic Albanian separatists and Serbian security forces. As UN High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers says "More than 1 million people in the Balkans remain displaced from the conflicts of the past decade. The last thing the region needs is more refugees."

    The International Organization for Migration organized a regional Seminar for Preventing of Trafficking and Victim Support in Skopje, Macedonia in May which brought together representatives of IOM offices in Kiev, Sophia, Belgrade, Tirana ad Skope, members of the La Strada network and some 20 Macedonian NGOs working on anti-trafficking. Participants are focusing on prevention and awareness raising, direct assistance to victims, networking and lobbying and enhancing the role of NGOs in law enforcement and prosecution.

    IOM has recently completed a study on irregular migration through Bosnia-Hercegovina which finds that the country is likely to remain a major gateway to the EU. The study shows that 97% of irregular migrants were male, 70% were single with an average age of 27 years. The study observes that the Balkans smuggling route began in 1996 with the re-opening of Sarajevo Airport. The Balkans route for narcotics which began before the war now supplies up to 80% of the heroin coming from the Golden Triangle into Europe. Weapons smuggling also dates to the pre-war period. Human smuggling builds on and extends these earlier activities and is generating major profits for organized crime. An estimated 40-50,000 irregular migrants transit Bosnia every year. For the migrants, the hazards of the journey are numerous. The authors of the study recommend that EU countries adopt orderly migration regimes to address the pull factors as well as improving border patrols. For the migrants themselves, the authors recommend an orderly and voluntary return option. (IOM Press Briefing Notes, 10 April 2001).

  • North America

    A US Federal Appeals court significantly broadened the interpretation of grounds for political asylum when it ruled in March against deporting a Mexican woman who said she would be abused by her father if she were forced to return. The US 9th circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that Rosalba Aguirre-Cervantes, 19, should be allowed to remain in he United States because of her past mistreatment, her "well-founded fear" of future abuse, and the fact that Mexico "is unable or unwilling to interfere with that persecution". The US Immigration and Naturalization service had sought to deport Ms. Aguirre-Cervantes. This case is expected to set a preference for other victims of domestic violence. The decision can be found at www.chastings.ed/cgrs/law/law.html (click on Court of Appeal Decisions)

    The Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister has tabled Canada’s immigration levels in the House of Commons which show a modest increase in numbers over the next two years. The Minister announced that Canada had exceeded the targets set for the year 2000 and that it planned to land up to 235,000 immigrants by 2002. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration also tabled the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in the House of Commons which introduces severe penalties - fines of up to $1 million and life in prison - for people smugglers and traffickers, speeds up family reunification, and seeks to maintain Canada’s humanitarian tradition of providing safe haven to people in need of protection. Procedural changes include front-end security screening for all claimants, clearer grounds for detention, fewer appeals and opportunities for judicial review to delay the removal of serious criminals and suspension of refugee claims for people charged with serious crimes until the courts have rendered a decision. The new legislation will replace the current Immigration Act which was first passed in 1976 and which has been amended more than 30 times. For more information, see the Canadian government website at

    4. Upcoming Meetings

    The second meeting of UNHCR’s Global Consultations on Refugee Protection focusing on the "gaps" in the 1951 convention will meet in Geneva from 25-26 June to focus on the questions of the asylum/migration nexus and asylum processes. The consultations will also consider the regional consultations in Ottawa (14/15 May) and Macau (28-29 May). The Ottawa meeting focused on incorporating refugee protection safeguards into interception measures while the Macau meeting concentrated on the asylum/migration nexus. Background papers for these meetings may be found on the UNHCR website ( A report of the June consultations will be made available shortly.

    As part of UNHCR’s Global Consultations on International Protection, UNHCR is organizing a forum for refugees in Europe to be held in Rouen, France from 14-16 September 2001. This forum is intended to be an integral part of the "Third Track" of UNHCR’s consultations and recommendations will be fed into forthcoming Executive Committee meetings. Contributions from refugees on the subjects of asylum procedures, integration, and voluntary repatriation are being solicited from UNHCR. For further information, see the UNHCR website at or contact the Conference Secretariat.

