[This edition is compiled by Ishita Dey,Doctoral Student at Department of Sociology, Delhi University and Member of Calcutta Research Group]
Until January 2011, Tunisia was known for a repressive government headed by Mr. Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali who ruled the country for 23 years till the jasmine revolution when the anti- government protests forced him to resign. As the Prime Minister of the interim government in Tunisia also puts in his resignation, the neighboring state Libya witnesses a violent anti- government protests against the 41 year old rule of Colonel Gaddafi and there are reports of Libya’s border overrun with migrants, mostly Egyptians. According to UNHCR reports, almost close to 100,000 people (which includes Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and third country nationals including Chinese and other Asians) have fled due to anti-government unrest in Libya. Mostly people are fleeing to Tunisia and Egypt- the states which are in a state of transition due to the recent political agitations. Under the given circumstances, UNHCR in a press release welcomed the positive approach of the two transitional states- Tunisia and Egypt to keep its borders open for people trying to flee from Libya. According to the press release, "Given the continued reports of violence and human rights abuses inside Libya, it is imperative that people fleeing the country are able to reach safety". Infact UNHCR in its web portal on 25 February mentions that “the interim government in Tunisia has declared that the country's borders are open for all nationalities attempting to flee Libya. According to their statistics, more than 22,000 people have crossed the border since last Sunday, mainly Tunisian nationals, with a number of Egyptians, Turks, Moroccans and Chinese”. While on one hand the political unrest has led to influx of people in Tunisia and Egypt; the reports indicate that both these countries will need the commitment and support from international humanitarian agencies. UNHCR has opened its operations in Tunisia and is supporting Tunisian Red Crescent and border community Ben Guardane whose volunteers are helping the new arrivals. The Tunisian military has set up a transit camp which can accommodate 400 people. UNHCR fears that they have received phone calls from refugees registered with UNHCR and living in Libya that they might be targeted as foreigners. Prior to conflict UNHCR had registered more than 8000 refugees and approximately 3000 asylum seekers have pending cases. While Tunisia has kept its borders open for people fleeing from Libya, Tunisians take recourse to high seas to reach Lampedusa, an Italian island midway between Tunisia and Malta. In a news report published in Financial Times (14 February 2011) approximately 4000 people had landed in this island over the past four days. They are mostly young Tunisians and apparently thousands have gathered in Tunisian ports to pay $ 2000 each to traffickers for the passage. The reasons for taking high seas are many. Some reportedly fled Tunisia were desperately looking for work, others were fleeing violence and disorder. Some even thought that they might be persecuted after the overthrow of the last regime. Under the present circumstances Italy is expecting more Tunisians to arrive and have opened the reopening of the transit centre at Lampedusa to take in migrants. For the past two years they had closed this transit centre and was intercepting migrants at high seas with the co-operation from Tunisian and Libyan governments- countries which have witnessed major anti-government protests. Italy has called for EU’s concerted response to the present situation. In this context, Geetisha Dasgupta in her article “When was the revolution?” gives us a status update of the peaceful struggles that people have launched across the Arab world. Refugees have also taken recourse to high seas in Asia as well and last year there were several media reports of Rohingyas taking to high seas to reach safer destinations. Rohingyas continue to be ill treated by the Thai Government as they were reportedly set adrift without food, water and even their engine was not working. Under the given circumstances, Human Rights Watch in a recently released press release urges the Thai Government to investigate the matter with deeper concerns. For details on the latest development please visit the section on News where we also bring to your attention that due to fresh military operations almost 90000 people in North West Pakistan will be displaced according to UN agencies.
Last year there has been a lot of discussion on stateless people and in this edition, Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury brings to our attention one such case- Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh. Article 1 of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons defines that a ‘stateless person’ is someone who is not recognized as a national by any state under the operation of its law. They therefore have no nationality or citizenship and are unprotected by national legislation and left in the arc of vulnerability. Whether or not a person is stateless can be determined on the basis of an assessment of relevant nationality laws and how these laws are implemented by the state. Since nationality is generally acquired on the basis of an existing, factual link between the individual and the state – some kind of connection either with the territory (place of birth or residence) or with a national (descent, adoption or marriage) – it is important to look at the nationality legislation and relevant practice of states with which an individual enjoys a relevant factual link, to see if nationality is indeed attributed to the individual under any state’s law. If not, then he or she is stateless. Anasua gives us a ground report of the present situation of Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh. In this section, Vandana in her article brings to our attention the gendered dimensions of displacement through the documentation of women’s voices; those affected due to developmental projects and in this case she chooses to the study the women whose lives get affected due to the construction of Tehri dam. Finally we bring to you the proceedings of a recently concluded workshop by Calcutta Resarch Group aimed for media practitioners.
27 February 2011. Libya unrest sparks refugee crisis at Tunisia border. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12591935
25 February 2011. UNHCR urges support for Tunisia and Egypt as thousands flee Libya. Source : http://www.unhcr.org/4d67bbf89.html
23 February 2011. UNHCR says open borders imperative for people fleeing violence in Libya. Source : http://www.unhcr.org/4d653ee25.html
Dinmore, Guy and Byrne, Eileen. “ Italy appeals to EU for help over Tunisian Flotilla” in Financial Times, February 14, 2011