Aid To Uprooted People - programme activities: 1997 - 2006

Afghanistan | Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand | Colombia | Indonesia | Nepal | Sri Lanka | The Phillipines

 Bonn Agreement was signed in December 2001, more than 2.6 million Afghans – mostly from Pakistan (approximately 73%) and Iran (around 25%) - returned in their country with or without assistance of UNHCR. If internally displaced Afghans are added, then more than 3 million persons have returned to their homes in less than 3 years.

Afghanistan

The long civil war in Afghanistan has led to one of the largest and longest displacements in recent human history. At the time of the fall of the Taliban, over 5 million Afghans had been displaced internally or across the border into Iran or Pakistan.

Since the

Although the mass returns inspire optimism, the challenges ahead are significant. Afghanistan’s administration needs time to be able to deliver basic services to the population. The economy has to get back on its feet, safety and security remain fragile, and the country will need several years to fully recover from the drought. All these factors explain why there were still around four million Afghans living in Pakistan and Iran in early 2005.

Between 1997 and 2004, € 184.5 million has been mobilised by the European Community to aid Afghan uprooted people. A wide range of actions was funded benefiting Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran but mainly within Afghanistan in order to create a suitable environment for sustainable returns. In Pakistan and Iran, Aid to Uprooted People funded projects providing refugees with basic services (health, education and water supply) but also prepared refugees for their return to Afghanistan with vocational training projects, for example. NGO partners developed skills in Pakistan, which were later on transferred to Afghanistan.

The ending of the Aid to Uprooted People budget line does not mean the EU stopped its support to Afghanistan.

 

 Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand is channeled through national programmes, in stead of the Aid to Uprooted People budget line.

Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh and Thailand

The ethnic minorities living in Burma/Myanmar’s border areas have been subjected to fierce repression, including forced labour and forced relocation, since the military seized power in 1988. This has led to mass movements of refugees who fled to neighbouring countries, particularly India, Thailand and Bangladesh. In the latter two countries, the refugees are hosted in camps situated in frontier areas, where they have been given assistance by the international community since 1988 in Thailand and since 1992 in Bangladesh.

In 2006, camps in Thailand had approximately 140,000 Burmese refugees, mostly from Kayin and Kayah States and Taninthayi division, who fled from areas of armed conflict and insecurity. Some overseas resettlement opened new perspectives for some refugees. An estimated 15,000 returnees, mostly women and children from camps in Thailand, went to settlements in Mon State. These persons have returned to Burma/Myanmar singly or in groups since 1996 and have not been provided with international assistance in a systematic manner due to access limitations in these areas. Many Rohingya Muslims that were also driven out of Burma/Myanmar have returned but live as stateless and landless people. About 20,000 Rohingya refugees are sheltered in two camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

While the situation in Burma/Myanmar has resulted in protracted refugee problems in neighbouring countries, forced relocation, human rights abuses, forced labour and military threats have also triggered massive internal displacements of population. The number of internally displaced persons (IDP) in the country is hard to estimate, and their needs are difficult to determine, due to lack of access to their areas of residence.

Between 1997 and 2004, € 56.4 million from the budget line to aid uprooted people was earmarked for operations in favour of Burmese uprooted people. The majority of these resources have been used within Burma / Myanmar (€ 32.4 million).

The EC’s assistance to Burmese refugees in Thailand and Bangladesh has been entirely directed towards refugees of several ethnic minorities sheltered in camps situated in frontier areas. This has predominantly taken the form of provision of food and basic goods (humanitarian aid) as well as medical assistance and training (humanitarian aid and aid to uprooted people). The bulk of the EC’s assistance has thus been allocated to emergency-oriented projects, dominated by a care and maintenance approach. Inside Burma/Myanmar, the EC support has been used to favour the reintegration of internally displaced people and returnees through the funding of micro-credit schemes, construction of basic infrastructure, primary education and adult literacy, improvement of food security and agricultural practices, health care, and community services focused on extremely vulnerable groups.

New support to

 

 Colombia is actually receiving more support through the national co-operation programme.

