Sharing the responsibility for refugees: A new global compact

An aerial view of the Za'atri refugee camp, Jordan, Wikimedia Commons

An aerial view of the Za’atri refugee camp, Jordan, Wikimedia Commons

Amnesty International, Sharing the responsibility for refugees: A new global compact, 9 May 2016, Index number: IOR 40/3906/2016

Wealthy states and the international community as a whole have failed to equitably share responsibility for managing the ongoing global refugee crisis. In his report In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, published today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a “Global Compact on responsibility-sharing” to create a more predictable and equitable way of responding to large movements of refugees.

This briefing urges states to use key upcoming international meetings to move from short-term stop-gap measures to long-term, proactive and globally coordinated solutions.

At the UN General Assembly High-Level Plenary on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants in September 2016, states should adopt a new Global Compact on predictable and equitable refugee responsibility-sharing, based on international human rights and refugee law. The Global Compact should include:

  • A permanent distribution system of resettlement places, based on objective criteria;
  • In cases of large movements of refugees, an additional distribution system to admit refugees through expedited safe and legal routes (“legal pathways” for admission) based on objective criteria;
  • Guaranteed full, flexible and predictable funding for refugee protection and meaningful financial support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, over and above existing development assistance programmes;
  • Strengthened refugee status determination systems and increased use of prima facie recognition of refugee status;
  • Respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of refugees in their country of asylum, including the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living, access to education, healthcare and other services, and economic self-reliance.
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Litigating human rights 1/2: Amnesty International’s interventions before international tribunals

Faroe_stamp_131_amnesty_international FREE COPYRIGHTAmnesty International is known for being a vocal organisation: many of its activities are carried out publicly, via petitions, demonstrations, declarations. A large part of Amnesty International’s work, however, happens quietly, in backstage meetings and private conversations. Or before national and international courts and tribunals, where Amnesty International often appears as a third party or amicus curiae.

This post lists selected international cases in which Amnesty International has intervened, most often as a third party or an amicus curiae. It is a tribute to all the women and men who have contributed their vision and passion to this work, as well as to the lawyers who have lent their professional skills to human rights, representing Amnesty International pro bono.

Fore more info, have a look at: Dean Zagorac, “International Courts and Compliance Bodies: The Experience of Amnesty International”, in Tullio Treves (ed.), Civil Society, International Courts and Compliance Bodies (T.M.C. Asser Press, 2005), p11 ff.

International Courts

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Amnesty International submitted several communications to the African Commission under Article 55 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Amnesty International v Zambia, communication no. 212/98

Amnesty International and others v Mauritania, Communications no. 54/91, 61/91, 96/93, 98/93, 164/97, 196/97, 210/98

  • Decision, 27th Ordinary Session, Algiers, 27 April – 11 May 2000

Amnesty International and others v Sudan, Communcations Nos. 48/90, 50/91, 52/91 and 89/93

  • Decision, 26th Session, Kigali, 1–15 November 1999

Amnesty International v Tunisia, Communications no. 69/92 and 79/92

  • Decision, 13th Ordinary Session, Banjul, 29 March – 7 April 1993

Chutan (on behalf of Banda) and Amnesty International (on behalf of Orton and Vera Chirwa) v Malawi, Communications Nos. 64/92, 68/92, AND 78/92

  • Decision, 17th Session, Lomé, 13–22 March 1995

Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Civil Society Associations Gambia (CSAG) v Gambia

 SERAP v Federal Republic of Nigeria

Court of Justice of the European Union

X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel (Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum), Joined Cases C-199/12, C-200/12, C-201/12

N.S. v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Case C-411/10) and M.E. & Others v ORAC (Case C-493/10)

European Court of Human Rights

Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v Poland, Application No. 7511/13

A. P. and others v France, application no. 79885/12

  • Written comments submitted jointly by Amnesty International, ILGA Europe and Transgender Europe (TGEU), 24 July 2015

