Human Rights, Social Justice Interventions and Refugee Rights
A society that is free of prosperous is one that guarantees the safety and security of all its members regardless of their economic, social, education, political affiliations. Economic growth and development across the world can only be attained in a peaceful environment. A peaceful society is one that gives an individual the feeling of confidence in their families, cultural affiliations, country or nation. As a result of economic or personal reasons, a person may opt to relocate to another region. A society that is peaceful gives an individual the freedom of migration at will. However, this movement is at times not caused by the free will of that person. Natural calamities, civil unrest or wars, and forceful eviction of population are key contributors to the refugee problem that is experienced across the globe today (Tobin, 2012). The 1951 (article 1) convention on the Status of Refugees defines a refugee as a person who has fled his or her country of origin as a result of the fear of persecution for reasons of ‘religion, race, nationality, or ,membership to a particular political or social group’ (Gilbert, 2012, p.12). Emerging trends from the global community caused by increased interrelationships have increasingly made the process of protecting and helping the underprivileged people across the world more complicated. It is because of this that various human rights and social justice groups like Ethar Relief have been instituted to help in protecting the plight of refugees.
This research paper seeks to analyze the extent to which human rights and social justice interventions have enhanced the process of reclaiming or maintaining the rights of refugees. This research essay will cover areas like literature review, the interviewing technique, analysis of the results from the interview and a brief summary.
Natural calamities and disasters push people to migrate from their residences since their homes have been destroyed or interfered with in different ways. Besides, in the event that a community is experiencing civil unrest or war, the population often runs away to find protection or is forced to move to another location. According to Holzer (2013), on the extreme end, these people are left with only two options; ‘’life in exile or death by assault, genocide or privation’’ (p. 837). The Darfur crisis in Sudan clearly shows this assertion. This is the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees across the world today. In 2010, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) revealed that the total number of refugees and internally displaced people globally is estimated to be 43.3 million. This is the highest figure to ever been registered in the history of refugees and IDPs in the world. Based on these statistics, an estimated 983, 000 are asylum seekers, 15.2 million are refugees and 27.1 million are internally displaced people (UN Website, 2013).
Despite the steady increase in the population of refugees globally, it is regrettable that natural; calamities and conflicts continuously play a critical role in the escalation of the number of IDPs and refugees today. However, concerted efforts between the branches of the United Nations like UNHCR as well as human rights and social justice groups like the Ethar Relief still play an important role in making sure that they such people are sustained and protected until the time when their security and social wellbeing is guaranteed. During conflicts, the United Nations peacekeeping troops are often deployed to protect refugee camps. In the same way, human rights and social justice groups offer basic amenities like water, sanitation and food to the affected populations. The basic necessities are critical for human survival. Human rights and social justice groups, through the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) unite to streamline coordination in the provision of primary necessities to internally displaced people in refugee camps. These groups exercise their intervention in three significant ways in order to reclaim or maintain refugee human rights. These ways include interventions for the protection of refugee human rights, humanitarian interventions, and restoration of refugee human rights in peace building process (Farmer, 2013).
In the intervention for reclamation or maintenance of refugee human rights, the human rights and social justice groups advocate for the protection of refugee rights. The protection of human rights entails making sure that all individuals in society are treated equally and decently in ways that are humane. International conventions on the rights of refugees, refugee laws and humanitarian laws are aimed at protecting refugee rights to physical integrity and the right to life. These laws are also aimed at curbing unrestricted powers of the state. Human rights and social justice groups apply these laws for the preservation and protection of the rights of refugees from anything that can challenge their economic wellbeing, health, peace and social stability. These groups continue to intervene in an effort to make sure that refugees are not discriminated against and campaign for the equal application of the notion of nondiscriminatory practices on all people across the world regardless of whether they are free or refugees.
The responsibility of protecting the human rights of an individual rests within the state. However, in many occasions, public institutions and government policy makers are usually in violation of these basic human rights. This kind of abuse of power that is orchestrated by the state authorities and or political leaders has detrimental effects like war crimes, genocide as well as crimes against humanity. Human rights and social justice groups consequently intervene in an effort to protect the rights of refugees (Gilbert, 2012).
The other means of intervention applied by human rights and social justice groups is aimed at reclaimed or maintaining refugee rights through human interventions. The need for the maintenance of peace and protection of refugee rights has impacted humanitarian intervention. There is a growing trend in the international community whereby governments have abdicated their responsibility towards safeguarding refugee rights, protecting individual rights and ensuring that the rights of individuals to life are not violated. These tasks are instead, now the responsibility of human rights and social justice bodies. The Humanitarian intervention that is offered to refugees by human rights and social justice groups include but are not limited to food, water, medication, and education. According to Sharpe (2012), it is important to first identify the factors that contribute to this phenomenon in order to effectively solve the global refugee problem. Sharpe (2012) further attributes the origin of the problem to ‘deep and complex social, economic and political challenges’ (p. 102). Human rights and social justice groups are seeking to understand and ameliorate these causes by advocating for a more democratic global society that will be able to offer protection for the rights of all (Sharpe, 2012).
