2010年7月26日月曜日

How the camps got established

To answer this question, let me quote from an article by Alexander Casella:

“That events took another turn was due to an odd set of circumstances, namely the failure of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN refugee agency, to properly address the Kurdish crisis in northern Iraq in 1991.

In the wake of the first Gulf War in 1991, the US government encouraged the Kurds in northern Iraq to revolt against Saddam Hussein. When, however, Saddam turned against the Kurds, Washington did not come to their help and the result was a massive population displacement which saw hundreds of thousands of Kurds seek refuge in areas in northern Iraq not under Saddam's control, while others sought refuge in Iran and Turkey.

The exodus caught the then-high commissioner for refugees, Madame Sadako Ogata, completely unprepared and exposed her to a wave of criticism both from Western governments and the non-governmental organization community.

To mitigate censure for her failure, Ogata created, within the UNHCR bureaucracy, a so-called Emergency Response Unit allegedly responsible for ensuring that the refugee agency be capable of responding at short notice to a sudden refugee crisis anywhere in the world.


However, with no further crises in sight but an unemployed emergency unit at hand, the UNHCR bureaucracy became a solution in search of a problem. That problem suddenly emerged in 1992, when the government of Nepal asked the UNHCR to take charge of the group expelled from Bhutan on the grounds that these were "refugees", that is, foreign nationals who had fled persecution in their country of origin.

Normally, the UNHCR, before intervening, would have undertaken a survey of the caseload to determine exactly their nationality and reasons for departure. Had this been undertaken, the inescapable conclusion would have been that the overwhelming majority were actually Nepalese and hence, by the fact that they were in their own country, did not qualifying for refugee status.


But Ogata did not run a tight shop and spurred by the urge to be perceived as active, the UNHCR opened seven camps without undertaking even a semblance of a survey of the arrivals. Over subsequent years, as the UNHCR kept on pouring money into the camps, Bhutan and Nepal embarked on a series of protracted and fruitless discussions as to how to deal with the group.

While Bhutan acknowledged that among the camp population there might be a few bona-fide Bhutanese citizens whom they could accept back, they where wary of exposing themselves to a massive return. Conversely, the Nepali authorities, already embroiled in a major internal crisis, were insisting on the wholesale return of the group. By then, the camps had become hotbeds of opposition to the Bhutanese government and were in part controlled by various Marxist groups, including some of Maoist extraction.”

For full article, click here.

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