M.E. v Sweden, application no. 71398/12

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International, 11 April 2013 [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Fifth Section), 26 June 2014

Alekhina and others v Russia, application no. 38004/12

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, 14 April 2014 [on file with Amnesty International]

Al Nashiri v Romania, application no. 33234/12

Tarakhel v. Switzerland, application no. 29217/12

Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania, application no. 46454/11

S.A.S. v. France, Application No. 43835/11

Al Nashiri v Poland, Application No. 28761/11

El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, application no. 39630/09

Hämäläinen v. Finland, application no. 37359/09

  • Written observations of Amnesty International, 13 September 2013 [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 16 July 2014

M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, Application No. 30696/09

Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy, application no. 27765/09

  • Written submissions on behalf of the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), Amnesty International and the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 23 February 2012
  • Amnesty International, Italy: ‘Historic’ European Court judgment upholds migrants’ rights, public statement, 23 February 2012

Sharifi and Others v. Italy and Greece, application no. 16643/09

Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom, application no. 8139/09

P and S v Poland, Application No. 57375/08

Z v Poland, Application No. 46132/08

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction)  of the Court (Fourth Section), 13 November 2012

Janowiec and Others v. Russia, application Nos. 55508/07 and 29520/09

X and others v. Austria, application No. 19010/07

Jones and Others v the United Kingdom, applications no. 34356/06 and 40528/06

  • See below for the UK proceedings
  • Written comments by Redress, Amnesty International, Interights and Justice, 20 February 2010
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Fourth Section), 14 January 2014

Ramzy v the Netherlands, Application No. 25424/05

  • Written comments by Amnesty International and six others, 22 November 2005
  • Judgment (Struck out of the List) of the Court (Third Section), 20 July 2010

BAYATYAN V. ARMENIA, APPLICATION NO. 23459/03

  • Written comments submitted by Amnesty International, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers), International Commission of Jurists, War Resisters’ International, Index POL 31/001/2010, 15 July 2010
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 7 July 2011

Tahsin Acar v Turkey, application no. 26307/95

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Preliminary Objection) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 6 May 2003

Assenov and Others v Bulgaria, application no. 24760/94

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International, 13 February 1998 [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Chamber), 28 October 1998

Kurt v Turkey, application no. 24276/94

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Chamber), 25 May 1998

AYDIN V TURKEY, APPLICATION NO.23178/94

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 25 September 1997

Chahal v the United Kingdom, Application no. 22414/93

Akdivar and Others v Turkey, Application No. 21893/93

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber) 16 September 1996

McCann and others v the United Kingdom, application no.18984/91

John Murray v the United Kingdom, application no. 18731/91

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International and Justice [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 8 February 1996

Brannigan and McBride v the United Kingdom, application nos. 14553/89 and 14554/89

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Plenary), 26 May 1993

Soering v United Kingdom, Application No. 14038/88

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Plenary), 7 July 1989

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Case No.: 002/19-09-2007-ECCC-OCIJ-PTC

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Paloma Angélica Escobar Ledezma and others v Mexico, case 12.551

  • Amicus curiae brief on behalf of Amnesty International, 10 July 2007 [not available]
  • Report No. 51/13, 12 July 2013

Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group v. Canada, Petition 592-07

Luis Gabriel Caldas León v Colombia, case 11.596

  • Amicus curiae brief on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Report No. 137/10, 23 November 2010

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, contentious cases

Mendoza et al. v. Argentina

  • Amicus curiae brief presented by Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment of 14 May 2013 (Preliminary Objections, Merits and Reparations), Series C No. 260

Karen Atala Riffo and daughters v Chile (Case 12.502)

  • Amici curiae brief presented by Amnesty International and fifteen others, 8 September 2011
  • Judgment of 24 February 2012 (Merits, Reparations and Costs), Series C No. 239

