Anti-Warehousing Campaign Moving Forward
Volume 1, Issue 2 / January 2009 The Anti-Warehousing Campaign spearheaded by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), an NGO based in New York, is changing refugee situations world-wide. More than 130 signatory NGOs from all over the world and prominent personalities, including three U.S. Senators, have joined the campaign.
Initiated in 2004, the Campaign is now moving forward under the theme, “End Warehousing.” Warehousing is defined by USCRI as the denial of human rights found in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and other international legal instruments.
Warehousing denies refugees the right to live their lives as normally as possible while in exile, especially the right to earn a livelihood and freedom of movement. Not only does warehousing violate refugees’ rights, but it also often reduces refugees to enforced idleness, despondency, and despair.
Warehoused refugees are typically, but not always, confined to camps or segregated settlements where they are virtually dependent on humanitarian assistance. But even refugees who are free to move are still warehoused, in effect, if they are not allowed their rights to work, practice professions, run businesses, and own property.
According to USCRI, of the nearly 14 million refugees in the world today nearly 9 million are warehoused, confined to camps or segregated settlements, or otherwise in prolonged situations lasting 10 years or more. According to UNHCR, the average length of time for refugee situations has risen from nine years in 1993 to over 17 years in 2003.
In 2007, USCRI identified a list of the “10 Worst Places to Be a Refugee.” These countries represent the ten worst violators of the international principles of providing refuge. Kenya made number 6, hosting 319,400 refugees and asylum-seekers under poor conditions. USCRI states of Kenyan refugee camps, “These refugees suffer violations of their basic human rights on a daily basis.”
The Campaign recently released a statement calling for a conclusion on self-reliance. It denounces the practice of warehousing refugees as a denial of rights in violation of the letter and spirit of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, and calls upon the international community including donor countries, host countries and members of the Executive Committee of UNHCR to do the same.
Additionally, the statement on self-reliance calls upon the international community to develop and implement strategies to end the practice of warehousing.
USCRI has drafted the rights-based Conclusion on Self-Reliance with a number of NGOs from refugee hosting communities and donor nations. The groups will share the Conclusion on Self-Reliance at the 2009 session of the UNHCR Executive Committee.