Refugees' rights and opportunities 2

Refugees’ Rights and Opportunities Part II

4: Right to legal residence, and to move freely

Many of the world’s refugees live in refugee camps. A refugee camp is an area where refugees can live, and where most of the infrastructure is primarily aimed at the needs of the refugees. Central institutions such as schools and health centers are often run by international or charitable organizations.

Living in a refugee camp often means that you have access to what you need to ensure basic needs, such as food, housing and health, but such camps are often set up in the countryside, where there is plenty of space, far from the big cities, and there are therefore few job opportunities and it can be difficult to support oneself.

Some refugee camps almost develop into small towns with markets, shops, churches and schools. Other camps are overcrowded without critical infrastructure in place, and have poor sanitation, limited schooling and often lacking security measures. The result is that the refugees feel too insecure to move around on their own.

The Refugee Convention emphasizes that refugees must be able to travel freely and choose where they want to live. But in some countries, refugees are required to live in refugee camps, and they are not allowed to travel freely around the country, or to move to the cities.

This may be because the government wants to limit the consequences of the refugees’ presence in the local labor market, or because they fear that political or military groups may hide among the refugees.

Three out of four refugees have sought refuge in a neighboring country to the conflict area they traveled from, and sometimes the authorities may fear that the same conflicts that led to war in their home country will flare up among them. For example, countries such as Jordan and Iraq want to help Syrian refugees, but at the same time fear that IS sympathizers will hide among them, and mobilize support in their own population.

5: When conflicts are protracted

When conflicts are short-lived, the recipient country for many refugees first and foremost needs financial support from the international community to ensure the basic needs of the refugees. But conflicts are not always short-lived. For example, in parts of the Congo, our ongoing armed conflict has been more or less continuous since 1996.

In other cities, the war may be over, but the refugees still cannot travel on the eighteenth, because their homeland does not want the group to which they belong. This may be because they are linked to the losing party in a conflict (like the IS fighters in Syria) and they risk being imprisoned or perhaps killed if they return; or they may belong to an ethnic or religious group that is undesirable in their home country (such as the Rohingya population in Myanmar).

In the Middle East, there are today hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced to flee during the establishment of the state of Israel and the wars that followed. Although there is no ongoing war in the area, these refugees do not have the opportunity to return to their original homelands.

In such long-term refugee situations, it is far more complicated to find good long-term solutions for the refugees.

In the long run, it will be unbearable for a quarter of an hour for refugees to live in camps and not be able to travel around freely. It will also be difficult to live in a country for many years without the right to work or higher education. Having access to food, school and health care, which the world community can contribute, is important for a good life. But that is not enough. Many people on the run dream of being able to support themselves, and that their children will have a different future than sitting in a refugee camp and waiting and receiving assistance.

6: To relieve the host nations

When host countries, such as Norway, set up their refugee assistance, it is necessary to make arrangements for the host nations to be able to give refugees from long-term conflicts the opportunity to settle and live on an equal footing with the local population in the country.

Some have argued that to help the refugees in these countries, one must also help the local population, so that they too have access to health care, schooling and the fight against poverty. Then the local population does not feel that they have to fight with the refugees for limited resources, and the opposition to the presence of the refugees is less. This will also make it easier for the refugees to be integrated into the local economy.

But in some countries, refugees make up such a large proportion of the population that it can be very demanding to make arrangements for them to be integrated into the local economy. Then it may be necessary to relieve the host nations, so that the refugees move out and are offered to settle in other countries.

According to, Norway and several other countries receive so-called transfer refugees from neighboring countries to conflict zones, and refugees from such long-term refugee situations are often given priority. However, the willingness to accept such resettlement refugees is very limited in most countries, and the low number who are offered this means that it has little effect on relieving the recipient countries today.

7: When the world community falls short

Although there is a broad consensus that everyone should have the right to seek refuge in a safe city if a host is exposed to war or persecution, it can often be difficult to find good solutions for people on the run.

The Refugee Convention stipulates that refugees shall have the right to have their basic needs for food, health and education covered. It also says that refugees should have the right to work and be able to settle wherever they want. But many of the countries in the world where most refugees live today have not ratified the Refugee Convention. In these countries, the world community often plays an important role in ensuring that the refugees’ basic needs are met. But when conflicts are long-lasting, or refugees are unable to travel for other reasons, they will have other needs that the world community struggles to meet.

Having access to food, school and health care is important for having a good life. But that is not enough. Many people on the run dream of being able to support themselves, and that their children will have a different future than sitting in a refugee camp and waiting and receiving assistance.

Refugees' rights and opportunities 2

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