Radilla Pacheco v. Mexico

González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico

  • Amici curiae brief in support of petitioners presented by Amnesty International and others, 7 July 2009
  • Judgment of 16 November 2009 (Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs), Series C No. 205

Ronald Ernesto Raxcacó Reyes v Guatemala

Cayara v. Peru

  • Amnesty International joined Americas Watch as co-complainant in the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Judgment of the Court (Preliminary Objections), 3 February 1993, Series C No. 14

Fairen-Garbi and Solis-Corrales v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 15 March 1989, Series C No. 6

Godinez-Cruz v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 20 January 1989, Series C No. 5

Velasquez-Rodriguez v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 29 July 1988, Series C No. 4

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Advisory Opinions

Request of Advisory Opinion submitted by the State of Panama

  • Request of Advisory Opinion submitted by the State of Panama, 28 April 2014
  • Written observations by Amnesty International submitted pursuant to Article 73(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 30 March 2015

Legislative measures concerning the mandatory imposition of the death penalty and related matters

  • Request of Advisory Opinion presented by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, 20 April 2004
  • Written observations presented by Amnesty International, Index IOR 62/005/2004, 8 December 2004
  • Order of the Court, 24 June 2005 (Spanish only)

The Right to Information on Consular Assistance in the Framework of the Guarantees of the due Process of Law

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae [not available]
  • Advisory Opinion OC-16/99 of 1 October 1999, Series A No.16

Judicial Guarantees in States of Emergency (Arts. 27(2), 25 and (8) American Convention on Human Rights)

International Court of Justice

Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening)

International Criminal Court

The Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, case no. ICC-01/05 -01/08

  • Amnesty International’s Application for leave to submit amicus curiae observations pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, no. ICC-01/05-01/08-399, 6 April 2009
  • Decision on Application for leave to submit amicus curiae observations
    pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Pre-Trial Chamber II, no. ICC-01/05-01/08-401, 9 April 2009
  • Amnesty International’s Amicus curiae observations on superior responsibility, No. ICC-01/05-01/08-406, 20 April 2009

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Prosecutor v. Brima et al., Case No.SCSL-2004-16-AR73

  • Order of the Appeals Chamber on the appointment of amicus curiae, 2 December 2005
  • Corrigendum to the Order of the Appeals Chamber on the appointment of amicus curiae, 2 December 2005
  • Amicus curiae brief of Amnesty International concerning the public interest information privilege, 16 December 2005
  • Decision of the Appeals Chamber on Prosecution appeal against Decision on oral application for witness TF1-150 to testify without being compelled to answer questions on grounds of confidentiality

Positive development, action suspended: UA 239/15 Australia (ASA 12/2717/2015) – Safety and health of Somali refugee at risk

The Australian government has declared today that Abyan will be allowed back to Australia for medical treatment and mental health support.

In the light of these declaration, we would be grateful if you could suspend any action taken in relation to Abyan’s case until further notice. We are monitoring her situation and will issue an update to the UA shortly.

Many thanks for your action and support.

URGENT ACTION: Safety and health of Somali refugee at risk

A 23-year-old Somali refugee, allegedly raped in July on the island nation of Nauru, in the Central Pacific, is now 15 weeks pregnant. She is in urgent need of an abortion and mental health care. After bringing her to Australia to have an abortion, which was not carried out, the government of Australia unlawfully returned her to Nauru, where her safety and health are at risk.

Amnesty International UA: 239/15 Index: ASA 12/2717/2015 Issue Date: 22 October 2015

Abyan (not her real name), a 23-year-old Somali refugee, requested the Australian authorities to allow her into Australia to have an abortion after falling pregnant as a result of an alleged rape in July in Nauru, an island nation in the Central Pacific. Abortion services are not available in Nauru and abortion is criminalized.

