Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
You're welcome - one thing I'm loving about my new job is the even greater impetus it gives to network internationally -so let's stay in touch.

Apologies, this is a slightly rambling response, and double apologies if I talk at cross-purposes to what you're actually doing with UNHCR. I appreciate it's a complicated world!

My initial thought in answer to your question is AUSAID - basically our government international aid and development arm. The Australian Government works closely with the UNHCR to determine where we will take our refugee intake from, and so on, so if you are doing this work under the auspices of the UNHCR, I would hope they would be able to advise of the formal channels for liaising with Australia as well. My Dept. - Dept. of Immigration and Citizenship obviously has a strong role from the "organisation of intake" perspective with UNHCR, and we also work with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in terms of services and support in the camps. But my (limited - new job!) understanding is that our interaction outside of our broad aid commitments is largely confined to looking at the services provided by UNHCR / IOM for processing refugees for potential resettlement in places like Australia.

I think though because the UNHCR organises the daily running of the camps in general, individual countries such as ours have varying influence and therefore interest in throwing resources at such things. What and how Australia provides aid for refugee camps I know little about at this stage - but if I had to take a guess, I'd assume we pay our funds to the UNHCR and entrust them with it's appropriate distribution.

For eg, your point about education and vocational education opportunities for the young people in camps. When we receive refugees here, it of course takes significant resources to provide them with english language training, and try and get them into training and employment opportunities. Social inclusion issues are also huge for the particularly teenagers who have known no other life than refugee camps. It would certainly be helpful for receiving countries of refugees if the latter had better educational opportunities, and might potentially save money at the other end.

So if I humbly step into the shoes of the UNHCR for the moment, I would be researching to see whether there is a strong, pragmatic  cost:benefit argument to be made for nations that support the UNHCR contributing to camp educational programs, because if you can show that this would save costs for countries taking significant refugee numbers to settle permanently, you could make a powerful argument. Another eg - Australia has a serious skilled worker shortage; yet refugees aren't regarded as part of the 'solution' to this, so we have a vast 'skilled migrant' intake of over 100,000/year. Yet it seems to me in a climate change world where the refugee crisis is only going to grow, that we should be looking to make refugees part of that solution. I don't think this area has been adequately explored at all.

In terms of more short-term opportunities,  I wonder actually if you might have more luck approaching major sporting organisations, either in Australia as a destination country, or internationally. From an Australian perspective, it's in the interests of our national basketball, soccer (football) and Australian Rules football (AFL) to provide sport & rec opportunities, because the amount of talent they could get from such initiatives is quite high. For eg, I'd say that half of Australia's basketball team will be from the Sudan in a few years.

So I guess I mean - don't forget the 'enlightened self interest' angle. And to be fair to the sporting organisations in my country, many of them are quite extensively involved in charitable work. It's a thought.

Hope this is remotely helpful!

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Sun Sep 21st, 2008 at 08:39:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice to hear from you again, myriad, and I think you make a really strong point there about the cost:benefit aspect of supporting education in the refugee camps. It is surely more effective to offer educational possibilities in the camps than to have to try to win back the time some years later.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Sep 22nd, 2008 at 07:06:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Myriad - another great comment - and excellent feedback too, which I am going to pass on to UNHCR. And thank you for the leads in Australia - which I will check out. Good luck with your work too!!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 05:32:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant to say -

I'm sure you probably know this, but for the benefit of other readers, and to build on my point of cost:benefit analysis:

When people are externally displaced as refugees (ie have to flee their country), there are three options preferred to assist them, in the following order

The first, best option it to be able to create conditions that make it safe for the people to return home. Obviously, this is rarely a quick thing to come about, which is one of the reasons people end up so long in refugee camps. But from everyone's point of view, the best thing is to return the people to their home, to return that social asset to the country, etc.

The second next preferred option if the first is not possible it to settle refugees in neighboring countries. The rationale for this is it minimises cultural differences, acknowledges the connectivity of geography, demography and at the family level between countries, and also allows for the possibility of 'easy' eventual return to country of origin if possible. This is what happens to the bulk of refugees - just look at the numbers of Iraqis in Syria, for example. Of course in Africa, as we have seen over the decades, while the capacity of countries there to absorb refugees from neighboring crises is in many ways astonishing; the number of countries in strife, and the conflict created in countries by large numbers of refugees (look at South Africa at the moment) and so forth means there are limits to this solution also.

The third, least preferred option is to settle refugees in a completely other, usually developed, nation, that is willing to take them. This is where countries like my own come in. Note that there is a big difference between asylum seekers  - people who male their own, desperate way to another country and seek asylum - and those refugees settled from camps directly in developed nations via the UNHCR. In a nutshell, Europe receives far more asylum seekers and takes very few refugees; Australia does the opposite (we're hard to reach and you might remember the draconian, inhumane laws of our previous government, currently being slowly undone); and the USA does a mixture of both.

so after all that, back to the cost:benefit thing. It simply strikes me that developed nations do provide significant aid for refugee camps and 'durable solutions' (1-3) above. Whether the displaced people end up back home, in a neighboring country or in a developed nation, it's in our interests for them to be able to receive a good education, be capable of integrating rapidly into their society, and contribute effectively. Whether it's in further aid to help a war-torn nation back on its feet, including accepting its people back; or he;ping neighboring countries absorb the displaced people and have them contribute successfully; or people settling in the developed world who also want to contribute -the foundation of all of these things is safety and education.

It's surely got to be more cost effective to help them continue to develop while displaced, rather than putting their lives on hold for as much as 20 years.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Sep 23rd, 2008 at 07:48:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Top Diaries

Occasional Series