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Refugee News                       August 1997
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Britain: New inquiry into death of asylum-seeker after arrest 

In December 1994 Oluwashijibomi "Shiji" Lapite, a Nigerian asylum-seeker, suffered between 36 and 45 separate injuries during a struggle with two plain-clothes officers from Stoke Newington police station, north London, after they arrested him on suspicion of possession of crack cocaine. Mr Lapite, 32, a father of two, choked to death. 

The Police Complaints Authority initially decided against recommending disciplinary action. Following a first-ever court case to challenge a decision by the Crown Prosecution Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions will now reconsider her decision not to prosecute two policemen for manslaughter. 

Inquest jury: asylum-seeker unlawfully killed 

24 July 1997: Pcs face fresh inquiry into death after arrest 

UNHCR - information on: 
United Kingdom 

Refugee News: More on Britain


Britain: Payments to single asylum seekers declared unlawful 

A high court in Britain has declared that cash payments given by local councils to single asylum seekers are illegal. The people concerned had been denied benefits by the central government but received money from local authorities who had hoped that they would be reimbursed by the government. If this repayment does not come about, local councils in London would become some 1 million pound poorer! 

Electronic Telegraph: Councils left with £1m benefits bill 

Asylum seekers who appeal may lose legal aid 

Square Mile helps cleric fight deportation 

Labour may deport 50,000 illegal immigrants 

UNHCR - information on: 
United Kingdom 

Refugee News: More on Britain



Burma: Bangladesh sends 1,000 refugees back  

Bangladesh has sent home 1,000 Burmese Muslim refugees during the second half of June. 

In the preceding weeks, 3,000 Muslims, known as Rohingyas, have entered Bangladesh from Burma. In southeast Bangladesh there are still 21,500 of the 270,000 Rohingyas that fled Burma in 1992. 

The refugees say they were forced to escape from an anti-Muslim campaign Burma's military government that has been widely condemned for human rights abuses. 


UNHCR - information on: 

Free Burma  

Refugee News:  More on Burma




Burundi: "Regroupment policy" 

The Tutsi-led army of Burundi has rounded up 600,000 people, Hutus and minority Tutsis, and placed placed them in 200 camps scattered across the country. 

The military says its "regroupment policy" is intended to stop the violence that has led to the death of more than 150,000 people in the last four years. The policy has, however, brought international condemnation for the government. 

People from the two groups live in different camps: those for the Tutsis are more comfortable and have better services!



Burundi (UNHCR information) 

Refugee News: More on Burundi


Cambodia: Some refugees return but ..... many more escape! 

Soon after the repatriation of the last group of Cambodian refugees who fled their homeland during the turmoil of the 1970s and 1980s, hundreds of civilians had to escape to neighboring Thailand because of clashes between forces loyal to the former co-prime ministers after the recent coup. 

Thousands of Cambodians fled to neighboring Thailand when Khmer Rouge rebels took over the country in 1975. Hundreds of thousands more joined them after Vietnam invaded and overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. 

They started coming back after a peace pact was signed in 1991 between the Vietnamese-installed government and a resistance coalition dominated by the Khmer Rouge. 

More than 370,000 Cambodians were repatriated, mainly from Thailand. Some came back from camps on the border to find their families gone, their villages flattened, and their fields full of mines and unexploded shells. In desperation, they have become refugees in their own country, living in shanty towns around Phnom Penh.

NGOs Decide To Stay (from Jesuit Refugee Service NEWS 15.07.97) 


Cambodia's torment 


UNHCR - information on: 

Refugee News:  More on Cambodia


Central African Republic: 100,000 flee capital  

Following a mutiny in the Central African armed forces, fierce clashes in the capital Bangui has forced 100,000 persons, including many women and children, to flee the capital to seek refuge in villages and towns nearby. Many young children lost contact with their parents. 

The displaced persons and the communities where they sought refuge suffered shortages of food, safe drinking water, medical care and accommodation. 

With the exception of some 5,000 to 10,000 persons, the displaced have now returned home but many houses, shops, hospitals and health centers in the capital have been damaged and looted. Medicines and commodities are scarce. 

Full report from reliefweb 

UNHCR - information on: 
Central African Rep. 

Refugee News:  More on Central African Republic


Colombia: Increased guerrilla activity causes displacement 

Conflict between the Armed Forces and guerrillas has escalated within the past two weeks. There have been about 20 incidents throughout the country, particularly in the region of Antioquia. This follows the release of 70 soldiers who had been held for more than nine months.  