In 2013 Abyan tried to reach Australia by boat to seek asylum and arrived on Christmas Island (a territory of Australia in the Indian Ocean) in October 2013. As part of its “offshore processing” policy, the Australian government forcibly transferred her to Nauru for her asylum claim to be determined there. At the time of the alleged rape, in July 2015, Abyan was living in Nauru after having been recognised as a refugee.

Following several requests to the Australian authorities, the Australian government brought her to Australia to terminate her pregnancy on 11 October and held her at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre in Sydney. As she missed a medical appointment, on 16 October the Australian government flew her back to Nauru, where her safety and health are at risk.

The government of Australia claims that Abyan changed her mind about terminating her pregnancy while in Australia. She denies the claims and has made clear that she still wants an abortion. The Australian government unlawfully returned her to Nauru without giving her the possibility to challenge her transfer in court.

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

  • Urging the Australian authorities to ensure Abyan’s health and safety by immediately transferring her to Australia;
  • Calling on them to ensure that Abyan has access to all appropriate medical and psychological services, including access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information in a language she understands and in accordance with her wishes;
  • Calling on them to guarantee Abyan’s right to information about, and access to, safe and legal abortion services in accordance with her wishes.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 3 DECEMBER 2015 TO:

Prime Minister
The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, MP
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia
Fax: +61 2 6277 4100
Twitter: @TurnbullMalcolm
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
The Hon. Peter Dutton MP
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Australia
Fax: +61 2 6277 4100
Email: minister@border.gov.au
Twitter: @PeterDutton_MP
Salutation: Dear Minister

For Twitter posts:
#IstandwithAbyan

Abyan's note to the Australian authorities, 18 October 2015, source: Change.org

Abyan’s note to the Australian authorities, 18 October 2015, source: Change.org

Additional information

At a minimum, abortion services should be made available where pregnancy is the result of a ‘sexual crime’ such as rape. This service should be offered to any woman presenting herself to medical staff requesting a termination of pregnancy on these grounds, without being compelled to undergo unnecessary administrative or judicial procedures, such as pressing charges against the perpetrator or identifying the rapist. Denying Abyan an abortion in these circumstances violates the right to privacy and to health and the right to be free from torture and other ill-treatment.

In November 2012, the government of Australia announced that asylum-seekers arriving in Australia by boat would be “processed” (i.e. their asylum claim would be determined) in the offshore migration detention centres on Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and Nauru. Australia started transferring asylum-seekers to the two facilities immediately.

According to official statistics, as of 31 August 2015, 653 people (446 men, 114 women and 93 children, including infants) were detained at the Nauru migration detention centre.
A recent Australian government review by Australia’s former integrity commissioner Philip Moss (the Moss Review) detailed allegations of sexual harassment and sexual and physical violence at the Nauru migration detention centre. The Moss Review found that, since the reopening of the centre on Nauru in August 2012 the facility has operated without appropriate policies and procedures to protect detainees from physical and sexual assault. The review detailed numerous allegations of sexual exploitation, sexual harassment and sexual assault within the centre, including cases of rape. Victims of sexual assault included women and children, and highlighted that many asylum-seekers detained in the centre hold concerns about their personal safety and privacy within the facility.

When their claim for asylum is determined, refugees in Nauru are allowed to leave the detention centre. They are not, however, allowed to relocate to Australia, where they intended to seek asylum in the first place.

Several asylum seekers and refugees have publicly reported concerns about their safety on Nauru. According to media sources, there have been at least 20 sexual assaults on asylum seekers and refugees in Nauru in the past year.

On 5 October the government of Nauru declared that the centre would become an “open centre” and that detention of all asylum seekers would be ended. Nauran authorities have refused entry to international media and human rights organizations, making it impossible to verify the situation.

Since early 2014, Amnesty International has requested three times permission from the government of Nauru to visit. The first request was denied and subsequent requests have not been responded to.

Abortion is criminalized under the domestic legislation of Nauru. The Criminal Code of Nauru punishes abortion with fourteen years of imprisonment with hard labour (Article 224); a woman who causes or allows her own miscarriage or abortion is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for seven years.

