Overview of Refugees

An overview of refugees is important to enable the world know their pains, their impact on the host country and solutions to displacement. Refugees have existed as far back as hostilities have occurred but history has never known refugee problems of such magnitude as during the present century. For centuries, the world has experienced diverse forms of natural disasters like flood, drought and those caused by manmade factors like conflicts and wars.

These factors have caused displacements and untold hardship to millions of victims who get caught in the situation. In some cases, the effects of the disaster are so perilous that large numbers of those affected have been forced to flee to different areas within the country or across national borders to stay as refugees.

Historically, the phenomenon of is rooted in the ancient times and also in religion. It is believed by most religions that a person who fled into a “holy Place” could not be harmed without inviting divine retribution. The Israelites were refugees in different places at different times prior to the Christian era. One may whimsically say also that Joseph and Mary were refugees shortly after the birth of Jesus as they fled from Bethlehem to Egypt in fear of persecution by the then king Herod.

A refugee signifies someone in flight and in desperate need to escape conditions or personal circumstances which threaten his life or liberty. The reason for flight may be manmade or natural disaster. The cause of the flight may be as a result of the act of government or its agents or a section of the population.

Being a refugee means more than being an ordinary alien, it includes living in exile and depending on others for basic need such as food, clothing, shelter etc, the denial or lack of protection by their own government is the principal feature of refugee character which distinguishes him from ordinary alien. The essence of the definition or describing class of refugees is to justify aid and protection and therefore it is of crucial importance in determining who is entitled to protection and assistance.

The state of being a refugee goes against all that human rights standards and norms stand for, it in a way rips off one’s inherent dignity and worth as a human being, placing him or her in a much disadvantaged position that is far from the notion of equality of all human beings.

. The American refugee committee has noted that over 39 million people all over the world have been forced at one moment or another to flee their homes because of conflicts or natural disasters.

States have conditionally or unconditionally received frightened, hungry, war weary victims of persecutions and violence within their territorial boundaries. The international community has struggled to deal with the issue of refugees without much success due to the increasing numbers and more complex dimensions the problem has taken in recent times.

Beyond the act of just receiving refugees is the equally important obligation according to the international treaty requirements for the receiving state to make sure they provided fair treatment and protection.

Refugees are particularly disadvantaged and thus vulnerable to many policies and actions which tend to violate and deprive them of basic human rights. In this regard, protection has been earmarked as a core responsibility that the international community bears towards refugees.

International instruments like the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees and the 1967 protocol to the convention were specifically adopted to provide protection to those at risk and in danger who seek asylum.

These instruments are fundamental to protecting and regulating the treatment of those who are compelled to leave their homes because of unfavourable conditions in their country of origin and in this regard, one of the core components of international protection is finding durable solutions for refugees.

In the African context, the 1969 convention was passed to govern the specific aspects of refugees’ problem in Africa. These three international instruments are however not the only instruments making provisions for the protection of refugees. They are complemented by other instruments such as the Universal Declaration on Human Right, the Cartagena Declaration, the International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, and the International covenant on civil and political on civil and political rights. In the Nigeria legal system, the main law regulating the affairs of refugees is the National Commission for Refugees (Establishment, etc) Act.

The protection of refugees is primarily the responsibility of the receiving state, with the contribution of international law, to complement the national laws of the host country. The protection of the socio-economic rights of refugees is a duty that must be ensured by the world community.

Countless number of persons over the centuries has emigrated against their will because of conflicts. Refugees’ immigration has reached endemic proportions; consequently, host nations are challenged with refugees’ presence with regards to hosting, feeding, educating as well as identifying and utilizing their human resource potentials. In the effort to host refugees, many host communities face various forms of socio-economic challenges as well as benefits from refugees’ human resources.

Modern technology has brought about development of weapon of mass destruction. As a result, violence has become the greatest factor instigating involuntary departure from homelands. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report in fact sheet No.20, there have been more than 130 armed conflicts since 1945.

Western business and export practices directly support violations of human rights and consequently generate refugees by supplying weapons of mass destruction to the third world countries.

Most of the refugee situations arising from gulf war, Somali-Ethiopia dispute, Tanzania-Uganda conflict and Liberia war to mention but few are in many ways, the direct or indirect result of the first world policies which did not aim at such result but which on the other hand cared little for human rights standards under their trading partners jurisdiction.

By exporting weapons, they have fuelled a number of armed conflicts, violating human and humanitarian laws and consequently creating flood of refugees in many poor parts of the world, thereby perverting and reversing the process of development itself. Armed conflicts result in large scale exodus of refugees from their countries of origin to economically and politically safe neigbouring countries. These neigbouring states or asylum countries have a huge burden on them and this can only be partly taken away by the intervention of protective agencies and international aid.

In international politics, the refugees’ predicaments have been a call for concern with the main reason being that these refugees are found everywhere. For a very long time now, the by-product of wars, manmade and natural disasters, human rights violation have caused the production of multitude of refugees with a majority of them belonging to developing countries.

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In this regard, this study takes a particular interest in refugees of armed conflict living in Nigeria and investigates to what extent their rights are protected both by Nigeria and international community.

Nigeria is a large country with enormous problems, notably the on-going armed conflict that has created insecurity in some part of the country particularly the north-eastern part of the nation and has caused the displacement and movement of large numbers of refugees.

Refugee issue is one of the most complicated and major political problem facing the world community today. It is as old as the history of mankind. Therefore emphasis on permanent solution to the issue should assume a holistic approach such as preventing the root cause of mass flow, respecting the principles of the UN charter by not resorting to the use of force in settlement of disputes and promoting human rights.

The situation of refugees is an exceptional situation which requires that both political and legal measures be directed to the avoidance of that situation to enable people pursues their lives and legitimate business in peace, free from persecution.

Since the early 1920’s, the international community has been concerned with the phenomenon of refugees. Through the instrumentality of international humanitarian law, various treaties and arrangements were adopted to cater for the protection of refugees.

Despite the availability of convention on the protection of refugees, current trends observed so far on the issue of refugee protection points to the fact that these instruments are far from being effective in their designed aim of granting recognition and protection to refugees. Today, refugee protection has undergone such a tidal change that shows that refugees are increasingly being viewed as social economic and political miscreants.




By Admin

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