Colombia

Colombia has high levels of social inequality, injustice, corruption, impunity and poverty, leading to political, social and narcotics-trafficking related violence. Persons have fled within the country (IDPs) and outside the country (refugees). There is special attention to former combatants and child soldiers as well.

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Since 1997 the situation has evolved from low-intensity conflict to attacks, massacres and assassinations and forced displacement of civilians in the countryside, hostage taking for financial and/or political purposes, territorial control by the guerrillas and the paramilitaries based on a reign of fear over the peasants, villages or even whole regions.

The figures on IDPs vary depending on the sources. According to government sources at the end of 2004 there were 1,574,266 registered IDPs , while CODHES estimates this number at 2,601,168. The same source indicates at more than 2.1 million the displaced population since 1997.

In 2004 a further wide discrepancy appeared between government and CODEHS figures for new IDPs, with the former stating only 150,000 and the latter over 280,000. Nevertheless, both figures are very high, and indications from the first half of 2005 would show a further increase of 10-15% in displacements, largely as a result of the FARC counter-offensive launched in April.

Citizens have moved from rural areas to other larger villages, then to departmental capitals and finally, if IDPs have not found resettlement opportunities by then, to cities such as Bogotá, Medellín or Cali, where they join the already vulnerable populations in the shanty towns.

A recent trend also shows increasing intra-urban displacement, leading to new types of urban violence in Medellín, Cali, Barrancabermeja, Bogotá, Cartagena, Cucutá and Bucaramanga.

Refugees

The conflict in Colombia is increasingly affecting the surrounding countries. According to UNHCR, there are some 50,000 Colombian refugees in the region. The Ecuadorian Ministry for Foreign Affairs reported 17,000 people requesting asylum in 2004 (almost all Colombians), a 250% increase on 2003. A total of 2,395 asylum requests were granted and 4,207 rejected. This steep rise in asylum seekers has put the Ecuadorian Government under some pressure, seeking to remain committed to humanitarian policies, whilst being faced by budgetary difficulties and growing internal discontent at the presence of Colombians in the country – now totalling 370,000, over 3% of the population. Other countries receiving Colombian refugees are Panama and Venezuela, although without reaching the numbers of Ecuador for the time being. In Venezuela UNHCR registered 700 asylum seekers in 2004, double the figure of the previous year.

Former combatants

Although a demobilisation process for the paramilitary forces started in 2002 in a context of a cease fire and negotiations with the government, the largest number of demobilised individuals remained guerrilla combatants (FARC and ELN) The principal causes for demobilisation were mistreatment (37%), economic remuneration (19%), lack of freedom (17%) and false promises (16%). The majority of them have not completed basic education. According to official sources the most important needs for the demobilisation programme are education, training, economic benefits and psycho-social support.

Beneficiaries of the reinsertion programme are provided with humanitarian assistance for the first three months (shelter, food, clothes, medical care and hygiene, and transport), and with education, psychological and economic support to start jobs during the first two years. In some cases beneficiaries also receive subsidies for housing. The average cost for each demobilised adult has been estimated at € 3,500-4,000 per year for the period of two years.

In June 2005, the Colombian Congress passed the so-called “Justice and Peace” Law that provides a legal framework for the demobilisation of illegal armed groups or individuals. The paramilitary groups are the main short-term target of this law, as they engaged in a demobilisation process which had to be completed by February 2006 (since the first agreed deadline of 30 December 2005 had to be renegotiated).

Child soldiers

Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 11,000 children are fighting in Colombia’s conflict, one of the highest totals in the word, and that 80% of the children under arms belong to one of the two main guerrilla groups, FARC or ELN. The remainder fight for the paramilitaries. The AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) has established 18 as the minimum age for recruitment, but has continued to recruit children. At least one out of every four irregular combatants is under eighteen and many of these are under 15, the minimum age permitted for recruitment under the Geneva Conventions. Colombian armed forces do not recruit children under 18. However, according to Human Rights Watch, there are reports indicating that children are being used for intelligence purposes.

The Regional Dimension

The EC has also intervened under the uprooted people budget line in neighbouring countries (Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama) where Colombian refugees are present, particularly in Ecuador. ECHO is supporting UNHCR and certain international NGOs for activities in favour of Colombian refugees in Ecuador and Venezuela.

