By Dr. Vida Amirmokri, Monitor Victim Assistance Team.
Following the distribution of a Monitor briefing paper on the issue of landmines and refugees for world refugee day, in this two-part blog post I explore in more depth some of the striking issues around resettlement of refugee survivors and their families.
Protection and solutions
Voluntary repatriation, local integration in the first refuge country and resettlement in third countries are the three durable solutions for refugee situations that the UNHCR endeavors to implement in cooperation with states.
Resettlement is not only a durable solution, but also provides protection for particularly vulnerable refugees, those whose rights and safety cannot be protected in the first country of asylum. It even can be used as an emergency protection measure in situations where an imminent legal risk of refoulement or physical risk threatens the refugees in the host country. Identification of refugees for resettlement is dependent on their particular protection needs as well as the protection risks that may arise in certain circumstances. It is also dependent on the prospects for the other two durable solutions.
The protection needs of refugees who are victims of Landmines/ERW
Landmine/ERW explosions have grave detrimental effects on physical and mental health of victims. Beyond the trauma of the incident, in most cases survivors remain permanently disabled. Consequently landmine/ERW victims—survivors and their families—have specific protection needs. This applies both to refugees who were victims prior to their displacement, and those who happen to have a landmine/ERW accident on their road to exile.
Immediately after a mine/ERW accident—which might happen while fleeing from one’s home or in the country of asylum—survivors need: emergency medical care; then, in medium and long term, they need continuous medical care and physical rehabilitation as well as psychological support and assistance in social and economic reintegration. Survivors’ families also need psychological support and social and economic assistance. “The situation in the country of asylum may not be conducive for effective support (due to, for example, the inaccessibility of appropriate health care, counselling services or stability) and may compound the trauma,” as is the situation of survivors of violence or torture described in the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.
Besides these specific needs, survivors and their family members are more exposed to certain common protection risks. Disability enhances the vulnerability of survivors according to the UNHCR.
The UNHCR Resettlement Handbook states: “Refugee[s] with disabilities may be unable to access transport, understand written and verbal information, register with institutions for documentation and support, or recall and recount with accuracy relevant details during interviews. Children with disabilities are also at a greater risk of abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation, health concerns, exposure to the risk of longer term psychosocial disturbances, family separation and denial of the right to education… Women, children, and older persons with disabilities, those who are housebound, and those ‘hidden’ (and possibly even restrained) due to cultural stigma may be especially vulnerable to sexual and other forms of exploitation and abuse, but are often excluded from SGBV prevention and response programmes.”
Refugees who are landmine/ERW victims might be in need of resettlement as an immediate/urgent protection measure when they fall victim of a landmine/ERW explosion on their road to exile and appropriate medical care cannot be provided in the country of refuge; or they might be in need of resettlement as a protection measure because the trauma they have sustained and the disability resulting from the accident—alone or combined with other factors that might make them even more vulnerable—expose them to enhanced risks in the context of exodus and refugee camps. The particular protection needs of landmine/ERW victims are similar to those of survivors of violence and/or torture. The latter constitute a UNHCR resettlement submission category. It could be argued that UNHCR should apply similar criteria to the cases belonging to both of these two groups.
Resettlement might also be the most appropriate durable solution for victim refugees in view of their specific long term needs—psychological support and assistance in socio-economic reintegration—and in light of the fact that very often in the country of origin and/or the first country of refuge such needs cannot be effectively provided for in a foreseeable future.
Click here to read Part 2.
The UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, p. 255. clearly states: Care must be taken that survivors of violence and torture are resettled to locations where adequate services, both medical and psychological, will be available to meet their needs. Resettlement to a secure environment and the possibility of re-establishing a productive life is for many survivors itself a key component of their recovery. However, survivors of torture or other severe forms of violence may require coordinated medical care, counselling and other types of special assistance, in particular when they suffer from physical and/or serious psychological problems.
UNHCR supports the resettlement of those persons who are determined to be refugees and fall under resettlement submission categories. There are seven such categories (which are inclusive and might overlap): Legal and/or Physical Protection Needs; Survivors of Torture and/or Violence, where repatriation or the conditions of asylum could result in further traumatization and/or heightened risk
; or where appropriate treatment is not available; Medical Needs; Women and Girls at Risk; Family Reunification; Children and Adolescents at Risk and Lack of Foreseeable Alternative Durable Solutions. For detailed developments on these categories, see UNHCR Resettlement Handbook, chapter 6.