• Je découvre ces deux articles qui se focalisent sur les #réfugiés et les #animaux... un regard assez nouveau...

    The important role of animals in refugee lives

    Refugees are people who have been forcibly displaced across a border. What do animals have to do with them? A lot.

    Companion animals, for example, are important to many people’s emotional wellbeing. “For people forced to flee,” the Norwegian Refugee Council recently noted, “a pet can be a vital source of comfort.” At the sterile and hyper-modern Azraq refugee camp in Jordan, Syrian refugees would pay a high price for caged birds (30-40 Jordanian dinars each, roughly €35-50). In Syria, many people keep a bird at home. At Azraq keeping a bird is one way of making a plastic and metal shelter into a home.

    In many contexts, refugees also depend on animals for their livelihoods. Humanitarian assistance understandably focuses on supporting people, but if refugees’ working animals and livestock perish then their experience of displacement can worsen drastically: they lose the means to support themselves in exile, or to return home and rebuild their lives.

    Ever since the earliest days of modern refugee camps, at the time of the First World War, agencies responsible for refugees have had to think about animals too. When the British army in the Middle East built a camp at Baquba near Baghdad in 1918 to house nearly 50,000 Armenian and Assyrian refugees, there were some animals that they needed to keep out. Fumigation procedures and netting were used against lice and mosquitos, carriers of typhus and malaria respectively. But refugee agencies also needed to let larger animals in. The people in the camp, especially the Assyrians, were accompanied by seven or eight thousand sheep and goats, and about six thousand larger animals like horses and cattle. Many of the people depended on their animals for their livelihood and for any prospect of permanent settlement, so they all needed to be accommodated and cared for.

    There are similar examples around the world today, like the longstanding camps for Sahrawi refugees in southwestern Algeria. There, goats and camels are socially and economically significant animals: goat barns, enclosures often made of scrap metal, are a prominent part of the camps’ increasingly urban landscape, while camel butcheries are important shops.

    This helps us understand why the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees now has programmes to support refugees’ animals. For example, in 2015, with funding from the IKEA Foundation, the organization assisted 6,000 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso and their 47,000 animals: helping animals helps the people too, in this case to earn a living (and achieve economic integration) through small-scale dairy farming. It also helps us understand how conflicts can arise between refugees and host communities when refugees’ animals compete for grazing or water with local animals, or damage local farmers’ crops.

    Starting in 2011, nearly 125,000 people from Blue Nile state in Sudan fled from a government offensive into Maban country, South Sudan, with hundreds of thousands of animals (about half of whom soon died, stressed by the journey). Peacefully managing their interactions with local residents and a community of nomadic herders who also regularly migrated through the county was a complex task for the South Sudanese government and humanitarian agencies. It required careful negotiations to allocate grazing zones as far as 60km from the camps where the refugees lived, schedule access to watering points, and agree a different route for the nomads’ migration.

    In Bangladesh, meanwhile, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recently been involved in efforts to prevent conflict between refugees and wild animals. Nearly a million Rohingya refugees from state persecution in Myanmar live in semi-formal camps near Cox’s Bazar that have grown up since 2017, but these block the migration routes of critically endangered Asian elephants. The International Union’s conflict mitigation programme includes building lookout towers, training Rohingya observers, and running an arts-based education project.

    And this highlights a final issue. The elephants at Cox’s Bazar are endangered because of ecological pressures caused by humans. But increasingly, humans too are endangered—and displaced—by ecological pressures. In the late 2000s, a years-long drought in Syria, worsened by human-caused climate change, pushed over a million rural Syrians off the land. (The country’s total livestock fell by a third.) The political and economic pressure that this generated was a significant factor in the crisis that ignited into war in 2011, in turn displacing millions more people. Hundreds of thousands of them fled to Jordan, one of the most water-stressed countries in the world, where the increased extraction of groundwater has lowered the water table, drying out oases in the Jordanian desert. Wild birds migrating across the desert have to fly further to find water and rest, meaning fewer survive the journey. In the Syrian war, and in many other conflicts around the world, human and animal displacements are intersecting under environmental stress. If we want to understand human displacement and respond to it adequately, we need to be thinking about animals too.

    #rapport_aux_animaux #animaux_de_compagnie

    • ‘Tusk force’ set up to protect refugees and elephants in #Bangladesh

      UNHCR and the International Union for Conservation of Nature are working together to mitigate incidents between elephants and humans in the world’s largest refugee settlement.

      Battered and badly bruised, Anwar Begum, a Rohingya refugee, surveys the damage around her bamboo shelter.

      Sleeping mats ripped apart; plastic buckets and even metal cooking pots and plates torn and dented. Her shelter was toppled – but neighbours in Kutupalong refugee settlement near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, have helped her re-erect it.

