Refugee Reports: Summer/Autumn 2006
Despite awareness of insecurity and lawlessness in refugee camps, practitioners and scholars have given little attention to the issue of access to justice or provision of legal remedies for human rights violations. Governments and refugee agencies frequently establish camps in emergencies and mass influxes with short-term planning, not regarding justice as an immediate or basic need. The Sphere Project's Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response, for example, do not include access to justice. And yet, the number of refugees in protracted refugee situations is staggering and the average length of time they remain in them is growing. Refugee camps almost inevitably take on state-within-a state characteristics because of their remoteness, absence and/or abdication of local authority, and the presence of strong political parties (often the leadership of guerilla movements) in the camps and the indispensability of their cooperation with the agencies running the camp. The longer the camps exist, the more pressing an issue justice becomes.
In March 2006, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) released its first comparative study of the issue, "The Administration of Justice in Refugee Camps: A Study of Practice," which presents an overview of the use of traditional and state legal systems to prosecute crimes and settle disputes in camps in thirteen different countries. This year, UNHCR took preliminary steps to formulate guidelines on access to justice for refugees in protracted situations. References to justice in refugee camps are now included in a number of new UNHCR policy guidelines, such as Operational Protection in Camps and Settlements: A Reference Guide on Good Practices in the Protection of Refugees and other Persons of Concern. The Guide devotes its entire first chapter to the subject, noting that "unclear or relinquished responsibilities inhibit the administration of law in camps."
IN THIS ISSUE:
Traditional Systems of Jusice in Refugee Camps: The Need For Alternatives
by Ilse Griek
Education Service Delivery in African Refugee Settings
by Marion Fresia
Ethiopian Urban Refugees in Trouble in Moscow
by Marie Mercer
Book Review: The Economic Life of Refugees
by Ben Sanders
Anti-Warehousing Work Around the World
compiled by Ben Sanders and Merrill Smith