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Human Rights and Forced Migration

The United Nations (UN) was formed partly in response to the
Holocaust of World War II. The war caused millions people to leave their
home to seek for protection and safety as a refugee. Refugees are


INTR 2006 Debating Human Rights
evidence of Human Rights violation in the world. Around 51.2 million 1
people were force to leave their home because of conflicts, war, political
unrest, and natural disaster. They are persecuted on grounds of race,
religion, political opinion and nationality. This is the largest number of
people displacement occur post World War II and if it was a country, it will

Essay Question:

Why is the issue of refugees beyond the scopes of any

single UN agency?

What range of actors needs to become involved in the

search of solutions to the problem of forced migrants?

Anindito R. Wiraputra

1 UNHCR, 2014, Global Refugee Trends 2013, pp.5

become the worlds 26th largest population country. United Nations High
Commissioner of Refugee (UNHCR) is one of UN agency that formed to
protect the rights of refugees. It protects the rights of refugee for
resettlement and legal protection from deportation2. Refugee is not only a
human rights issue, it also raises serious political and security issues 3
along the way. As the number of refugees arises, the resistance from
government and population to receive refugee is also arise.
This essay will answer the question on the capability of single UN agency
to deal with forced migration problem and the collaboration of various UN
agency to deal with the problem. My argument is that because of the
complexity of forced migration problem, therefore single UN agency are
not able to deal with it. And various UN agencies such as UN Office on
Drugs and Crime (UNODC), UN Human Settlement Program (UN-HABITAT),
UN Environment Program (UNEP), UN Development Program (UNDP), UN
Women, World Health Organization (WHO) and more are need to be
involved in dealing with the forced migration problem generally. Due to
the need of understanding the case, I used the Afghanistan refugees to
Australia as the study case.

Forced Migration
Forced migration has become global phenomenon that affects
almost every country in the world. About every 1 of 130 persons in this
2 Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.),
Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.220
3 Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.),
Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.218

world are forced to leave their home because of conflict, natural disaster
and development. The causes and the circumstances divided the type of
forced migrant into: Refugee, person who has successfully sought refuge
in country other than his origin country; Asylum seeker, person who has
successfully escape from their country of origin and not yet granted the
status of refugee; Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), person who has
refugee-like situation but remain inside of the origin country due to
incapability to seek refuge4. 1951 UN Convention of Refugee Article 1
defined refugee as:
Any person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being prosecuted for
reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social
group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is
unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection
of that country

People are not deliberately leaving their home unless the situation has
forced them to do that. Conflict or unrest political condition that occurs
within a nation not only affected the countrys development, but also
made the country is socially uninhabitable. The undeveloped condition
became one of the push factors as well as development itself. People are
forced to leave their home as the result of development carried out in an
environment in which they live. The other push factor is massive natural
disaster that affects certain area and makes the area uninhabitable such
as volcano eruption, earthquake, and flood.

4 Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.),

Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.221-225

Refugee is a violation of human rights as mentioned in the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights article 3, people have the right to life, liberty,
and security of a person. Article 13, (1) everyone has the right to freedom
of movement and residence within the borders of each state; (2) everyone
has the right to leave any country, including his own and return to his
country. And article 14, (1) everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in
other countries asylum from persecution. Therefore refugee is people that
are not living free nor secure, persecuted, and some of them were unable
to leave or return to their home country and some of them were rejected
to enter a country other than their home country.

UN Capacity to Deal with Forced Migration

UNHCR is known as UN agency that focus on dealing with refugees.
Along with the 1951 Convention about Refugee, UNHCR protects the rights
of refugee. The refugees rights that become the concern of UNHCR
including the rights of non-refoulment5 and resettlement. The nonrefoulment protects the refugees from being deported or being forcibly
sent home. They will be repatriated after the threatening situation in their
home country is gone or they can choose to be resettled in any country
other than their home country.
Although UN is an International Organization, it doesnt influence every
country in the world. There are several countries that still hasnt ratified
the 1951 Convention of Refugee. UNHCR in this case is more like an

5 Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.),

Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.226-230.

organization to help the refugee during their process to repatriation or

resettlement in third country without the capability to influence the
countrys policy against refugee.
The forced migrations problem is multidimensional. Poverty and
conflict are the common reason for people to leave their home. Poverty
and conflict are usually get along together. As country with conflict such
as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Sudan and many more are usually have a
stagnant economic development and conflict repel foreign investment. A
country with no economic development nor investment make its people
suffer. It is because from economic perspective, due to the scarcity of










unreasonable. Therefore, people are forced to leave in order to survive.