Colombia started receiving funding from the uprooted people budget line in 2002. Between 2002 and 2006, the EC earmarked € 63.8 million from this budget line to Colombia. Most of the projects were implemented in co-operation with United Nations agencies and international NGOs and in co-ordination or as a follow-up to humanitarian aid projects financed by ECHO in the country.

Despite the ending of the Aid to Uprooted People budget line,

 

 Indonesia have intensified their partnership in many domains.

Indonesia

Large-scale conflict-induced displacement in Indonesia is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the wake of the financial crisis that hit the country in 1998, religious and ethnic violence as well as renewed aspirations for separatism started to surface throughout the country, spreading rapidly from one area to another and leading to the displacement of more than 530,000 people in 1999.

Since the 2000, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) has almost doubled reaching a peak of 1,200,000 in December 2001. The latest official figure (2003) of the total number of persons remaining displaced in Indonesia is estimated at some 580,000 persons (approximately 121,000 households). More than half of the IDPs have been forced from their homes following tensions in the Maluku archipelago, others being displaced by the independence struggle in Aceh, the ethnic conflict in West Kalimantan and the inter-religious violence in Central Sulawesi. In West Papua, an independence movement is challenging the Indonesian authority and although no significant displacement has occurred yet, the potential for conflict is not to be underestimated. Other areas of displacement include West Timor where some 30,000 East Timorese were displaced.

Most crisis areas now seem to be embarking upon a post-conflict recovery phase. As the incidents which occurred in April 2004 in Maluku show, however, there is nevertheless the permanent risk of new clashes suddenly emerging. The priorities for those who returned home or opted to settle elsewhere are now to rebuild their lives; to reconcile with old neighbours, to integrate into their communities, to recover lost livelihoods and gain access to cultivable land. Identified needs in this regard are likely to remain relevant for assistance for still some time to come.

EC operations mainly focused on aid to uprooted people in the Maluku archipelago, Central Sulawesi, Aceh and East Nusa Tenggara. Between 2001 and 2004, € 20.9 million has been allocated to support Indonesian uprooted people. The funded projects included repatriation activities, skills and vocational training programmes, the distribution of shelter material for self-help and housing construction, the re-building of health centres, the improvement of access to primary education, potable water and sanitation, rehabilitation of schools, and support for reconciliation activities.

In Aceh, prior to the tsunami which hit the region on the 26th December 2004, about 5000 people remained in displacement due to military operations against separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Indonesia lifted the state of emergency in the province of Aceh in May 2005, after imposing martial law in May 2003 and substituting it with a state of civil emergency in May 2004. Most of the conflict-related displaced persons have experienced a severe loss of livelihood upon return and have since struggled to survive under very difficult conditions.

The peace process negotiations in Aceh between the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Government of Indonesia, mediated by former Finnish President Ahtisaari and his organisation, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), culminated in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Indonesia and GAM on 15 August 2005. The EU has provided support to the implementation of the agreement through the joint EU-ASEAN Aceh Monitoring Mission and accompanying measures. The Commission has supporting the reintegration of demobilised GAM fighters in the social and economic life of the province through the aid to uprooted people budget line.

Over the past few years, the EU and

 

 Nepal.

Nepal

Until the mid-1980s, there was little visible conflict between the two ethnic groups living in Bhutan: the Drukpas and the Lhotshampas. However, tensions between the two groups surfaced in 1985 when the government started a “One Nation One People” policy. The aim was to preserve and protect the “identity” of the Buddhist Kingdom from possible risks of penetration/extension of Hinduism which was felt as a threat to the nation’s integrity. Following these harsh cultural reforms by the government, ethnic Nepalese Hindus from the southern plains of Bhutan were left with no option but to leave their country and landed in Eastern Nepal– after passing through Indian territory – in late 1991. By late 1992, the refugee population added up to about 75000 individuals. Refugee flights from Bhutan decreased after that, but a high birth rate in the camps has contributed to increasing the refugee population over the years.

In 2005, there were well over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. This figure is equal to roughly 15% of the total population of Bhutan. These refugees are living in 7 camps which have been created in the Jhapa and Morang districts of eastern Nepal since 1991.