    UNHCR is organizing a Consultation of Refugee Women in Geneva from 20-22 June. This consultation, which will bring together 50 refugee women from around the world, will enable the refugee women to share experiences and to formulate recommendations for UNHCR. Discussions between the refugee women and senior UNHCR staff are planned for the third day of the meeting. This consultation is part of a process in which regional consultations with refugee women have been held in various parts of the world.

    The Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement, which brings together representatives of UNHCR, governments and non-governmental organizations, will meet in Geneva from 20-22 June to review current developments in resettlement and explore ways of strengthening resettlement as a tool of protection and a durable solution. The International Institute of Humanitarian Law will convene its 25th Round Table on Current Problems of International Humanitarian Law around the theme "Refugees: A Continuing Challenge" in San Remo, Italy from 6-8 September. This Round Table, organized in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the 1951 Convention and in support of UNHCR’s Global Consultations on International Protection, will address lessons from the first 50 years of implementation of the 1951 convention, the OAU Convention and temporary protection in Europe, reconciling refugee protection and migration control, and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Refugees. For further information on the Round Table, contact the International Institute of Humanitarian Law, Corso Cavallotti 113, 18038 San Remo, Italy.)

    The Biannual General Meeting of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles will be held in Rotterdam from 15-17 June. The meeting will focus on the Geneva Refugee Convention: Protecting Refugees for 50 years with working groups planned for issues such as regionalization, returns, resettlement, and separated children. The meeting will also focus on best practices for advocacy work and on developing an EU asylum policy. For more information, contact ECRE at Clifton Centre, Unit 22, 110 Clifton Street, London EC2A 4HT, UK.

    The next General Assembly of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) will be held from 31 August-1 September 2001 in Germany. The first day, 31 August, is open to the public and consists of a Workhop on ‘argumentation for working with undocumented migrants. The aim is to reflect on the ethical side of assistance to people who are not staying legally. For more information, contact Nele Verbruggen.

    The Flutchtlingsrat Schleswig-Holstein is planning a conference The Baltic Sea as escape route from 16-18 November 2001 in Bad Segeberg. The conference will deal with aspects of illegal migration in the Baltic Sea region and will bring together representatives of refugee solidarity groups from transit and destination countries. (For more information)

    UNITED, the largest European anti-racist network will hold a conference on The Power to Change from 8-12 June in Goteborg, Sweden. The five main themes explored at the conference are: fighting discrimination against minorities, fighting extreme-right ideologies, colonialism, slavery and recompensation, asylum and migration politics, and education against prejudice. For further information on UNITED’s work and materials available, see their website at

    The International Migrant Conference on Labor-Export and Forced Migration amidst Globalization will be held from 4-9 November in Manila, the Philippines. It will bring together migrant and immigrant organizations as well as advocates from the churches, other NGOs, development agencies and individuals. The purpose of the meeting is to develop a common analysis of the root causes of migration, its direct consequences and the role of governments and international institutions in the process of labor-export and forced migration; generate action against human rights violations committed against migrants and immigrants, harness international cooperation among participating migrant and immigrant organizations, and share strategies of resistance. The meeting is being organized by Migrante International in cooperation with GABRIELA, CONTAK and the Asia/Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos. More information

    ELENA, the European Legal Network on Asylum in collaboration with the ECRE Focus Group on South Eastern Europe is organizing an International Course on Refugee and Asylum Law in Sarajevo from 13-16 September. The course will include lectures by James Hathaway and Walter Kälin, experts in international refugee and asylum law. Plenary sessions will be conducted in English with interpretation into Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian. The course is aimed at legal counsellors and lawyers from across Europe who defend or who are interested in defending cases concerning refugees and asylum-seekers. Registration deadline is 31 July. Further information

    The "Academic Network of Legal Studies on Immigration and Asylum in Europe" financed by the Odysseus Programme of the European Commission and coordinated by the Université Libre de Bruxelles is organizing in July 2001 a European Summer school on European Union Law ad Policy on Immigration and Asylum in Brussels. Classes are given in English and French. More information or see the website.