The third way that human rights and social justice groups intervene is through the restoration of human rights for the refugees in the process of peace building. In the wake of conflict, suspicion and violence are often endured. Conflict can significantly weaken government institutions that are accountable for observing human rights and social justice. Yet, it is critically important that human rights are enhanced in the process of rehabilitating nations that are torn apart by war. Tobin (2012) points out that haling the psychological wounds of war and community reconciliation cannot occur if ‘’human rights are not protected and the truth about the past is not revealed’’ (p. 123). As a result, the preservation of refugee rights requires the effective implementation of human rights and social justice programs. For the rule of law to be restored in war torn countries with high levels of displaced populations or refugees, it is important that matters of betrayal and mistrust are addressed (Tobin, 2012). In such a setting, human rights and social justice groups can often play a more critical role by supporting and making sure that the process of reconciliation is not abandoned. For human rights to be promoted in societies with huge numbers of IDPs and refugees, human rights and social justice bodies should come up with programs targeted at protecting refugee rights and preventing future violations of the rights of refugees. Such programs include but not restricted to peace building, reconciliation, democratization, reconstruction and forgiveness (Tobin, 2012).
The Interview Technique
In an attempt to understand the way in which human rights and social justice groups are trying to reclaim or maintain the rights of refugees, the researcher carried out an online interview with the Executive Director Ethar Relief, Mohammed Bhakit. The body is a humanitarian organization that currently runs operations in various parts of the world including South Yemen, Sudan and the United Kingdom. Volunteers through various awareness programs, local and international, initiated the organization in 2006, with the objective of highlighting the suffering and situation of Eritrean refugees. Sultan Omar established Ethar Relief with the objective of addressing refugee issues in the horn of Africa and other parts of the world. The organization is dedicated to helping individuals irrespective of their political affiliations, gender, ethnicity or religious affiliations (Ethar Relief Website, 2013).
Upon request from the researcher, the executive director of Ethar Relief agreed to online interview. The researcher prepared various interview questions relevant to the study and sent them to the interviewee through email on October 10th, 2013. The interviewee responded to the given questions and emailed them back to researcher on October 10th 2013. The online interview between the researcher and the director of the organization was more appropriate because of several reasons that include bit not limited to the cost saving aspect of online interviews. Internet based interviews eliminate the cost of movement that could be incurred by the researcher in travelling to the location of the interviewee. Besides, online interviews can be conducted regardless of the location of the interviewee. Interviews conducted online are also quite flexible. The interviewee has the opportunity of responding to the interview questions at his or her own appropriate time.
Analysis of Data Collected from the Interview
Conflict, war and natural disasters are the main factors that have contributed to the problem of refugees across the world. Africa and Asia have been adversely affected by this phenomenon. It is because of this that Ether Relief was established in 2006 so as to advocate for refugee rights in the horn of Africa and other parts of the world. Ether Relief aims to provide humanitarian support to refugees, especially the displaced orphans, children and women. Abel (2013) points out that conflict make it difficult for the people to access ‘primary needs due to lack of institutional support’ (p. 729).
Based on the interview, it is clear that Ethar Relief is tasked with offering primary basic needs to refugees in areas that they operate. The organization provides refuges with social amenities including medication, education, water, food among others. Briskman et al (2008) argues that regions that are ravaged by war and conflicts force populations to flee to safer areas. These people are deprived of their means of economic activities, thereby are unable to meet their primary needs that are essential for survival (Briskman et al, 2008).
The findings of the interview established that, Ether Relief has been able to protect human rights and reclaim social justice to refugees in their areas of operation. The organization was able to attain this through making sure that hungry refugees have been fed by giving them relief and aid; assisting the poor by developing a safer and caring community welfare program that seeks to eliminate the suffering and restore the dignity of refugees. Besides, Ethear Relief creates and sustains a link between the poor and refugees who are in need of help. The body also channels its efforts towards helping the poor in the horn of Africa, East Sudan and other parts of the world (McAdam, 2007).
Finally, the interview also found out that Ethar Relief tries to expand its human rights and social justice support to refugees in areas that are ravaged by war across the world. In order to attain this, the organization seeks to create programs aimed at empowering refugees by working together with other organizations like UNCHR and the Red Cross Society towards the realization of a common objective. The goals of Ether Relief are anchored in the fields of water supply and sanitation, health and nutrition, education, social livelihoods, orphan sponsorship and vocational training as well as institutional development. In conjunction with other human rights and social justice organizations, Ether Relief targets the elimination of the problems that are experienced by refugees across the world today (Maiese, 2004).
Today, the refugee problem still puzzles the global community despite the increasing democratization of various parts of the world. The phenomenon has plagued Africa and Asia over a long period as a result of wars, civil unrest and in unique circumstances natural disasters like floods, hurricanes among others. In the various roles played by human rights and social justice groups, as both providers of direct services and policy advocates, they influence the refugee and immigrant policy and the entire population. Human rights and social justice groups design and coordinate community support projects for refugees globally. In these programs, the groups advocate for resettlement of refugees. Besides, the organizations also help employees by offering them the much-needed social support. Across the world, human rights and justice groups undertake the coordination of psychological projects for refugees living in camps or collaboration with humanitarian aid agencies like the UNHCR to design programs and implement policies that deal with refugees.
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List of Appendices
Appendix 1: Interview Questions
- When was your organization established?
- Why was the organization established?
- What does the organization hope to address?
- What is your organization’s philosophy?
- Who runs the organization?
- Who works with the organization?
- What are your recruitment practices for the organization?
- What is your method of operation?
- What are the activities that your organization does?
- Why do you undertake these activities?
- (a) Do you work together with other organizations? If yes, who? How do you work together?
(b) What have you achieved by this?
- What have been the highlights of the organization over the period of its operation?
- (a) What are the challenges faced by your organization?
(b) How do you address or overcome these challenges?
- How do you get the funds to run the operations of the organization?
- To what extent has your organization been successful in protecting the human rights of refugees?
- Have human rights in Australia been enhanced as a result of the activities of your organization?
- What do you think will be the contributions of the organization in future? Are there any new campaigns that you are working on?