      “I’m very grateful, thanks to the almighty, to be alive,” the 45-year-old said. “But I’m terrified.”

      Just a few days earlier, in the middle of the night, a wild elephant entered her small shelter and killed her husband, 50-year-old Yakub Ali. It was one of several elephants that wandered into the camp, damaging shelters and injuring their occupants, following their usual migratory path.

      Anwar and her family fled their home in Myanmar six months ago, settling in the vast Kutupalong refugee settlement. “We weren’t aware of any elephant presence here,” she said. “I remember once seeing elephants back home in Myanmar, but in the distance – never close up like this.”

      Clearly shaken, Anwar recounted the events that occurred that night. “It was around 1 a.m. I heard a heavy sound and felt the roof falling onto us. It was quick and loud. I started screaming. It all went very fast and my husband was killed”.

      Anwar was treated in hospital for three days. By the time she came back to the settlement, neighbours had helped to rebuild her shelter. UNHCR’s partners have now provided her with new household items, and Anwar has received counselling from UN Refugee Agency protection staff.

      UNHCR and its partner IUCN – the International Union for Conservation of Nature – have now launched an action plan to try to prevent incidents like this, which have resulted in the deaths of at least 10 refugees, including young children, in Kutupalong settlement.

      “This partnership is critical not only to ensure the conservation of elephants, but to protect refugees.”

      The highly congested site, which used to be forest land, lies along one of the migratory routes between Myanmar and Bangladesh for critically endangered Asian elephants.

      The so-called ‘tusk force’ will work with both the local host community and refugees, in close consultation with the Bangladesh Forest Department and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner’s Office.

      Mitigation plans include installing watch-towers in key spots around the settlement, as well as setting up Elephant Response Teams who can sound the alarm if elephants enter the site. Elephant routes and corridors will be clearly marked, so that people will know which areas to avoid. Campaigns will also be carried out to create better awareness of the risks.

      “This partnership is critical not only to ensure the conservation of elephants, but to protect refugees, a number of whom have tragically already lost their lives,” said Kevin Allen, UNHCR’s head of emergency operations in Cox’s Bazar district.

      The project is part of a wider initiative by UNHCR and the IUCN, in support of government activities, to mitigate some of the environmental impacts linked to the establishment of refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar.

      Other plans include carrying out environmental education and awareness among refugees and the host communities about the importance of forest resources as well as taking steps to improve the environment in the refugee settlement areas and nearby surroundings.

      The project leaders will also advocate for reforestation programmes to ensure that natural resources and a shared environment are better protected.

      #éléphants #IUCN #sécurité

    • Bangladesh elephant rampage highlights dangers for refugees

      A refugee prays on a hill overlooking Kutupalong camp after another Rohingya burial.

      After fleeing flames and gunfire in Myanmar, Rohingya refugee Jane Alam thought danger was behind him in Bangladesh.

      But as he slept last night in a fragile shelter in a forested area near Kutupalong refugee camp, rampaging elephants crashed in on top of his family.

      The 18-year-old’s father and a seven-month-old baby were killed in the attack, which also injured seven of his relatives.

      “We thought we would be safe here.”

      Grazed on the cheek, neck and hip, he trekked barefoot up a hillside overlooking the makeshift camp this morning to bury them.

      “We thought we would be safe here,” he says, numb with disbelief, standing beside his father’s grave, marked with small bamboo stakes.


      A few paces away, the tiny body of his infant relative lies on the muddy ground, wrapped in a white cloth. A man scoops out her shallow grave with a farm tool as a group of men stand solemnly by.

      The deaths highlight one of the unexpected dangers facing refugees and the risks as humanitarian actors respond to the arrival in Bangladesh of at least 429,000 people who have fled the latest outbreak of violence that erupted in Myanmar on August 25.

      As two formal refugee camps in Bangladesh are overwhelmed, thousands are seeking shelter where they can - some in an uninhabited forested area outside Kutupalong camp.

      “The area is currently completely wild, so the people who are settling-in where there is wildlife,” says Franklin Golay, a staff member for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, who is working to provide water, sanitation and shelter at the informal camp.

      “There are elephants roaming around that pose a threat,” he says.

      Asian elephants are considered a critically endangered species in Bangladesh, where conservationists estimate there are presently just 239 living in the wild. Many roam in the Chittagong area in the southeast of the country, where the refugee influx is concentrated.

      Local residents say the elephants are drawn to populated areas in the Monsoon season, when fruit including mangos and jackfruit ripen.

      Securing the rugged and partially forested area to mitigate the risk could be achieved with lights or electric fencing, Golay says.

      But for Alam’s grieving family, who fled persecution across the border in Myanmar, the attack is a stark reminder that their trials are not yet over.

      “We ran from danger, and we are still in a dangerous situation now,” says Ali Hussein, the dead man’s uncle. “This cannot be forgotten.”