Leaving their home doesnt mean they can escape poverty. The situation
that trap them (as a poor refugee) forced them to work under standard
pay grade or even commit a crime in domestic or international scale. As
reported by UNHCR that around 50% of refugee are women and children 6.
They are fragile to domestic violence, sexual harassment and victim of
human trafficking. From the situation above, there are UNDP, who concern
about development against poverty, UNODC together with Interpol, who
concern about transnational crimes, and UN Women, who concern about
The refugees are usually live in an unhygienic environment. With
unhygienic and overcrowd environment, there are diseases such as
diarrhea, scarlet fever and variola could easily spread among the refugees
6 UNHCR, 2014, Global Refugee Trends 2013, pp.5

and you could imagine what will happened if there are an epidemic such
as Ebola or HIV among them. This matter should become the concern of
Refugee is a victim of a situation beyond their control. From human
rights perspective, there is an immediate need to help them. However as
mentioned above, the fact that refugee could become harmful to the local
population makes government tend to resist the refugee to came to their
country. Therefore, as the mission of UNHCR to protect the rights of
refugee, it has to become catalyst7 in the UN system to work together to
deal with the problem that caused and came along with refugees so they
can claim their rights to the life in freedom and secure.

Study Case of Afghanistan Refugees to Australia

Afghanistan is widely known as country that in recent years has always
shrouded in conflict. There is never ending conflict occurs between United
States armed corps against Islam based terrorist named Al-Qaeda or
known as Taliban in Afghanistan since 2001. The conflict takes around
60.000 life on both sides including civilian. The eerie atmosphere in
Afghanistan now only repel the economic development away from this
country, but also driven its people away. The Afghanistan refugees were
forced to flee from their country legally or illegally 8. Because of the

7 Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.),

Human Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp.233
8 The term legal in this paper refers to one who travel with regular procedure for
international traveler which enter or exit through immigration check point
including the possession of valid passport of ones nationality and valid visa.

propaganda used by the United States to address the Muslim as global

terrorist to the world, especially after 9/11 WTC tragedy in United States,
these Afghanistan refugees are not easy to perform international travel.
They smuggled to the nearby country and faked their identity including
their nationality and travel to the destination country such as Australia
which believed offers opportunity for a better life.
As what Farida, Hussain and Najeebas family 9 who are forced to leave
Afghanistan by smuggled themselves to Pakistan and obtain Pakistan
passport. From Pakistan they cant fly directly to Australia. They have to
first fly to Australia nearby country such as Indonesia and then go to
Australia by boat. This action is necessary because Afghanistan is included
in Indonesian calling visa subject10. The procedure takes time and if they
were to fly directly using Afghanistan passport, they will be deported even
if they claimed to become refugee. This is because Indonesia hasnt
ratified 1951 Convention about refugee. The smuggling process could be
dangerous for women and children, they are vulnerable to become victim
of women and children trafficking and subject of sexual harassment. After
successfully enter Indonesia, they have travel to Australia by small fishing
boat illegally. And when they have arrived, they have to wait to be granted
as refugee in detention center. The action is necessary because they cant
use the same way as when they fly from Pakistan to Indonesia. Because it
9 Amnesty Internatinoal, 2010, Refugees Real Stories.
10 Country with calling visa subject is considered dangerous and its citizen that
wanted to apply Indonesian visa must be passed through layers of screening by
Immigration, Police, Ministry of Defense, Intelligence Agency and Interpol. The
process sometimes takes 2-4 months before the visa can be issued and not
every application will be approved.

is harder for Mediterranean Muslim to apply for Australian visa. The boat
trip are even dangerous, with no standard security they are putting their
life on a thread.

The problem of Forced Migration range widely since the beginning of the
refugees journey till they reach the destination country. The series of
fraud identity, law violation to unhygienic environment lead to endless
possibility of other problem for the refugee themselves and for the people
that they encountered. UNHCR as single UN agency are not capable to
deal with the multidimensional problem of forced migration by itself. It has
to be supported by other UN agencies and work together to deal with
forced migration problem. In the meantime various UN agencies could
work together to deal with the forced migration problem. Some
organization that could support UNHCR against forced migration such as
Forced migration is a problem that mostly caused by conflict.
Therefore, to solve the forced migration problem is to eliminate conflict
from this world11.

11 Antonio Guterres from UNHCR in Global Refugee Trends 2013 June 2014

Loescher, G., Human Rights and Forced Migration, in Goodhart, M. (ed.), Human
Rights: Politics and Practice, Oxford University Press, 2013, pp. 217-236.
Nirmal, B. C., 2001, Refugees and Human Rights, ISIL Year Book of International
Humanitarian and Refugee Law,
Undang-Undang Keimigrasian Republik Indonesia No.6 Tahun 2011 (Indonesian
Immigration Act No.6/2011)
Amnesty Internatinoal, 2010, Refugees Real Stories,
UNHCR, 2014, Global Refugee Trends 2013,
UNHCR, 2014, Global Refugee Trends 2013 video,
UN, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights,