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Archive for June 11th, 2013

Lack documentation: Many of Tibetan refugees were born in Nepal

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2013

Many Tibetan refugees were born in Nepal

POKHARA,  – Tibetan refugees in Nepal, many of who have been here for decades, say they lack the documentation they need to lead normal lives.

“Without any form of identification paper, I don’t know where I belong. There is no future for me in Nepal,” Palden Lama, a Tibetan refugee, told IRIN outside a refugee settlement in Pokhara, Nepal’s second city. The 25-year-old was born in the settlement and has lived his entire life in Nepal.

Nepal is home to at least 20,000 Tibetan refugees, many of whom fled south across the Himalayas following the 1959 Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tens of thousands were reportedly killed.

Each year hundreds continue to transit through Nepal to India, home of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile. There are more than 100,000 documented Tibetan refugees living in India.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are an estimated 15,000 long-staying Tibetan refugees who arrived in Nepal prior to 1990, of whom more than half lack any form of documentation, preventing them from getting regular access to education and legal employment. UNHCR continues to advocate for the issuance of documentation to long-staying Tibetans.

Currently, there are 11 Tibetan refugee settlements in Nepal, with an estimated 9,000 people living in Kathmandu alone.

Under normal circumstances, most pre-1990 arrivals, qualifying as bona fide refugees, should have been documented and given refugee cards (RCs) by the government, allowing them the right to live and work in the country, as well as access to basic services.

“No decision”

“There has been no decision made yet,” Shanker Koirala, a senior government official with the Home Ministry, told IRIN regarding the Tibetans, adding that he had “no other comment” – a position many believe underscores government sensitivity on the issue and relations with neighbouring China.

According to the Human Rights Organization of Nepal (HURON), a prominent rights group campaigning on behalf of Tibetan refugees, Kathmandu, under pressure from Beijing, stopped issuing RCs to Tibetans in 1995, including children born in Nepal to refugee parents who had been residing in the country for decades.

“Their lack of an RC or any form of documentation means they are totally stateless and have absolutely no place in this world,” Sudeep Pathak, head of HURON, explained.

“There is a fundamental need for documentation – whether refugee identification or citizenship – for Tibetans in Nepal,” said Kate Saunders, a senior official from the International Campaign for Tibet, noting a large number of Tibetans in Nepal are effectively stateless, vulnerable to political exploitation, and unable to benefit from state services or travel without the threat of harassment, extortion or detention.

“It’s a very difficult situation for us especially after we finish school because we need a valid document to prove we are residents of this country,” said Pema, a high school student in the Tashi-Paikheli Settlement in Hyangjha village.

“This is such a wrong time to be a Tibetan,” said one young Tibetan refugee in Kathmandu who preferred anonymity.

An elderly Tibetan woman sells souvenirs to western tourists

Restrictions

Tibetans in Nepal say they face restrictions from Nepalese authorities, particularly around significant Tibetan anniversaries, with activists accusing Beijing of using aid and investment in Nepal to ensure the government prevents any anti-Chinese activity.

“China is determined that Nepal should not become a breeding ground for activists campaigning for an independent Tibet. It fears that Tibetan refugees, who enjoy considerable sympathy and support in India and the West, will use Nepal as a base to protest against the Chinese occupation and to carry out `anti-China activities’,” said a 2012 report by Safer World, an independent international organization working to prevent violent conflict.

But according to one activist who has worked with the Tibetans for years, their desire for documentation now has nothing to do with politics, but rather a desire to live in peace and dignity in Nepal.

“I have worked with thousands of Tibetan refugees in the past 20 years, but I have not met anyone express any interest in anti-China activities. All they want is a safe and legitimate residence in Nepal where they can live with freedom as local citizens,” said Nilkantha Sharma, chief of Sambad Nepal, an NGO supporting Tibetan refugee rights in Pokhara.

Nepal is not party to the 1951 UN Convention or 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and there are no national laws to grant asylum or refugee status.

nn/ds/cb  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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In developing countries, families are prioritizing food above all else

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2013

In developing countries, families are prioritizing food above all else

NAIROBI,  – When food prices rise, poor people in developing countries not only change or reduce their diets, they are also more likely to engage in riskier but better paid occupations such as mining and prostitution, according to a new report.

