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Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum

Forced Displacement: Human Rights and the Struggle for Social Justice The Risks and Challenges of the Displaced

Individuals and families face a multitude of challenges when seeking a better life: changing weather conditions as many travel hastily by foot or by boat, or limited time or access to necessities like shelter, food, or water. In countries such as Croatia, they risk encountering undetonated mines leftover from the decades of war in that region. If travel is by water, it typically takes place in overcrowded and ill-equipped or unseaworthy vessels. On their search for transportation or goods, they must negotiate with state and regional officials, immigration and border control, representatives of international and humanitarian organizations, and private sector individuals. They may also encounter criminal networks. Their journey can be interrupted, redirected, or thwarted at any moment. For instance, in Bulgaria, the government quickly erected a fence along their border with the goal of stopping people arriving through Turkey.

As displaced people, refugees and IDPs must decide whether they will or can return to their homelands, whether to remain in their own country, or how to resettle in a new country. By returning, they risk the possibility of going through all of the risks and challenges again. Living in a foreign city with little services or education contributes toward a life of poverty. Meanwhile, few can survive the bureaucratic process that would allow them to become citizens of a foreign country.

With these factors in mind, in various locations and living conditions around the world, refugees and IDPs work to survive. They do so while negotiating their place of permanent residence with their host government and with the constant worry about family and relatives who were not able to come with them. Depending on one’s gender, sexual orientation, or age, there are additional hurdles and risks. Women and children are vulnerable to violence and human trafficking. Young children traveling alone face legal uncertainty if caught by authorities who may not know how to, or are unequipped to, respond appropriately. Children must cope with various traumas. A recent study by a Turkish university found that three out of four Syrian youngsters had lost a loved one in the fighting. [1]

The UNHCR reports that LGBTI refugees face a particularly heightened risk of arrest, harassment, and violent abuse — including murder. Some non-governmental organizations such as the ABAAD-Resource Centre for Gender Equality in Lebanon have begun to provide individual and group support to LGBTI refugees.

Dadaab, Al Zaatari, Dollo Ado, Mbera, Nakivale, Bokolmanyo. Few would recognize these names, but these are the names of refugee camps that house tens to hundreds of thousands of people. These camps are essentially small cities with their own streets, markets, schools, and hospitals. With a little more than 40,000 inhabitants, the population of Bokolmanyo in Ethiopia is the size of Burlington, Vermont. Dadaab, in Kenya, is the largest refugee camp in the world. Created in 1992, it today has more than 320,000 residents. It is so large that it essentially functions and resembles a city of tents, with markets, religious spaces, a disability center, police stations, graveyards, and a bus station.

While refugees seek asylum and settlement in a new country because they cannot return home, IDPs may eventually return. Land and property are incentives for IDPs to return home. This is rare, however: The UNHCR estimates that only 3.2 percent of all IDPs return home. When displaced people return to their homeland, there are many issues that need to be considered. The first is safety. Armed groups that could prevent or deter displaced people from returning must be disarmed and demobilized. Unexploded landmines and other explosives on the landscape also pose a threat. Myanmar, for example, is one of the most landmine-infested countries in the world.

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Essential Lens: Analyzing Photographs Across the Curriculum


Produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting. © 2015
  • ISBN: 1-57680-905-6