Safe Zone: A Response to Large-Scale Refugee Outflows and Human Suffering

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Defending itself the State Department maintained that the June 30 deadline was in agreement with the termination of the CPA. Stretching its argument the American Administration claimed that it had given an opportunity to the refugees and it was up to them to seize upon the opportunity. In May , eleven organizations that were concerned with immigration and refugee affairs urged the Administration to be flexible so as to bring the programme to a satisfactory end. Sikhiu, the last refugee camp for the Boat people was closed in February Majority of 51, Boat people arrived in the Philippines were resettled in the West.

Of the , Boat people escaped to Malaysia, about , were resettled in the West, and the rest were repatriated to Vietnam. Thus by the summer of Malaysia closed all its detention centres. While the West had accepted to take ,, most of the remaining Boat people were repatriated to Vietnam. Hong Kong did not wish to be harsh to the residual case load of Boat people remaining on its soil. Integration is a humanitarian solution, especially for the children of the Vietnamese refugees who were born in Hong Kong.

Accordingly in February the Hong Kong Government announced that it would give permanent residency to the Boat people remaining in the Pillar Point, but imposed May 31, , when Pillar Point was slated to be closed, as deadline for them to move into the society. We have tried our best. We think becoming Hong Kong citizens is a wonderful opportunity for them to rebuild their lives again. We want to go to another country, any other country, anywhere would be better than Vietnam.

Though chagrined, vast majority of the residents in Pillar Point applied for residency rights. When the camp at Pillar Point was shut down at midnight on May 31, , around residents vowed to stay put.


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Hence the UN took the initiative in organizing two international conferences in Geneva. Although illegal departure was a crime, Vietnam, for reasons of external compulsions, not only remained sincere to its commitments to accept back the screened out but also cooperated with UNHCR in the process of repatriation and resettlement of the Boat people.

Some were given long and medium term interest free loans to start their own business. When the Steering Committee of the CPA decided on involuntary or forced repatriation in as a response to the boat people who indulged in violence opposing voluntary repatriation, UNHCR distanced itself from the implementation of that policy. The UN refugee agency took meticulous care to ensure that the stay of the Boat people in camps was reasonably comfortable. There were so many demonstrations, hunger strikes, fighting.

It was surprising. We were often very aggressive and demanding. Some are crying.

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Secretary-General at the close of the meeting on July 21, , see Ibid , pp. News and World Report , August 1, , p. Oakley, on July 25, in U. Department of State Dispatch , July 31, , p.

Safe Zone: A Response to Large-Scale Refugee Outflows and Human Suffering

See also Boat People S. News Bulletin , Marrifield, V. Writing in The National Interest , Juan Carlos Pinzon Bueno and Michael O'Hanlon warn that "even if things do not get that bad, it is easy to imagine scenarios in which ten million Venezuelans become refugees — with many millions inside the country struggling just to stay alive as food supplies dwindle and public health conditions deteriorate even further. With its economy in free fall, after having already contracted by half this decade, and with its future politics completely up in the air as President Nicolas Maduro clings semi-constitutionally to power, Venezuela teeters on the brink.

Think of Somalia or Libya, but several times larger in population and several times closer to the United States. For Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, and Caribbean island nations like Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and its thirty-one million people are right next door. Refugee crises in North Africa and the Middle East have been getting more of the news coverage, but already the human flows out of Venezuela have reached comparable magnitudes — and, with the U. The United States and Colombia should therefore take the lead in planning for what could become, in a plausible worst case, the collapse of Venezuela.

Even if things do not get that bad, it is easy to imagine scenarios in which ten million Venezuelans become refugees — with many millions inside the country struggling just to stay alive as food supplies dwindle and public health conditions deteriorate even further. Authors Michael E. Bogota and Washington should begin this planning process and bring other regional countries into the discussions in short order.

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Yes, talks like this have already happened between American and Colombian officials, at a broad conceptual level, over the last several years. But it is doubtful that military planners in either country are really ready for that 3 a. It is time to get ready. It makes sense for this planning process to begin with the United States and Colombia because the alliance between our two countries is particularly close.

Thanks to the last four American presidents and the Colombian Armed Forces, Colombia has cut its violence by two-thirds from peak levels, seriously weakened several international drug cartels, and reached a peace deal with the FARC — admittedly a controversial peace that is now fraying and bringing new risks.

Far more needs to be done, including on the counternarcotics front, but through Plan Colombia and its second phase Peace Colombia , the two countries have proven that their bilateral alliance is second to none in the hemisphere. Defense Quality over quantity: U. Miller and Michael E. This in spite of the fact that the Western powers had no clear position on how, or indeed whether, to defend the areas in case of attack. Yet US President Bill Clinton, under pressure from a risk-averse Pentagon, declined to deploy American ground troops to actually defend the safe areas.

The Europeans remained hesitant to countenance NATO air strikes, fearing an escalation, even after the safe areas came under attack from Serb forces. The expectation, or hope, was that the mere presence of UN troops and the threat of air strikes would deter attacks against the safe areas. Although NATO at first launched limited air strikes against Serb positions in early November, it swiftly suspended these after the Serbs took about UN peacekeepers hostage and European governments insisted that NATO should desist from further action.

