KWO positions and concerns regarding refugee return

 

Refugees Participation:

  1. Refugee return should be voluntary and must be with the full consent of refugees. They should not be forced to return.
  2. The return must be full of dignity and respect of refugees.
  3. The planning of our return must include our active participation and views.
  4. We would like to return in groups with our organizations, structure and with a good detailed plan.
  5. Training and awareness must be given to both groups of people (refugees and local people) to understand each other and promote smooth integration.
  6. Women representatives, particularly KWO,  must be systematically included in the planning of refugees return.
  7. There must be recognition of women’s leadership and their contribution to the community from now until we return home.
  8. We do not want to be discriminated against when we return.

Physical Security:

  1. Military camps must withdraw first from our villages before we go home.
  2. Only when military camps that are located close to our farms, orchards and roads withdraw, we will not be afraid to go back.
  3. Land mines must be removed first where we will return and where we will travel and work before we go back.
  4. There must be assessment of villages or places where refugees want to return to for access to education, health and livelihoods. Only when these basic services are available we will return home.
  5. Human rights violations must stop. Violations such as sexual abuse, forced labor, extortion, killing, destroying of our farm and orchards, must stop before we will we dare to go back.
  6. There must be nationwide ceasefire and end of all attacks of any ethnic people. Otherwise we do not trust the government and dare not to return home.
  7. IDP’s should be given priority to return and reintegrated before refugees return
  8. We want refugee return to take place first with one camp or group as a pilot case, and move to other camps if the return goes smoothly.
  9. Karen leaders and Burmese leaders must have a peace agreement which particularly focuses on refugee return and guarantees our rights. There must be law enforcement to protect these rights first before we return.
  10. During our return vulnerable people such as pregnant women, mothers with new born babies, sick people, elderly, disabled people, must receive special care.
  11. For the whole process of the refugee return, prevention, protection, and safety of women must be guaranteed and protection mechanisms must be put in place. (eg. If there is sexual harassment or abuse taking place, there should be mechanisms in place for reporting and the prompt handling of cases. )
  12. During the return of the refugees there must be monitoring groups including international monitoring groups.
  13. There must be good communication and media access so that information can spread easily throughout our returning process.

Legal security

  1. Certificates in camps that are related to education, health, livelihoods and others must be recognized so that we will be able to use them when we return.
  2. If we do not have land to farm and work, we cannot go back yet. Our land issues must be resolved first so that we have places to go back to and can stay and work.
  3. There must be laws for refugees to reclaim their lands.
  4. There must be good “rule of law” that is in line with international law and with enforcement, in our country before we go back.
  5. The community services structure must be strengthened before we go back so that when we return we can integrate easily.
  6. When we arrive back to our home, we must be treated equally and we should be able to travel freely as citizens.

Materials Security

There must be full support for our basic needs and this support must be for long-term until we are able to stand by ourselves.

United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951)

International Law and Principles on Repatriation

Principles Relating to Return, Resettlement and Reintegration

Principle 1

a) Refugees to return voluntarily

b) Refugees return must be in safety

c) Refugees return with dignity, to their homes or to resettle voluntarily in another part of the country

d) Full participation of refugees in planning and management of the return, resettlement and reintegration

Principle 2

a) Refugees should not be discriminated against because of displacement

b) Refugees returning have the right to fully participate in public affairs

c) Refugees have the right to equal access to public services

d) Refugees have the right to recover property and possessions

e) Refugees have the right to obtain appropriate compensation and just reparation for property and possessions lost

Principle 3

a) Refugees have the right to international humanitarian aid which provides assistance to refugees return, resettlement or reintegration.

 

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About Karen Women Organisation

The Karen Women Organisation was formed in 1949 and has a membership of over 64,100 women. KWO is a community-based organisation of Karen women working in development and relief in the refugee camps on the Thai border and with IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and women inside Burma. Since our formation in 1949 we have expanded our focus from one of purely social welfare to try to encourage an awareness of Women's Rights and to promote women’s participation in the community decision making and political processes. The objectives of the KWO  To assist women in the endeavour to be free from all forms of oppression.  To promote and empower women in all spheres of life, including education and general living standards.  To encourage women to participate in the struggle for freedom, democracy and equality.  To develop women's knowledge, ability and skills, including political and organizational skills.  To achieve the rights of women and equal status with men.  To promote and maintain Karen culture and traditions.  To improve the well-being of women and children and to increase their access to adequate health, education and welfare services. KWO aims to empower women through offering various capacity building trainings to teach skills, build confidence and create new opportunities so that women will be better able to solve problems. We are working hard to educate ourselves and our communities so that we can work more effectively and advocate for our struggle on the international stage. We believe that women’s contribution is an essential factor in the peace-building and national reconciliation processes of Burma.