    Dates have been set for the Public Health in Complex Emergencies training programme to be held from 8-22 July in Accra, Ghana and from 4-18 November in Entebbe, Uganda. The course is implemented by Columbia University in collaboration with World Education, Inc. and the International Rescue Committee and will cover the following topics: context of emergencies, epidemiology, communicable diseases, environmental health, nutrition, reproductive health, ethical issues, trauma and coordination. Tuition, room and board are US$1800. For further information contact shortcourse.

    The International Institute of Humanitarian Law is organizing its 20th Refugee Law Course in San Remo from 6-10 November 2001 The programme includes introductory lectures on specific topics (such as the evolution of the notion and persecution and militarization of refugee camps given by academics and experts from Governments and international organizations which will be developed through discussion of case studies in working groups. Registration for the course is US$140 with accommodations additional. For further information, contact the Institute.

    5. Past Meetings

    UNHCR organized a major consultation on the Integration and Reception of Resettled Refugees in Norrköping, Sweden from 25-27 April. The meeting brought together over 250 participants, including governmental, refugee and NGO representatives, to identify best practices for the integration of refugees. The consultation adopted a set of guiding principles on the issue of integration. For further information, see

    The University Center for International Studies in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA organized a conference on UNHCR and the Protection of Human Rights from 29 March - 1 April. The conference included 14 academic papers on the themes of expanding the refugee definition, altering the role of UNHCR in the North and South, the role of international organizations in enforcing the rights of refugees and prevenging, handling,and reintegrating refugee flows.

    The Conference on Refugee and Gender Persecution was held in May in Montreal organized by the Canadian Council for Refugees. The conference brought together 270 participants from around the world. The conference included plenary sessions and workshops on a large number of themes, including "when gender-related persecution is circumstantial" (e.g. when domestic workers are denied certain rights as most domestic workers are women), gender-specific consequences of a human rights violation, domestic violence and the failure of the states, and similarities in difficulties faced by women.

    The UNHCR-NGO Consultations on Results-Oriented Management of Humanitarian Operations was held in Ferney-Voltaire, France from 21-22 May 2001. The purpose of the meeting was to share experiences regarding the introduction and use of results-oriented management in humanitarian operations. Small groups reported on ways to enhance partnership in the processes of assessment, planning, monitoring and evaluation. Participants agreed on the urgent need to reinforce coordination of the main operations management processes and UNHCR was asked to take the lead in compiling a master list of key reference material as well as a roster of staff with advanced skills and experience in facilitating joint planning and evaluation processes.

    PICUM organized an International Experts Seminar on Health Care for Undocumented Migrants which addressed the issues of access to health care and the possibility of obtaining residence permits on medical grounds. Twelve experts from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom participated in the discussions. The report of this seminar will be available in mid-June for 9 euro from PICUM Secretariat, Gaucheretstraat 164, 1030 Brussels, Belgium.

    The Immigration Law Practitioners Association and the Meijers Committee (Netherlands) organized a conference on Development of the EU’s Borders: Schengen and Beyond. The conference, organized by the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, included sessions on a number of topics related to borders, including the human rights consequences of borders, exclusion and expulsion from the EU, the common border. (More information).

    The IOM office in Phnom Penh held a two-day workshop on the "Return and Reintegration of Trafficked Women and Children" in May. Most victims are trafficked from Burma, Vietnam and Cambodia to Thailand. Last year IOM Phnom Penh assisted 270 Cambodian victims of trafficking to return home, mostly from Thailand and Vietnam. The project, launched in 1996, established a systematic and sustainable cross-border working arrangement for the return and reintegration of trafficked and other vulnerable migrant women and children within the Mekong Region. During the 2000-2003 phase of the programme, IOM expects to assist at least 900 women and children.

