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Refugee News                       September 1997
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 Refugee News in brief
 
 
 
Australia: East Timorese refugees spied on and harassed 
Azerbaijan: Armenian refugees protest against President's visit to U.N. 
Britain: Asylum seekers can look for jobs, says High Court 
Britain: Asylum seekers with HIV to receive disability allowance
Burundi: Hundreds of Hutu killed during in-fighting
France may modify immigration laws
Georgia: a peaceful end for the plight of refugees from Abkhazia?
Greece: 300 refugees abandoned 
Hong Kong: Aid agencies condemn repatriation of refugees with health problems
India: Chin refugees flee crackdown in Burma
Landmines: 2,000 people are now killed every month, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 
Landmines: US to join Ottawa process, but with conditions
Tajikistan: Repatriation proceeding well
 
 
 
 
  
More information 
  
  
Australia: East Timorese refugees spied on and harassed  

Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning East Timorese dissident has accused Indonesian diplomats in Australia of spying on East Timorese refugees harassing them. 

Ramos-Horta, who represents the East Timorese resistance internationally, called on Australia to issue a formal protest to Indonesia. 

Family members of East Timorese living in Australia have been treated badly by the military back home; some have lost their jobs and others ended up in jail. 

Ramos-Horta won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 together with Roman Catholic Bishop Carlos Belo. 

The United Nations does not recognize Indonesia's sovereignty East Timor. Indonesia invaded the former Portuguese colony in 1975 and annexed it a year later.

UNHCR Information on:- 
Indonesia/East timor 
Australia 

Refugee News: More about East Timor  

Refugee News: More about Australia

  

  
Azerbaijan: Armenian refugees protest against President's visit to U.N.  

Armenian refugees living in the United States have protested against a visit to the United Nations by Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev. The refugees said they had been forced out of their homes in Azerbaijan and the Nagorno Karabagh Republic.  

Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in a bitter dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave inside Azerbaijan populated by ethnic Armenians.  

A war that ended in 1994 killed 15,000 people and turned about 1 million into refugees. Armenians were driven out of Azerbaijan proper, while Azeris have been driven out of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.

Protest visit of Azerbaijan president: 

UNHCR Information on:- 
Azerbaijan 
Armenia 

Refugee News: More about Azerbaijan 

Refugee News: More about Armenia

  

  
Britain: Asylum seekers can look for jobs, says High Court  

A policy, created by the Conservative Government, that banned asylum seekers from finding jobs while waiting for appeal hearings regarding their refugee status was ruled "unlawful and irrational" in the High Court.   

The judge said the policy, created to discourage false refugees, was pushing genuine ones to "destitution or deprivation".

31 July 1997: Asylum jobs ban is ruled unlawful 
 

UNHCR - information on: 
United Kingdom 

Refugee News: More on Britain

  

  
Britain: Asylum seekers with HIV to receive disability allowance 

Two HIV-positive Ugandan asylum seekers in Britain have won the right to continue receiving a disability benefit. Their cases could affect thousands of other asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants.  

The two persons involved were an eight-year-old girl, whose mother is also HIV-positive and whose older brother has already died of Aids, and someone who was already suffering from the symptoms of HIV and had also been disabled by a grenade explosion in his homeland. He had also been tortured.  

Both had been receiving a disability benefit but this had been withdrawn in February last year with the introduction of new social security regulations.

14 August 1997: Refugees with HIV win right to benefit 

UNHCR - information on: 
United Kingdom 

Refugee News: More on Britain

  

  
Burundi: Hundreds of Hutu killed during in-fighting 

About 600 Hutus have been killed in the last weeks in northwestern Burundi. They are the victims of a power struggle between the two rebel Hutu movements -- the National Liberation Front and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy. The struggle has spilled over into Burundian Hutu refugee communities in Tanzania where many people have been killed. 

Both groups seek to oust Tutsi President Pierre Buyoya, who took power in a coup last year, but the National Liberation Front want to step up the fight against the government while the Forces for the Defense of Democracy favour negotiations. 

This in-fighting has forced 13,000 Hutus to escape from the countryside to Bubanza, a trading center 25 miles north of Bujumbura. 

More than 150,000 people have been killed in Burundi since October 1993, when Tutsi paratroopers kidnapped and killed Melchoir Ndadaye, the country's first democratically elected president, who was a Hutu. 

Since that killing, some 150,000 people, mostly civilians have been killed. Another 700,000 have escaped from the country and sought refuge in Rwanda, Zaire or Tanzania. 