The intense struggle for control of large areas of the countryside is causing displacements within local communities through intimidation tactics and other human rights violations. If the conflict is maintained at this level, it's possible that the number of displaced in 1997 will exceed last year's figure of 181,000. 

(Source: Jesuit Refugee Service: News Briefings 15.07.97)

Details (from Jesuit Refugee Service NEWS 15.07.97) 

UNHCR - information on: 

Refugee News:  More on Colombia


Congo/Zaire: Aid official accuses Kabila troops of massacres 

Forces loyal to President Laurent Kabila have killed many thousands of Hutu refugees in former Zaire and the massacres were still going on, says a prominent aid organization official.  

Back in Rwanda, the government is not helping the situation by refusing to give repatriated Hutu refugees their land back and by denying them food aid. 

Kabila faces UN inquiry into Hutu massacre 

Refugee News: More on Zaire/Congo 

Refugee News: More on Rwanda

The controversy about what could have been done to avert these massacres continues.  

A report by the London-based human rights group, African Rights, accuses the United Nations of helping to hide some of those who organized and led the genocide in Rwanda behind "refugee" status in its camps in eastern Zaire. They had terrified thousands of innocent Hutus into fleeing their country in July 1994 and for three years continued a campaign of intimidation and violence within the camps, says the report. 

A spokesman for the UN has said that the report provided nothing new about the issue. The UNHCR had asked for an international force to intervene to separate the refugees from criminals, he maintained, but the international community failed to commit troops

Hiding killers behind a UN shield 

UNHCR - information on: 
Congo (Dem. Rep.) 


Kenya: Forced repatriation only a matter of time 

Kenya is experiencing tense moments of political, economic and social change. And the riots and political disturbances which have rocked the country recently have serious consequences for all refugees living within its borders.  

With an already large population of around 28 million, Kenya's leadership is not prepared to tolerate the additional burden of refugees. Taking as a precedent last year's forced repatriation of 400,000 Rwandan refugees from Tanzania, the Kenyan Government is poised to force back any number of refugees when it wants to. 

Kenya was host to over half a million refugees between 1991 and 1994. Presently there are about 200,000 refugees living in the country. These refugees come from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, etc. 

The number of refugees in Nairobi has trebled within the last six months because of the closure of camps in Congo and the fear of forced repatriation. Many thousands of refugees have been refused UNHCR protection letters and do not figure in refugee statistics 

(Source: Jesuit Refugee Service: News Briefings 15.07.97)

Details (from Jesuit Refugee Service NEWS 15.07.97) 

UNHCR - information on: 

Refugee News: More on Kenya


Landmines: Unexpected success at conference 

During a conference held in Brussels at the end of June, ninety-five states agreed to sign a treaty banning the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of landmines. The treaty is to be signed in Ottawa in December. Representatives of these states, more than half of the world's nations, will be meeting in Oslo in September to decide of the final wording of the treaty. 

Among the countries now committed to sign the ban are some major producers, like France, Britain and Italy, together with two of the worst mine-infested, Angola and Bosnia. The United States did not sign because it favors separate talks at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva. Non-governmental groups campaigning against mines maintain that these talks, sponsored by the United Nations, will not produce a landmine ban for some years. 

About landmines:  

  • 100,000,000 scattered around the world 
  • 100,000,000 stockpiled 

    5,000,000 - 10,000,000 new ones produced every year 

    more than 1,000,000 killed or maimed 

    25,000 new victims every year - one every 15 minutes 

Hypocrisy on landmines 

57 Senators Pressure Clinton To Ban Anti-Personnel Mines 



Anti-Personnel Landmines 

Cambodia's torment 

Refugee News: More on landmines


Russian Federation: Frequent attacks on returning Ingush refugees 

More than 20 attacks against Ingush refugees returning to the North Ossetian district of Prigorodny district have been committed in the last few weeks. In the latest attack, 17 people were wounded in a grenade attack on a bus. 

In the 1940's the whole Ingush people was deported by Stalin to Central Asia. Much of their land was taken over by Ossetians but with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ingushis started coming back. An armed conflict erupted in Prigorodny in 1992 between Ingushetia and North Ossetia which left 200 people dead and many others as refugees. Most ethnic Ingush were expelled from the region; as many as 10,000 have since returned. 

Refugee News: More on Russian Federation 

UNHCR - information on: 

Russia Today Home Page 

The St. Petersburg Times 


Sierra Leone: 40,000 internally displaced 

Four weeks after the military coup in Sierra Leone, the capital, Freetown, is in a situation of tense status quo, while tensions in many rural areas escalate. A small but steady flow of people out of the city continues. It is estimated that at least one-fourth of the city's population has left. 