Name: Abyan (not her real name)
Gender m/f: f

Amnesty International UA: 239/15 Index: ASA 12/2717/2015 Issue Date: 22 October 2015

 

Litigating human rights: Amnesty International in the Pinochet case

Between 1998 and 2000, Amnesty International was directly involved in the legal proceedings to bring former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet to trial for his alleged involvement in the commission of crimes under international law.

General Pinochet’s arrest in the United Kingdom was the culmination of years of campaigning by the families of the victims.

 

Litigation in the Pinochet case was also the culmination of years of research by Amnesty International into the crimes under international law committed in Chile since 1973.

 

This post lists the public documents published by Amnesty International in relation to the proceedings of the Pinochet case in the United Kingdom. A timeline of key developments in the several strands of the Pinochet case can be found here.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Keith Hall

 

Phase I: Proceedings before the High Court and the House of Lords

Proceedings before the High Court

17 October 1998: General Pinochet is arrested in London

Proceedings before the House of Lords

25 November 1998: first House of Lords judgment – Judgment of the House of Lords, Regina v. Bartle and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others, Ex Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division); Regina v. Evans and another and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others, Ex Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division), 25 November 1998

24 March 1999: second House of Lords judgment – Judgment of the House of Lords, Regina v. Bartle and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others Ex Parte Pinochet; Regina v. Evans and Another and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others Ex Parte Pinochet (On Appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division), 24 March 1999

8 October 1999: A UK court orders the extradition of General Pinochet to Spain

3 December 1999: High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, In the matter of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and In the matter of an application for a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, Decision, 3 December 1999

Chile - desaparecidos

Phase II: Judicial review case

Link

Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International acting as amicus curiae in the case of Amjad Hussein v Labour Court before the Supreme Court of Ireland

The issue of principle which Amnesty International wishes to address is whether an irregular migrant worker is prohibited from obtaining redress against his or her employer where their contract of employment was not permitted under domestic legislation. Amnesty International submits that the common law doctrine of illegality does allow for the protection of irregular migrant workers in contract and/or tort law where they are exploited by their employer.

Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014: personal diary of a mission

Baharka Camp for displaced people, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright: Amnesty International)

Baharka Camp for displaced people, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright: Amnesty International)

From the plane, the alternation of seasons is evident: what three months ago was a large expanse of arid, dusty yellow land, now is dark brown and punctuated by moist green patches. After a fist visit in September, my colleague Khairun and I are back in Iraqi Kurdistan (officially known as Kurdistan Region of Iraq, or KRI) to assess the human rights situation of both Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis.

As a result of the advance of ISIS and of the violence across the country, over 2 million Iraqis have been displaced during 2014. Nearly half of them, about 950,000, are now in the KRI, a semi-autonomous area smaller than the Czech Republic with a population of 5.2 million. Most of them are Yezidis from the Sinjar region, in addition to Turkmen and Arabs from towns and villages around Mosul. Before January 2014, the KRI had already opened its doors to about 230,000 refugees from Syria. It is as if the United Kingdom, population 64 million, had received 14.5 million people desperate to flee war.

Camps

The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has made efforts to build camps for those displaced. Baharka camp, just outside Erbil, hosts about 3,000 displaced Iraqis and Palestinians in tents. Being very close to the capital, this is one of the most visible camps. Despite the frequent visits by foreign dignitaries, journalists and charities, however, conditions in the camp are far from ideal, especially when it rains. After dark, solar lamps and mobile torches keep the market going.

Baharka camp, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright: Amnesty International)

Baharka camp, Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright: Amnesty International)

The governorate of Dohuk, a town of 280,000 inhabitants West of Erbil, is hosting about 430,000 displaced people, in addition to refugees from Syria. When we first visited the Dohuk area, in September 2014, those who could not find hospitality with local families had occupied all of the spaces that they could turn into shelter: the local schools, building sites, unfinished buildings, garages, parks and gardens. Three months later, there are 9 official camps for IDPs in the Dohuk governorate, hosting about 125,000 people.