Hutus make up about 85 percent of Burundi's 6.2 million people, but Tutsis, with their domination of the military, economy and politics, control the country. This domination dates back to colonial times when the Belgian administrators always preferred the Tutsis and used their dominant position to rule the country.

Ethnic "regroupment" takes place in the context of massacres: 

600,000 languishing in Burundi's 200 camps 

Great Lakes Crisis (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania) 

BACKGROUND BRIEFING - Hutu - Tutsi - Rwanda - Burundi 

Rwanda/Burundi Regional Emergency - Introduction 

Conference on the conflicts in Zaire, Rwanda and Burundi 

Burundi (UNHCR information) 

Refugee News: More on Burundi

  

  
France may modify immigration laws 

A report commissioned by the new French government suggests that the country's immigration rules are too tough and bureaucratic and should be modified. 

It also proposes a more liberal interpretation of the laws concerning the rights of immigrants' families to settle in France and a restitution the right of immigrants' children born in France to become French at 18. This automatic right was abolished in 1993. 

An important innovation is the new proposed definition of "refugee". This will include people threatened by forces that are not in government e.g. the Islamic Fundamentalists in Algeria.

01 August 1997: Jospin aims to relax controls on immigration 

UNHCR Information on:- 
France 
 
 

Refugee News: More about France

  

  
Georgia: a peaceful end for the plight of refugees from Abkhazia? 

A statement, signed by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz separatist leader Vladislav Ardzinba on August 15, committing themselves not to use arms to resolve differences between them may be the beginning of the end of the plight of some 150,000 ethnic Georgian refugees who had to leave Abkhazia during fighting in 1992-93 which cost 10,000 lives. 

However United Nations-mediated negotiations on reaching a full political agreement are at a standstill.

Georgia, Abkhaz Separatists Pledge Peace: 

UNHCR - information on: 
Georgia 
 

Refugee News: More about Georgia

  

  
Greece: 300 refugees abandoned  

Three hundred people, mainly Turkish Kurds, were recently rescued from the sea off Greek island of Andros in a poor state of health. The group, which included some Bangladeshis, Turks and Rwandese, were abandoned by a Ukrainian registered ship after having paid up to $2,500 each for the trip. 

Yes, Greece does have a big problem with illegal immigration over recent years the number of people trying to slip into Europe through The Greek islands recently become a common port of entry for people trying to enter Europe illegally.

UNHCR BRIEFING NOTE 
 

UNHCR Information on:- 
Greece 

Refugee News: More about Greece

  

  
Holland: Iranian refugees on hunger strike 

An Iranian refugee, who fled persecution in his native country, Amir Amiry is semiconscious and wasting away in a Dutch hospital after more than two months  on hunger strikes after the Dutch government ordered his deportation as an illegal immigrant. 

An other Iranian, Majid Masseri , ended a 31  hunger strike after a court ruled that he had no grounds to stay in the Netherlands, where he fled two years ago. 

Both Masseri, 41, and Amiry, 27, say they face imprisonment, torture or death if they return to Iran because the government there has accused them of spying. They deny  the charge. 

The plight of the two men has started a debate among the Dutch about whether their country is abandoning its tradition of hospitality. 

Three hundred people seek asylum every day in Holland. Last winter, 173 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka flew to Amsterdam seeking asylum. Officials have yet to decide which -- if any -- will be allowed to stay. 

Another 25 Iranians have launched hunger strikes recently in solidarity with the two men. 

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said it based its deportation order on its belief that the political and human rights situation in Iran is improving under a new, more moderate government. Amnesty International and others question that. 

UNHCR - information on: 
Iran
 
 

Refugee News: More on Holland
 
 
 
 

Refugee News: More on Iran
 
 

  

  
Hong Kong: Aid agencies condemn repatriation of refugees with health problems 

Aid workers have condemned the Hong Kong government's plans to repatriate Vietnamese refugees with severe health problems. 

They refer to a small number of refugees who can be said to be 'fit to travel' but who suffer from chronic disorders for which treatment in Vietnam is likely to be far from satisfactory. Refugee workers say that these people will surely die if returned to their homeland. 

Some of the refugees need long-term medical treatment such as regular transfusions or renal dialysis which the limited health care resources in Vietnam are unlikely to cope with. 

The saga of these refugees is being monitored by UNHCR and aid organizations including Amnesty International, Refugee Concern, and Human Rights Watch.