Squeezed, jointly published by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) and Oxfam, also reports that the increased strain on families brought about by price hikes is accompanied by a rise in domestic violence and alcohol and substance abuse.

“The failure of wages to keep up with rising food prices is putting a strain on family relationships. For many men, the inability to be the family breadwinner is a real source of stress and can lead to conflict and violence within households. Parents’ inability to invest in the futures of their children is also a major source of stress,” Richard King, policy research advisor at Oxfam and co-author of the report, told IRIN.

The report noted that while there is optimism about rising wages, these have failed to keep up with the pace of food price hikes and inflation.

“People are working harder over longer hours, and their wages are not keeping pace with inflation, so they have to adapt wherever, and however, possible,” said the report.

Social changes

Women, in particular, have borne the brunt of burgeoning food prices, with many of them having to juggle both domestic chores and work to feed their families. In Zambia for example, female nurses and teachers have had to moonlight as street vendors to supplement their incomes, while in Kenya, some young mothers were forced into prostitution to make ends meet, the report said.

According to Naomi Hossain, a research fellow at IDS and a co-author of the report, the need to earn cash to buy food is quickly replacing the importance people put on social relationships.

“As families increasingly struggle to earn enough to eat, we are seeing how money is becoming more important than relationships, to the point that the social implications are potentially alarming. Policymakers need to catch up,” she said.

“As families increasingly struggle to earn enough to eat, we are seeing how money is becoming more important than relationships, to the point that the social implications are potentially alarming. Policymakers need to catch up”

Uncertain and relatively high prices mean prioritizing earning the cash needed for food above all else… Global food policymakers need to check their assumptions about adjustments to food prices, and decide whether they want the kinds of societies where cash matters above all else,” Hossain wrote in a recent blog post.

And Oxfam’s King said, “People are becoming more individualistic, and reciprocal sources of support that people tend to rely on are becoming strained. There is rising stigma and uneasiness attached to turning to neighbours for help, in the knowledge that the same will be expected in return.”

According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, poor families were more likely to marry off their daughters so that they there would “one mouth less to feed”. In rural Bangladesh, a Tufts University study found that women in households with lower food security reported experiencing “psychological abuse, and about half of women reported physical abuse from their husbands”.

The Overseas Development Institute reported that initial mechanisms for coping with higher food costs – including cutting back spending on expensive foods, borrowing to cover costs of living, and finding ways to work and earn more – were quickly followed by signs of distress, such as “sales of assets, beginning with consumer goods, with land, tools and livestock, sold only after that buffer was exhausted.”

IDS’s Hossain accuses policymakers of being blind to the social changes brought about by food price hikes. Instead, they fixate on “changes they can measure,” she said.

Agriculture suffering

Agriculture as an economic venture has also suffered. While a hike in food prices should ideally inspire more people to engage in agriculture to produce more food, the result, according to the joint IDS-Oxfam study, has been the opposite.

“Instead of flocking to farming as prices rise, the view of agriculture is that it has become much less reliable over the past few years as a result of uncertainties related to input costs, returns and the effects of climate change. People are turning to more lucrative yet dangerous occupations instead – gold mining in Burkina Faso, for example. Education is seen as a ticket off the farm, and agricultural aspirations are rare,” Oxfam’s King said.

The study recommends, among other things, improved social protection policies to address the vulnerability of the poorest people, including cash transfers or subsidies. Improved management of food reserves and regulation of the international grain trade is also needed. Steps to make agriculture a more reliable vocation should also be taken, such as investing in training, technology and sustainability.

ko/rz  source http://www.irinnews.org

 

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Oil theft in Niger Delta: Can unemployed youths be behind it?

Posted by African Press International on June 11, 2013

A burned-down illegal oil refinery in Warri creek

WARRI/DAKAR,  – Oil theft – known as bunkering – in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region is soaring following a brief lull, leading residents and community leaders once again to call on the federal government to do more to address the area’s chronic under-development.

Thefts and vandalism of oil pipelines diminished in 2011 and 2012, partly due to the initial success of Oil Field Surveillance Limited (OFSL), which the government set up to monitor and report on oil theft but shut down in September 2012 after its head, ex-militant Ekpemupolo Tompolo, was sacked for allegedly not running the operation properly.