    6. Resources

    You Cannot Dance if You Cannot Stand, published by the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children is a review of the Rwanda Women’s Initiative (RWI) and UNHCR’s commitment to gender equality in post-conflict societies. The study looks at RWI’s activities in terms of projects supported as well as the longer-term, more strategic focus of the programme. The report finds that while the role and scope of RWI was not fully recognized or valued by senior managers within UNHCR headquarters, RWI represented an innovative step during the post-conflict period. The report makes a number of recommendations for strengthening RWI as well as UNHCR’s ability to respond in post-conflict situations. Available from the Women’s Commission (122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10168-1289 USA)

    Jesuit Refugee Service has recently published War has changed our life, not our spirit which is a collection of stories of forcibly displaced women from all regions of the world. These first-person accounts are compelling examples of the hardships women have been forced to endure as a result of uprooting and of the strength they have displayed in difficult situations. Available from Jesuit Refugee Service, C.P. 6139, 00195 Roma Prati, Italy).

    RefuJesus by Boris Peterlin and Zeljko Uremovic is a beautifully illustrated picture book which juxtaposes refugees’ present-day experiences with Biblical texts. Available from Christian Information Service, PO Box 417, 10001 Zagreb, Croatia.

    The Conference of European Churches has published Trafficking in Women in Europe which includes the papers from an international consultation on traffickig held in November 1999. The publication includes reports from 6 European countries, the final declaration of the consultation, and list of participants. Available from the Conference of European Churches, 150 rte de Ferney, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland.

    The Advocacy Project has announced a new series of e-mail newsletters on Palestinian civil society. The series finds that while civil society is responding magnificently to the current emergency in the occupied territories,it will not be able to defend the rule of law indefinitely without more political support from governments and pressure on Israel to respect international law. If you would like to receive the e-mail newsletter, send a message. Questions or queries can be sent to

    Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds is a new publication by Amnesty International which focuses on torture and ill-treatment of women. The book looks at torture of women in the home and community, the failure of the state to ensure women’s right to freedom from torture, and torture by state agents and armed groups. Available from Amnesty International Publications, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW, UK.

    Gil Loescher has recently published The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path which traces the history of the UNHCR and its role in international relations. As the first independent history of UNHCR, the book examines the extent to which the evolution of the UNHCR has been framed by the crucial events in international politics, and in turn how the actions of the eight past High Commissioners have helped shape the course of world history. Each chapter tells the story of an individual High Commissioner and examines the unique contributions made to the development of the Office. Available from Oxford University press or from for UK residents.

    Outside the Protection of the Law: The Situation of Irregular Migrants in Europe by Matthew J. Gibney is a synthesis report of an examination of irregular migrants in three European countries: United Kingdom, Spain, and Germany. Commissioned by Jesuit Refugee Service-Europe, the report argues that issues around irregular migrants are ethical issues and that "the continent’s response to irregular migration will help determine whether Europeans are able to create ethically defensible forms of society fit for a new millennium". Available from JRS-Europe, rue Maurice Liétart 31/5, 1150 Brussels, Belgium

    The Challenges of Complementarity is the report of the fourth workshop on protection for human rights and humanitarian organizations sponsored by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Edited by Jacques de Maio, the report includes presentations made at the workshop on the involvement of the military in humanitarian activities, action in remote control, forced relocation of populations, the protection framework, and institutional initiatives in the field of protection. Available from ICRC at 19, Avenue de la Paix, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland.

    Save the Children Sweden’s new publications catalogue includes 45 pages of publications about children, from child labour to children with disabilities to children in armed conflicts and displaced children. Available from Save the Children Sweden SE-107 88 Stockholm, Sweden.