China says Hong Kong's Vietnamese refugees must go  

Refugee workers protest repatriation: 
 

UNHCR - information on: 
Hong kong 
VietNam 
 

Refugee News: More about Vietnam 

Refugee News: More about Hong Kong

  

  
India: Chin refugees flee crackdown in Burma 

Some 40,000, mainly Christian, Chin refugees, opposed to the Burmese military government's treatment of minorities have had to escape into the State of Mizoram in north-east India. But the Indian authorities are not allowing the UN refugee agency UNHCR to contact the refugees, who are therefore cut off from humanitarian aid. 

Another  UN agency, the Human Rights Committee has accused India of forcibly repatriating some of these refugees. 

Human rights activists claim a joint Indo-Burmese operation launched by security forces in 1995 pushed about 14,000 Chin back into Burma against their will. They say the refugees were loaded into trucks, driven across the border and handed over to Burmese forces. India denies such an operation took place.  

The military government of Burma has been subjected to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, and lately (August 7) by Canada, because of concerns over the suppression of political freedoms, together with its policy of using forced labour on major public projects, and Burma's failure to curb the production and trafficking of illegal drugs. The junta blocked democratically elected leaders, the NLD (National League for Democracy) of Aung San Suu Kyi, from taking office in 1990. 

Burma was formally admitted this year to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an increasingly powerful economic and political bloc, over strong U.S. objections. The other eight members are Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and Laos. 

The intolerance shown by the ruling State Law and Order Restoration Committee (SLORC) towards ethnic minorities in Burma has led to other refugee crisis with the Karen and the Shan escaping into Thailand and the Moslems  into Bangladesh. More than 15,000 Karens fleeing a Burmese army offensive earlier this year, joined an estimated 70,000 refugees from Burma already living in Thailand. 

Refugees flee Burmese crackdown into India 
 
 

Free Burma: Introduction 
 
 
 

Burma Alert 
 

Free Burma Home  
 
 
 
 

UNHCR - information on: 
Burma 
India 
 
 
 
 

Refugee News:  More on Burma 

Refugee News:  More on India

  

  
Landmines: US to join Ottawa process, but with conditions 

In what can be considered a change of policy, the United States has announced that it will join the Ottawa process, a Canadian-led series of talks that aims achieve an international total ban on landmines. 

States participating in the talks, now over a 100, are committed to reach a final agreement by the end of this year. 

The US government had up to now refused to join the process, preferring to wait for the outcome of more formal Conference on Disarmament organised by the United Nations in Geneva. 

However the administration has made it clear the it was still insisting that any accord contain exceptions to allow use of antipersonnel land mines on the Korean peninsula and  the use of "smart" , self-destructing, mines whose primary purpose is to destroy tanks. This could lead to problems because many Ottawa activists are against any exception. 

 

International Campaign to Ban Landmines 

ANGOLA'S LANDMINES 

Landmines 

Anti-Personnel Landmines 
 
 

Cambodia's torment 

Refugee News: More on landmines 

  

  
Landmines: 2,000 people are now killed every month, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report  

In their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of August 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Atlanta, report that 2,000 people are now killed every month by landmines. 

A total of 120 million land mines are buried in 71 countries all over the world. Despite increasing moves in the international community to ban their production, stockpiling, sale and use some two to five million new devices are planted each year. Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia are the worst affected countries with 10 million mines each. 

The problem is most severe for local residents and especially returned refugees. However aid workers are becoming increasingly the victims and cost of their care is threatening to wreck the budgets of the organizations.

International Campaign to Ban Landmines  

ANGOLA'S LANDMINES 

Landmines 

Anti-Personnel Landmines 
 

Cambodia's torment 

Refugee News: More on landmines

  

  
Tajikistan: Repatriation proceeding well 
 

The repatriation of Tajik refugees from camps in northern Afghanistan is proceeding well.  

The return of refugees is an integral part of the Tajik peace agreement signed in May, after five years of civil war, between the government and Islamic rebels. 

More than 500 refugees have already returned to their homes despite problems with obtaining means of transport. This is however only a drop in the ocean; there are about 60,000 Tajik refugees in Afghanistan. 

UN begins return of 22,000 Tajik refugees from Afghanistan 

UNHCR prepares for repatriation after Tajik peace 

Cautious Optimism on Tajik Repatriation 

UNHCR - information on: 
Tajikistan 
Afghanistan 
 

Refugee News: More on Tajikistan 

Refugee News: More about Afghanistan