USA: NGO network urges government to act in favour of refugees
30 September 2010

Thousands of Somali continue to arrive in neighbouring states, fleeing conflict and persecution, Kakuma camp, Kenya (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
NGO letter to US authorities before the UNHCR executive meeting
Refugee Council letter to US authorities before the UNHCR executive meeting
Regarding Sri Lanka, the network expressed concern about the fate of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in need of immediate and long-term assistance.
Rome, 28 September 2010 – The network of US NGOs, InterAction, has published a letter urging the government to use its leverage to ensure the issues affecting forcibly displaced persons are advanced at the forthcoming sixty-first Executive Committee of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) from 4 to 8 October 2010.

High on the agenda of InterAction, of which JRS USA is a member, are the current humanitarian crises in Somalia, Sri Lanka and Sudan/Chad. The network expressed concern for the fate of some 600,000 displaced Somalis scattered throughout the region. They urged the US government to push for increased educational and work opportunities for this group, and try and ensure they are registered as refugees and provided with documentation.

Regarding Sri Lanka, the network expressed concern about the fate of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in need of immediate and long-term assistance, including women and children, held in detention on suspicion of being members of the former rebel group, the LTTE. In Sudan, as the referendum on the independence of the south due in January draws near, the NGOs urged the US to ensure UNHCR develop contingency plans to cater for potential displacement.

Crosscutting issues

The NGO letter also raised a number of crosscutting issues on protracted refugee situations, persons with disabilities, statelessness, natural disasters and urban refugees.

According to the letter, despite the excellent advocacy work of the US representative in Geneva, displaced persons with disabilities continue to be marginalised in humanitarian response operations. The group called for strong operationally focused UN recommendations at the executive meeting.

Fifty years after the introduction of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the NGOs continued, this problem is still widespread. If statelessness is to be addressed, it needs to be institutionalised into the mandate of UNHCR. This will mean greater targeted programmes for stateless persons and training for UNHCR and government staff.

Finally, the NGOs highlighted the large number of protection issues that exist as natural disasters unfold. Unfortunately, this exposes the ongoing lack of clarity on how to assure that protection considerations are adequately addressed in all disaster response initiatives. The network called for protection to be considered from the outset in all early needs assessments. Given the mandate and expertise of UNHCR, the network called for an expanded role to be given to the refugee agency to ensure adequate response to protection issues in natural disasters at national level.




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