    Workers Without Frontiers by Peter Stalker examines the impact of globalization on international migration. It is a comprehensive analysis of the way in which economic trends are impacting on the movement of people. Available from ILO Publications,s 4, rte des Morillons, CH-1211 Geneva 22, Switzerland or by e-mail or (for the USA). Also see the website.

    Conciliation Resources has published Politics of Compromise: the Tajikistan peace process which finds that in comparison with many of the ‘internal’ wars of the late twentieth century, the inter-Tajik conflict is remarkable both for its rapid escalation to war in 1992 and for its relatively quick conclusion through a negotiated settlement that was finalized in June 1997. The study finds that the Tajikistan peace process is notable for its well-coordinated and sustained official negotiations and unofficial dialogue. This publication is a project of the Accord programme. Available from Conciliation Resources, 173 Upper Street, London N1 1RG, UK.

    Women’s Asylum News is produced by the Refugee Women’s Resource Project and is available from Asylum Aid. It includes information about women’s asylum issues in the UK and internationally.

    The Lancet has published a series of articles concerning the health and human rights of the world’s population of displaced people on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees. The series of essays discusses a wide range of refugee issues, including the need to redefine refugee status, the role of IDPs, the health care needs of refugees and IDPs, the limited and often inappropriate health care available to refugees entering developed countries, and criticism of the increasing use of detention centers by Western governments. Available from the Lancet.

    A special issue of IOM’s International Migration Series focuses on the human rights of migrants which reviews main trends, issues, debates, actors and initiatives regarding the recognition and protection of the human rights of migrants. The evidence demonstrates that violations of migrants’ human rights are so widespread and commonplace that they are a defining feature of international migration today. The publication includes an overview of main trends, issues and actors; a summary of applicable international standards; a model approach from work with IDPs; a review of the work of the Special Rapporteur of Migrants’ Rights; and a regional perspective from South Africa, host country of the World Conference against Racism.

    UN Publications has just produced a catalogue of publications on migration and related issues. Contact them for a copy of the catalogue or visit their website and see their online catalogue of IOM publications.

    The International Crisis Group has published a new report entitled The Macedonian Question: Reform or Rebellion which examines the background to the ethnic Albanian insurgency. The report connects the current crisis to a recent history of corrupt electoral practice, census procedures that were manipulated to understate the size of the Albanian population, questionable citizenship requirements and endemic corruption. The report provides detailed recommendations to the Macedonian government, NATO, the EU and other members of the international community, as well as to Macedonia’s Albanian leadership. The report is available on the webiste of the International Crisis group at

    The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has introduced a new website. The site contains all ECRE position papers, research papers and press releases as well as an area covering EU refugee policy developments and an area outlining "quick facts" which address many of the questions often asked.

    Migrants Rights International has launched a discussion group by e-mail on the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Participants, approximately 300, are representatives from civil society organizations with a special interest in migration issues vis-à-vis the preparations and outcome of WCRX. To join this discussion group, contact Hector Mareque, Migrants Rights International.

    The new draft of the outcome document for the UN Special Session on Children is now available in English. It is available from the UNICEF website at

    Return Migration: Journey of Hope or Despair, ed. by Bimal Ghosh, provides an overview of return migration as well as critical issues such as protection of human rights of returnees and linkages between return and development. Policy issues and operational challenges of Central and Eastern Europe receive regional spotlight. Available from UN Publications for US’35,000.

    ECRE’s Focus Group on South-Eastern Europe has produced Croatian democracy’s ‘litmus test:’ refugee return and integration into Europe. The report describes the present situation of refugee returns, but questions whether the government can achieve its objectives of refugee return due to a number of factors, including difficulties in implementing the strategy at the local level, the discriminatory functioning of the legal system, the socio-economic situation of the country, and the vestiges of political extremism and intolerance. The report makes a number of recommendations to facilitate the return process. (Available from

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