OFSL staff mainly comprised ex-militants and employed over 100 people at its height. It was part of the government’s 2009 amnesty programme to provide jobs for local youths. Some 27,000 Nigerians surrendered their weapons and signed up to the amnesty programme which included vocational training, and a fixed-term US$410 monthly salary.

Locals had complained to the government that OFSL was poorly managed, spending money on ghost workers, jeeps and other equipment. Many had disapproved of the programme, seeing it as a means of paying off criminals.

Isitoah Ozoemene, a political science lecturer at the State College of Education in Niger Delta oil town Warri, told IRIN: “The security they are talking about involves using ex-militants previously involved in vandalizing oil pipelines, giving them free money to do anything, and saying they are patrolling oil facilities. We have a government that compensates criminals, so more criminals come forward.”

Others say OFSL was the best solution for a bad situation: Only by giving youths jobs, will criminality abate, and as locals, they know the area and situation better than outsiders.

Julius Malam-Obi, former OFSL head of operations in the Isoko South local government area of Delta State, told IRIN oil theft has shot up in Isoko South since OFSL disbanded. His crew of 75 people used to go into the creeks on two-week shifts to search for oil bunkers and illegal refineries, which they would report to the authorities, he said.

Oil thefts have prompted corporations Shell, AGIP and Eni to close down operations in some parts of the region in March, and none have yet fully resumed their operations. According to the managing director of the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), the enterprise was losing an average of 60,000 barrels of crude oil per day (out of an estimated total production of 150,000 barrels) to oil bunkering, which represents a surge since January 2013.

Military attempt crackdown

Since September 2012, the military Joint Task Force (JTF) has controlled oil survey operations across the region. JTF media coordinator Lt-Col Onyema Nwachukwu said so far in 2013 they have arrested 498 people and seized 18 boats.

“These arrests reflect our unrelenting effort to eradicate oil theft while making the illegal business increasingly unrewarding and frustrating for perpetrators by scuttling their apparatus,” he told IRIN.

Unemployed youths just outside of Warri town in the Niger Delta

In 2012 they arrested 1,945 suspects and destroyed 4,349 illegal refineries, 133 barges, 1,215 open boats, an unspecified number of illegal fuel dumps and tankers, over 5,500 surface tanks, and 36,000 drums of illegally refined products, he added.

But despite these efforts, thefts continue to soar. So many people benefit from the theft – from locals and low-ranking soldiers to local politicians and top political and military men – that it is almost impossible to stamp out, said Jackson Timiyan, a community leader in oil-rich Gbaramatu Kingdom of Delta State.

Corruption rife

There are high levels of collusion between security forces, residents and oil workers in oil theft, say environmentalists and community activists.

All these groups make deals with oil theft cartels, including the JTF and the navy, said political science lecturer Ozoemene. “We have a very corrupt regime. JTF is made up of lowly paid officers and everybody wants to catch up with oil wealth.”

JTF’s Nwachukwu denied the allegations and said whoever had concrete evidence should bring it forward. JTF lacks the manpower required to control over 6,000km of pipelines simultaneously, he added.

Locals say ex-OFSL members are now returning to criminality. Jackson Timiyan explained why: “These youths are from the underdeveloped communities and they think these oil facilities are their own and [they] must be part of it, and since the government is not giving them enough reasons they will think that government is exploiting them,” he told IRIN. Others have turned to piracy, he said.

This spells danger, which residents are all-too familiar with, following years of violence from the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and other militant groups. Some 1,000 people were killed and 300 taken hostage in the Niger Delta in 2008.

Meanwhile, locals continue to endure polluted water, poor schools and a seriously impaired healthcare system, despite years of campaigning. Agriculture is the mainstay for most residents, yet extraction, exploitation, oil spills and gas flares have decimated much of the delta, killing fish and ruining ecosystems, say environmentalists.

Rather than clamping down on ex-militants, they should be further empowered not only to track criminality but also to make money from oil legitimately, said Ozooemene. “Nigeria is the sixth largest oil producer in the world and has a reputation of being unable to refine crude oil… Where is the sense that it produces it and then has to later import the refined product? These persons should be employed to do the job,” he said.

While such a strategy appears unlikely to be implemented any time soon, what is clear is that continuing alienation, corruption, environmental degradation and unemployment could further boost insecurity in the delta region.

hu/aj/cb source http://www.irinnews.org

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