Even ardent advocates of safe areas for the most part acknowledge that the Bosnian experiment failed abysmally. But the main lesson of Srebrenica, they argue, is not that safe areas are inherently problematic. Instead, safe areas can offer life-saving protection, provided that powerful countries, preferably the United States and its major allies, are fully committed to deterring potential assailants and repelling them if necessary—which the West shamefully failed to do in Bosnia.

Yet troops loyal to the Iraqi dictator rapidly crushed the rebellion. That prompted hundreds of thousands of Kurdish civilians, who feared violent retaliation, to flee toward Turkey and Iran. After Turkey closed its border in early April , over half a million Kurds became stranded under life-threatening conditions in the mountains along the Turkey-Iraq border. The proposal was swiftly endorsed by other European governments. Bush was unwilling to countenance a protracted US deployment, since his administration was under pressure from Congress to bring the troops home.

The relief effort was handed off to UN civilian agencies and non-governmental organisations. The northern Iraqi safe zone offered effective short-term protection and probably saved thousands of human lives. Circumstances at the time were favourable to the protection forces: Iraq had just suffered a crushing military defeat in the Persian Gulf War, making US and allied threats of punishing military action with respect to the Kurdish refugee issue uniquely credible. Nevertheless, over the medium term, Operation Provide Comfort appears to have had several problematic consequences that may actually have undermined civilian security in the region.

In particular, there is evidence that the establishment of a safe zone by powerful states made the protected group—the Kurds of northern Iraq—less willing to compromise during political negotiations, more inclined to launch high-risk offensives, and more determined to pursue unilateral secession.

The first two of these problematic consequences also occurred in Bosnia; hence, the two cases have more in common than is typically assumed. When the Srebrenica safe area in Bosnia was established in April , for instance, it was seen as a short-term measure, to remain in place until the peace negotiations, which at the time seemed to be making good progress, culminated in a final settlement.

In situations of ethnic civil war, safe areas established by powerful states typically offer protection to the members of one or several groups against the threat posed by other groups. What has not been sufficiently recognised to date is that when such safe areas encompass sizeable territories, they may complicate political negotiations and thus reduce the odds of a negotiated settlement. Assuming that the safe areas are adequately enforced, they will somewhat relieve the pressure on the protected groups, which are often the militarily weaker parties in the civil war; consequently, those groups are likely to view a political settlement as less urgent and may harden their stance at the negotiating table.

If fighting continues outside the safe areas and sometimes within them, while negotiations are drawn out for months or even years, civilian populations will suffer. In extreme cases, it might be that in the absence of protected safe areas and other forms of assistance to militarily weaker groups, these groups would sue for peace and accept a political settlement sooner in order to avoid complete battlefield defeat—potentially at a lesser overall cost in terms of civilian lives lost.

For instance, there is evidence that in Bosnia, once the UN had established the safe areas and NATO was seemingly committed to their protection, Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian Muslim leader, significantly hardened his stance in the peace negotiations. In August , international mediators David Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg presented a peace plan based on the principle of ethnic partition. When these demands were not met, Izetbegovic doomed the peace plan to failure by rejecting it in early September. Similarly, in northern Iraq in , after the United States and its allies established the safe zone and pledged to protect the Kurdish population, Kurdish rebel forces became more ambitious in their political demands, seeking to extend their territorial control far beyond the protected enclave.

The Kurds demanded that the cities of Kirkuk, Khaniqin, and Mandali the latter two situated more than miles outside the safe zone be conceded to them. This contributed to the failure of political negotiations with Iraqi government authorities on a formal autonomy agreement for the Kurdish region, which the United States and its allies had strongly supported—not least because it could have reduced the need for outside protection. In the northern Iraq case, notwithstanding repeated provocations by Kurdish militias discussed in more detail later , Iraqi government authorities did not resume large-scale hostilities against the Kurds.

But oppressive leaders elsewhere are unlikely to be as easily intimidated as Saddam Hussein was in the aftermath of his humbling defeat in the Gulf War. Furthermore, deterrence through air power may be altogether unfeasible in complex civil wars fought in densely populated areas. Absent a political compromise, one is left with the spectre of a return to large-scale atrocities against civilians as soon as the international protection forces withdraw. Ideally, once a safe area is established, robust military forces from powerful states will ensure its protection for as long as necessary, and militias inside the area will be disarmed.

In practice, however, because of resource constraints and pressures from domestic audiences at home, powerful states are likely to be able to deploy their troops on civilian protection missions only for relatively short periods of time. Consequently, the international protectors can be expected to want to build up rather than dismantle the defensive capabilities of the protected, especially when no imminent peace settlement is in sight. The Srebrenica safe area, as noted, was initially proclaimed a demilitarised zone under UN auspices.

But the United States subsequently pushed back against disarming the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica and in the other safe areas, sensing that this would leave the Muslims exceedingly vulnerable. If a local group is allowed to maintain its own military forces within an internationally protected safe area, while hostilities continue elsewhere, there is a non-negligible possibility that the group will seek to exploit the safe area to advance its own military objectives. At the most basic level, safe areas allow militias from protected groups to recover from battle and reorganise.

After they have had time to recover, the militias may use the safe areas as staging grounds for high-risk offensive operations, deliberately putting civilian lives at risk in the hope of drawing the protection forces more deeply into the war. To date, the moral hazard argument had not been applied to safe areas. Yet evidence from the northern Iraq and Bosnia safe areas supports the moral hazard argument in its weaker form.

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In both cases, the establishment of safe areas signalled that powerful states had committed themselves to protecting vulnerable parties.