Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa

Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa

Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa

Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa


Of the over 33 million refugees and internally displaced people in the world today, a disproportionate percentage are found in Africa. Most have been driven from their homes by armed strife, displacing people into settings that fail to meet standards for even basic human dignity. Protection of the human rights of these people is highly uncertain and unpredictable. Many refugee service agencies agree advocacy on behalf of the displaced is a key aspect of their task. But those working in the field are so pressed by urgent crises that they can rarely analyze the requirements of advocacy systematically. Yet advocacy must go beyond international law to human rights as an ethical standard to prevent displaced people from falling through the cracks of our conflicted world.

Refugee Rights: Ethics, Advocacy, and Africa draws upon David Hollenbach, SJ's work as founder and director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College to provide an analytical framework for vigorous advocacy on behalf of refugees and internally displaced people. Representing both religious and secular perspectives, the contributors are scholars, practitioners, and refugee advocates -- all of whom have spent time "on the ground" in Africa. The book begins with the poignant narrative of Abebe Feyissa, an Ethiopian refugee who has spent over fifteen years in a refugee camp from hell. Other chapters identify the social and political conditions integral to the plight of refugees and displaced persons. Topics discussed include the fundamental right to freedom of movement, gender roles and the rights of women, the effects of war, and the importance of reconstruction and reintegration following armed conflict. The book concludes with suggestions of how humanitarian groups and international organizations can help mitigate the problem of forced displacement and enforce the belief that all displaced people have the right to be treated as their human dignity demands.

Refugee Rights offers an important analytical resource for advocates and students of human rights. It will be of particular value to practitioners working in the field.


David Hollenbach

There are over thirty- three million refugees and internally displaced people in the world today. A disproportionate percentage of these displaced people are in Africa. Most have been driven from their homes by the armed strife of both interstate and intrastate conflicts. Such coerced migration violates people's freedom, and most have been displaced into settings where conditions fall far short of what is required to live with basic human dignity. Such displacement, therefore, violates people's most basic human rights in multiple ways.

Human rights have played an increasingly important role in the assessment of international affairs since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Universal Declaration was a response to the genocidal extermination of the Jewish people attempted by the Nazis and the destruction and displacement caused by World War II itself. This history thus ties contemporary human rights norms directly to the conditions faced by most refugees and internally displaced people today. In addition, the long- standing historical discussions of the ethics of war and peace in Western and non-Western traditions are also linked with key issues raised by forced migration. Both human rights norms and the ethics of war and peace, therefore, have direct relevance to the plight of displaced people and the way the world should respond to their needs.

Refugees and internally displaced people, however, are regrettably often the forgotten victims of human rights violations. The human rights issues raised by forced displacement have not been addressed in the same depth as other grave human rights issues, such as depriving people of their liberty for political reasons or the use of torture in gathering intelligence. Nor have the consequences of war for refugees received more than minimal attention in most legal and ethical analyses of armed conflict. We take it for granted today that intentionally killing civilians is a violation of the law and ethics of warfare. The displacement of millions from their homes, however, is not rejected nearly . . .

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