There are now an estimated 40,000 internally displaced Sierra Leoneans in northwestern sections of the country. 

Thousands of refugees streaming into Liberia have reported fighting along the border between the army and the Kamajor militia which backed the ousted government. 

Report from Refugees International 
Oneworld - As many as 300,000 people have fled from the capital city, Freetown: 
Sierra Leone (UNHCR information) 
Refugee News: More on Sierra Leone 

South Africa: Refugee from Burundi dies at Home Affairs Office 

A Burundian refugee died on the floor of a Home Affairs Department office in Cape Town the day after arriving from Burundi. 

Fellow Burundian refugees said that the man appeared in good health when he was picked up by the police but died half-an-hour after being dumped at the office. 

The refugees are unhappy about the case and have complained to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

A murder inquiry has been opened by the police. 

Many citizens of neigbouring countries are going to South Africa looking for a better life. 
Full story from Weekly Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 

UNHCR - information on: 
South Africa 

Mail & Guardian Home Page 

Refugee News: More on South Africa 

Refugee News: More on Burundi 

Am I my brother's keeper?

Refugees to return after Tajik peace accord  

More than 22,300 Tajik refugees living in northern Afghanistan are expected to start returning to their homeland after a peace agreement, signed in Moscow on June 27 by the Tajik Government and United Tajik Opposition. 

Since the peace accord, many refugees have been eager to return and growing insecurity in Afghanistan, due to fighting between the Taliban and their enemies, has also increased the refugees' desire to go back to Tajikistan. 

The Tajik civil war has resulted in: 

    • 30,000 people killed 

    • 60,000 refugees in Afghanistan 
      600,000 internally displaced 
UNHCR press release on accord 

UN begins return of 22,000 Tajik refugees from Afghanistan 

UNHCR - information on: 

Refugee News: More on Tajikistan


Tanzania: 100,000 refugees from Zaire/Congo 

Tanzania currently plays host to about 100,000 refugees from former Zaire who fled to the Kigoma region during the civil war. On July 28 it was announced that the Presidents of Tanzania and Congo had agreed on their repatriation. 

Only some 6,000 refugees have gone back back voluntarily since the end of the civil war. Most of the others are not registered with the UNHCR and live in villages along the east shore of Lake Tanganyika. 

According to the UNHCR there are about 5,000 registered refugees from the Congo, many former government employees, wanted to return home officially. 

In Tanzania, there are also many refugees from Burundi. Earlier this year, two Burundian refugee camps near Ngara were merged, possibly as a deliberate strategy to put pressure on refugees to return home. 

Great Lakes Crisis (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania) 

UNHCR - information on: 
Congo (Dem. Rep.) 

Refugee News: More on Tanzania


Thailand: Repatriation Of Burmese Refugees  

During the past month, Thailand has stepped up its strategy to deter Burmese asylum seekers. There's been refoulement, denial of access, refugees being labeled "economic migrants", and active ongoing deterrence by the Thai Army 9th Division. 

Unofficial reports following this repatriation contain details of the following:  

  • * forced labour for men, women and children due to the building of an army base  
    * exits to the village being blocked by Burmese troops  
    * lack of adequate rice supplies following promises of six months' provisions 
    * denial of freedom of movement within the village.  

    UNHCR acted as 'observers' to this repatriation. 

Since this, the refoulement of some 1200 Karen refugees has taken place. There is little detailed knowledge of this repatriation. But it's known that the Thai Army 9th Division gave high level assurances to the effect that this refoulement would not take place. Only the sick, elderly, pregnant women and children escaped repatriation. There are no details available regarding the fate of these refugees.  

(Source: Jesuit Refugee Service: News Briefings 15.07.97)

Details (from Jesuit Refugee Service NEWS 15.07.97) 

UNHCR - information on: 

Refugee news:  More on Thailand


U.S.: Deportation law to be reviewed 

Attorney General Janet Reno has promised to review certain provisions of the new immigration law that came into effect April 1.  

The review is aimed at making sure the law applied mainly to cases that arose after that date rather than those that were pending. It is also aimed at those parts of the law that makes it very difficult for immigrants to avoid deportation and that established a quota of 4,000 exceptions a year.  

Up to 280,000 people, mainly from El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua, may now be eligible to remain in the US. 

Iraqi refugees and onetime U.S. allies face eviction  

A struggle toward citizenship  

Refugee News: More on U.S.A.