Fears over funding for refugees owing to global economic situation
Publisher: The Hindu, India
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

CHENNAI,TAMIL NADU The global economic situation is causing concern that funding for refugees from donor countries may be come down, the chief of mission of the UN refugee agency in India said here on Wednesday.

Chairing a panel discussion on the 'Changing International Scenario and the Refugees in South Asia' at the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the University of Madras, the Chief of Mission, UNHCR in New Delhi, Montserrat Feixas Vihe, said many countries that played host to refugees considered them an additional financial burden."In the current global economic situation, there is concern that less and less money is available for refugees," she said. Some countries, Dr. Vihe said, were reducing intake or suggesting third country resettlement options.

Later, answering a question from the audience, Dr. Vihe agreed that refugees returning to their homeland – the Sri Lankan Tamils, instance – needed support for resettlement, but there were funding constraints.

"With the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009, other situations are also attracting donor attention. The longer the delay in the return of Sri Lankan refugees, the less money would be available to them from donor nations," she said.

The UNHCR was looking at 'sustainable return', as it believed that there had to be peace and reconciliation, and the appropriate socio-economic conditions, in the country to which the refugees returned.

Commenting on the impact that security concerns had on refugee protection, Dr. Vihe said, "Overall, there is a tendency to look at refugee issues from a geo-strategic point of view rather than a humanitarian one." The real or perceived threat of terrorism was influencing policy and the question of granting asylum.

She regretted that despite its record of being generous to refugees from different countries, India still had only an ad hoc approach to the issue in the absence of a national refugee law.

"There is no uniform system, and there is difference in the treatment of refugees based on the countries of their origin."

Dr. Vihe said the space for refugee protection must be preserved. "We should see to it that they can continue to seek asylum, have no threat of deportation, their human rights are protected and they can go home one day."

V. Vijayakumar, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University, felt that the law often placed hurdles in the way of complete refugee protection.

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