The Monitor: Landmines and Refugees

Posted on June 19, 2013

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The Monitor briefing paper Landmines and Refugees: The Risks and the Responsibilities to Protect and Assist Victims was released today, on World Refugee Day, 20 June 2013.

The Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) call on states to eliminate the harrowing risks that refugees and asylum seekers face from landmines and unexploded ordnance. States must protect refugee victims and urgently respond to their needs. Landmines, cluster munitions and other explosive remnants of war pose enormous dangers to refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The ICBL-CMC’s Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor draws attention to the persistent impact of landmines and unexploded ordnance, including the exceptional challenges faced by victims.

Borders, where refugees and asylum seekers cross when fleeing their countries, are contaminated by these hazards. As seen recently with refugees escaping from Syria and entering Turkey, they often are injured or killed by these hidden, indiscriminate weapons. Most known landmine accidents happened due to new use of landmines by the government Syria. But some casualties were also reported on the Turkish side from long-existing minefields.

As this paper shows, refugees and the displaced are also victimized upon their return across borders and to their contaminated villages.

Firoz Alizada, ICBL Campaign Manager, at the Turkey-Syria border minefield in 2011

Firoz Alizada, ICBL Campaign Manager, on an advocacy mission: at the Turkey-Syria border minefield in 2011

Firoz Alizada, Campaign Manager for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) knows first-hand from his native Afghanistan the devastating impact of mines and displacement. “Those refugees or IDPs that survive, like other persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable groups of refugees and IDPs. They are first who are affected physically, socially and economically and last to get assistance.” said Alizada

“I am a double amputee landmine survivor. I didn’t receive any assistance from anyone during the five years [1997 to 2001] of my immigration in Pakistan. It was extremely hard, and the most daunting time was when I had problems with my prosthesis as there was no affordable orthopedic center anywhere close to where I lived. So, I had to take the risk –including the risk of hitting another landmine – to travel all the way back to Kabul to fix my prosthesis. But I know that most survivors and persons with disabilities couldn’t afford to do so.”

In most cases refugees and stateless persons who are landmine and cluster munition victims remain far from attaining anything close the holistic assistance promised by humanitarian law and human rights. The challenges for refugees are heightened for landmine and ERW survivors.

Many of the challenges for refugee landmine victims are shared with family members. Awala Lahbib is a landmine survivor leader, from ICBL-CMC Western Sahara campaign member ASAVIM. Interviewed in the refugee camps in Algeria, he said:

Awala Lahbib, Acting Director of ASAVIM, herding camels near the Smara refugee camp. Featured image: Awala Lahbib in a tent in the Smara camp

Awala Lahbib, Acting Director of ASAVIM, herding camels near the Smara refugee camp.
Featured image: Awala Lahbib in a tent in the Smara camp

“The majority of landmine and cluster munition survivors are men, often with extended families to support. Other family members lack the skills to take over the role of family supporter under the harsh camp conditions. This leaves most survivors continuously struggling to provide nourishment and ensure the basic survival for their families. One breadwinner falls, and the family follows.”

This briefing paper from Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor (the-monitor.org) focuses on examples of the conditions for victims and refugees fleeing from, or into, 20 different countries contaminated by landmines and other explosive hazards, including cluster munitions, and the experiences of returnees to another five affected countries.

To go to Monitor research products and download the briefing paper, click here.

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