Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Needs of displaced Africans take center stage at World Refugee Day hearing

According to the latest U.N. reports on Africa’s refugee crisis, the continent currently has over 2.4 million refugees and 6.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). This accounts for nearly 25 percent of the world’s refugee population and nearly half of the world’s IDP population. In the past year alone there has been a 14 percent increase in the number of refugees worldwide. These staggering figures are just a few of the reasons why the situation in Africa was the focus of a House subcommittee hearing today.

Many issues were discussed in the hearing, but the most noteworthy were the circumstances in Darfur, the matter of African nations closing their borders to refugees, the enormous number of IDPs on the continent, and the rights and services available to refugees. The subcommittee heard first from Daoud Hari, a Darfurian man that escaped the genocide by fleeing to Chad and then to Ghana. Hari is one of three refugees that have been resettled in the U.S., and he reported to the committee that there is much work to be done in Darfur. Hari and Joel Charny, the vice president for policy at Refugees International, both gave testimony regarding the dire state of affairs in Chad, noting that refugees from Darfur are overwhelming the Chadian government and straining the country’s resource base. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been working closely with the Chadian government to set up new camps to hold the refugees. However, such an operation would be beset by numerous complications, including limited water and access to transportation, and there is currently no plan for relocation.

In addition to the dilemma of refugee overflow in existing camps, many African nations are now closing their doors to refugees in order to better attend to the violent struggles raging on within their own borders. Perhaps the biggest obstacle many nations face is trying to meet the needs of their own IDP population. IDPs face the same struggles of finding food, water, shelter and basic services that refugees face. However, because they have not crossed an international border, they are not legally refugees, and are therefore ineligible to receive the same services as refugees.

The entire committee expressed deep concern for the well-being and of Africa’s existing refugee population. Many refugees do not receive sufficient services, and few are receiving education while they are in the camps. Additionally, there was much discussion about trying to extend these services to IDPs. All witnesses confirmed reports that IDPs are now gathering at the edges of refugee camps in order to try to collect any services possible from the camps, or from the refugees themselves.

Despite all the disheartening accounts delivered, the committee was also able to report on great progress. The U.S. currently is home to half of all resettled African refugees. In particular, the progress of Sudan’s “Lost Boys” was noted. This group of refugees arrived in 2003 and has served as a model for resettlement and adjustment to American culture ever since. This year the group proudly saw the first wave of boys graduate from various colleges and universities around the nation.



Post a Comment

<< Home