The phrase ‘protracted refugee situations’ carries an important qualitative connotation: it is about the duration of life in exile but also, significantly, about the quality of such life – which is seen to deteriorate over time as solutions remain elusive. The practice of keeping refugees in protracted situations of restricted mobility, enforced idleness, and dependency on aid amounts to a denial of basic rights. Such rights – underpinning fundamental values of security, dignity and freedom – may pertain to refugees as refugees (i.e. on account of their specific vulnerabilities). For the most part, however, they are simply inherent in the dignity of all human beings.
It is generally acknowledged that, in emergency situations, states may find it difficult, even with the support of others, to ensure to refugees the full exercise of all their human rights. With the passing of time, however, states have fewer and fewer excuses for denying such basic rights as, for example, freedom of movement, access to courts or personal documentation. As for socio-economic rights, such as the right to work and earn a living, both the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees and the International Bill of Rights establish a principle of progressive realisation, meaning that the effective enjoyment of refugees’ human rights is supposed to improve over time, whereas one observes exactly the opposite in many Protracted Refugee Situations. As noted by one commentator, “in fostering self-reliance, guaranteeing people’s rights is more important than providing them with material aid”. Rights matter.
Credit: Jean-Francois Durieux
- Amnesty International (1997) 'Refugees: human rights have no borders'.
- Deardorff, S. (2009) 'How long is too long? Questioning the legality of long-term encampment through a human rights lens', RSC working paper No. 54.
- Demo, A. F. (2009) 'Riding on the Back of a Tortoise', Forced Migration Review No. 33.
- Durieux, J.-F. (2009) 'A Regime at a Loss?' Forced Migration Review No. 33.
- Health and human rights info (International Society for Health and Human Rights).
- FMO Resource Summary: Human Rights.
- Jamal, A. (2000) 'Minimum standards and essential needs in a protracted refugee situation: a review of the UNHCR programme in Kakuma, Kenya' Evaluation Report, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR.
- Human Rights Watch (2000) 'UNHCR at 50: what future for refugee protection?'
- Harding, J. and Varadan, S. (2010) 'A Community-based Approach to Refugee Protection in a Protracted Refugee Situation', Humanitarian Exchange Magazine, Issue 46, Humanitarian Practice Network.
- Kagan, M. (2011) '"We live in a country of UNHCR" The UN surrogate state and refugee policy in the Middle East', New Issues in Refugee Research No. 201, UNHCR.
- Rowley, E. A. and Burnham, G. M. and Drabe, R. M. (2006) 'Protracted Refugee Situations: Parallel Health Systems and Planning for the Integration of Services', Journal of Refugee Studies Vol. 19, No. 2 (Oxford University Press).
- Smith, M. (2004) 'Warehousing refugees: A denial of rights, a waste of humanity', World Refugee Survey.
- Betts, A. (2006) 'The Politics, Human Rights and Security Implications of Protracted Refugee Situations', Journal of Refugee Studies, 19, no. 4, pp. 509-514, (Oxford University Press).
- Ferris, E. (2008) 'Protracted refugee situations, human rights and civil society' in Gil Loescher et al, Protracted Refugee Situations, (Tokyo; New York : United Nations University Press).
- Kaiser, T. (2006) 'Between a Camp and a Hard Place: Rights, Livelihood and Experiences of the Local Settlement System for Long-Term Refugees in Uganda', Journal of Modern African Studies, 44, no. 4, pp. 597-622.
- Verdirame, G. and Harell-Bond, B. (2005) 'Rights in Exile: Janus-Faced Humanitarianism', Studies in Forced Migration, 17 (Berghahn Books).
- Amnesty International
- Derechos Human Rights
- Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH)
- François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights
- Human Rights Watch (HRW)
- Human Rights First (HRF)
- Lawyers for Human Rights, Refugee and Migrants Rights Programme
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)