The heavy concentration of the refugee population has had an adverse socio-economic impact on these two districts where the refugees have been sheltered. Heavy pressure on forest resources caused deforestation and environmental degradation. In addition, alcoholism, social conflicts, epidemics and pollution increased and food became scarcer. Frequent vandalism and violence inside and outside the camps is making maintenance of law and order, peace and security difficult.

In 2005 discussions between the Bhutanese and Nepalese Governments on a durable solution for the refugees reached a stalemate and Bhutanese refugees had no other option but to remain in the camps, needing care and maintenance assistance. The Government of Nepal expects Bhutanese refugees to stay inside the camps and not to engage in economic activities outside.

In its contacts with the authorities of Nepal and Bhutan, the EC has repeatedly stressed the urgency of bringing to a conclusion the refugee problem. The EC has backed political dialogue with financial support for the refugee camps. Between 1997 and 2004, the EC has allocated € 11.6 million in aid in the framework of the regulation for uprooted people, covering a wide range of activities, including: transport, supplies, health, water sanitation, community services, education, refugee support, resource management and socio-economic management.

The EU keeps encouraging political stability and multiparty democracy in

 

 Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka

The relationship between the Tamil population and the Government started deteriorating already in the first decade after independence (1948). The government adopted a series of socio-economic policies that discriminated against the Tamils, and reduced their representation within the state, leading to the armed conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka in 1983.

After 20 years of conflict the two parties agreed to a cease-fire. Six rounds of Peace Talks – facilitated by Norway – have taken place between September 2002 and December 2005.

Up to 1.7 million people have been displaced since 1983. 342,000 uprooted people inside the country have returned home, yet another 380,000 IDPs still remained in camps in 2005. Another serious problem is the return of LTTE-recruited child soldiers who may need shelter.

The tsunami of December 2004 hit the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. It generated an earthquake centred off Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The waves caused the loss of many lives and extensive damage to property, with an estimation of 31,000 deaths, 6,000 missing persons and 570,000 displaced persons over with total affected population exceeding 800,000.

Combined, the people affected by the political conflict and the tsunami have reached crisis proportions, and represented almost 5% of Sri Lanka’s total population in 2005. Following the tsunami, political tensions escalated and became much more volatile. Political parties took opposing views on the setting up of a Joint Mechanism between the Government and the LTTE to administer aid to the affected population.

The Government proposed a 100/200 metre buffer zone off the coastal belt which stipulates that no new construction will be permitted within this zone. This raised concerns with regard to the limited availability of land for displaced persons.

The refugees living in camps in India are also taken into consideration. Their population is now around 62,000. About 4,000 of these refugees have returned since the ceasefire. The Governments of Sri Lanka and India have informed the refugees that they will organise a massive repatriation once the political picture becomes clearer. It seems that a significant proportion of refugees are ready to return to Sri Lanka. Their main concerns are the mine issue and access to the financial scheme which the Government set up for returnees. Political uncertainties have put the flows of returnees on hold though. The EU keeps intensifying its relations with

 

 EU relations with Philippines.

The Phillipines

In early 2000, there was a military confrontation between the Philippines’ Armed Forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Muslim insurgent group striving for self-determination on the Southern island of Mindanao. By the middle of the year, several hundred thousand people had been displaced.

Some sporadic fighting and short-lived conflicts kept taking place, until tensions revived in February 2003. The new conflict was estimated to displace a total number of 256,200 persons in the provinces of North Cotabato, Maguindanao Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte and Compostela Valley.

Between 1997 and 2004, € 12.4 million from the budget line for Aid to Uprooted People was been earmarked for operations in the most affected provinces of Mindanao. The funded activities focus primarily on restarting agricultural production and fishing activities, rehabilitating water supply systems, improving access to basic health care and medicine, rehabilitating the schools used as evacuation centres, and rebuilding houses. Given the ethnic and linguistic nature of the conflict, the EC also gave support to community-based peace-building initiatives.

At periodic meetings of Senior Officials political, commercial and economic issues are discussed and new priorities are set in the


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