Two of the official camps were built by AFAD, the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Agency; three were built by the United Nations; and the remaining four were built by the KRG. As a result, their standards of accommodation, facilities and services vary greatly. In Bersive I camp, for example, an AFAD camp hosting about 10,000 people near Zakho, the tents are not fully insulated from the rain, there is no hot water and the number of toilets and showers does not meet minimum standards in humanitarian response.

Bersive I camp for displaced people, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Bersive I camp for displaced people, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

With all their shortcomings, the official camps built so far can only accommodate part of those in need. The majority are scattered in hundreds of informal settlements, including construction sites, community spaces and unofficial camps. Others are in private accommodation or hotel rooms. Many of the displaced in the Dohuk governorate live in construction sites and unfinished buildings with limited or no access to water and electricity – a solution which is precarious, dangerous and open to the elements. We visit large unfinished buildings with no walls, windows, doors or bathrooms, sheltering hundreds of families in makeshift rooms with plastic partitions.

Construction site in the town centre of Zakho, hosting dozens of families. Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Construction site in the town centre of Zakho, hosting dozens of families. Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Makeshift rooms in a construction site in Zakho, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Makeshift rooms in a construction site in Zakho, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

In winter, this difficult situation is made worse by the cold and rainy weather: at night the temperature can go below 0 °C. In the places we visit people do not have enough blankets, warm clothes and gasoline for heating, in addition to cooking, water and sanitation facilities. In a construction site near Zakho, Dohuk governorate, we see people making fire with paper to warm up; the weather forecast for the night is 3 °C. Many of the people we visit would not have survived without the help of generous landowners and neighbours.

Displaced people on a building site in Zakho, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, make fire with paper to warm up (Copyright Amnesty International)

Displaced people on a building site in Zakho, Dohuk governorate, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, make fire with paper to warm up (Copyright Amnesty International)

There are an estimated 186,000 school-aged children (6 to 17 years old) displaced in the Dohuk governorate. The majority of them (about 89,000, or 55%) are in non-camp settings. There are significant gaps in the provision of basic education in camps. Outside the camps, parents who are struggling to provide for their family need their children to work in order to contribute to the family’s needs. As a result, very few of the children we meet are going to school.

Displaced children playing in the mud, garbage and sewage, Dairabun informal settlement, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Copyright Amnesty International)

Displaced children playing in the mud, garbage and sewage, Dairabun informal settlement, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Copyright Amnesty International)

We visit families in their tents, where we are offered countless cups of aromatic Arabic coffee and sweet tea. As our delegation is composed of women, the women of the families we visit can take their scarves off and the atmosphere becomes immediately more relaxed. We explain carefully Amnesty International’s role and the purpose of our visit, as it is important for our interlocutors to understand that we cannot provide them with food or clothes. However, we find people happy to talk to us; in many cases, none of the humanitarian organisation who provide them with food or clothes has stopped to hear their full story.

Inside a tent for internally displaced people, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Inside a tent for internally displaced people, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014 (Copyright Amnesty International)

Some of the cases we documented will need long-term follow-up. An adequate response to the dire winter conditions, on the other hand, is urgent: immediately after the end of our mission we publish part of our findings, urging the international community to improve coordination and fill the gaps in humanitarian assistance:
Amnesty International, Iraq: Dire winter conditions expose shocking gaps in humanitarian assistance for thousands displaced, 19 December 2014.

 

This post is dedicated to Maria Corsi, my grandmother, who was a displaced child in Italy during the Second World War.

How to cite this post:
Francesca Pizzutelli, “Kurdistan Region of Iraq, December 2014: personal diary of a mission’”, The Rights Angle, https://therightsangle.wordpress.com/, 21 January 2015.