UNCHR reports high level of internal displacement in PH

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) tagged the Philippines as among the countries with high levels of internally displaced persons (IDPs) by the end of 2018.

In its Global Trends Forced Displacement report, the international agency said that the Philippines has as many as 212,600 victims of forced internal displacement “due to armed conflict, generalized violence and human rights violations.”

While not listed in the report as among the 10 countries with the highest number of IDPs, the Philippines have been included in the worst 11 to 20 countries since 1980.

The UNCHR defines IDPs as people or groups of people who have been forced to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, or natural or man-made disasters, and who have not crossed an international border.

UNHCR’s 2018 report, however, only included IDPs who fled conflicts and those “suffering IDP-like situations.”

The agency said that an estimated 41.3 million people were internally displaced all over the world, according to estimates from its Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

This is an increase on the 40.0 million reported in 2017.

“The small declines of the previous years were reversed and the internally displaced population in 2018 was the largest ever reported by IDMC,” the UNCHR said.

The agency maintains an office in the Philippines

Militarization and IDPs

Local human rights group Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights told Kodao that IDPs in the Philippines are victims of militarization.

“Their displacement from their homes and communities are due to military operations. Most of the victims are peasants, indigenous peoples, and Moro peoples,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said Karapatan for its part has documented 449,284 victims of forced evacuations from July 2016 to March 2019.

‘Persons of concern’

The UN report also cited in its “persons of concern” category that about 80,000 Filipino Muslims went to live abroad.

“As in previous years, Filipino Muslims (80,000) who settled in Malaysia’s Sabah state were reported as ‘others of concern’ by Malaysia, the report said.

“Persons of concern” refers to individuals to whom UNHCR has extended its protection and assistance services based on humanitarian or other special grounds. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

OFWs worry about families in Mindanao evacuation camps

By Angel L. Tesorero, Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Two months on and fighting in Marawi City in southern Philippines between government troops and a Daesh-inspired group is still ongoing. Death toll is rising and many Filipino expats are worried about their relatives staying at various evacuation camps.

Sharjah resident and former MarCom (Maranao Community) president Roy Tamano said: “The forces of Maute group have dissipated – they are now playing hide-and-seek with the government. But there are still sporadic clashes and it is still not safe for Marawi residents to return home.

“Thousands of families have been staying in different evacuation centres since the fighting erupted before the start of Ramadan on May 23. Many people have died not because they were caught in the crossfire but because of the poor condition at evacuation centres,” Tamano told Khaleej Times.

The fighting in Marawi has resulted in Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in the entire province of Mindanao to stem terrorism and restore order.

“They (Marawi evacuees) are down both physically and psychologically. The (Philippine) government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development is doing its best to help the refugees but they can only do so much as the sheer volume of needs by the evacuees is too much.”

Luckily for Tamano, his immediate relatives were the part of the first wave of evacuees and they are now safe at the homes of their relatives in nearby provinces.

“But many ran away with nothing but a few valuable possessions. Now, they only rely on the kindness of socio-civic groups and charity organisations,” Tamano said.

“The fighting has not only wrecked havoc on their livelihood but also on their morale. Maranaos (residents of Marawi) are a proud people and now they had to swallow their pride and accept ‘donations’ just to survive,” he underlined.

Tamano added that the number of casualties reported by the government is very conservative.

According to a recent report by the military, around 507 people have died – of this number, 379 were terrorists ; 89 were soldiers and 39 were civilian residents.

“Many cadavers are not yet collected,” Tamano said. “Only after the war has concluded and a thorough clearing operation is conducted can we ascertain the number of casualties,” he explained.

Even the body of the husband of Tamano’s cousin, Aleem Saipodin Gato, an Islamic preacher and former councillor of Marawi City, who is believed to have been killed by the Mautes is still not recovered.

For Hanifah Ampatuah, she is worried that her family and relatives have nothing left of their properties when they go back home.

“Our rice fields were burned and our source of income were destroyed. Even our ancestral home, which was built in the 1950s and has withstood the test of time, was razed to the ground,” she said.

“We fervently hope and pray that the fighting will stop and we can start rebuilding our beautiful Islamic City of Marawi,” she concluded.

Filipino community holds prayer for peace

Muslim and Christian Filipino expats recently held an ecumenical Prayer for Peace in Marawi at St. Francis Church in Jebel Ali. Vice-consuls Marianne Bringas and Elizabeth Ramos were present as well as some leaders of the Filipino community.

In Abu Dhabi, the Philippine Embassy collected letters of support from students and sent them to the Philippines.

“We were enjoined by the Department of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the participation of overseas Filipinos in UAE in this campaign. Of course, we are more than willing to do as our little contribution to the efforts of our brave soldiers in fighting terrorists. We hope that through these messages of support, the whole armed forces would feel that they are alone in their noble mission,” Rowena Pangilinan-Daquipil, third secretary and vice consul at the Philippine Embassy, told Khaleej Times. #

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Mission reports woeful conditions in Lanao evacuation centers

Evacuees displaced by the ongoing battle between government forces and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Mindanao are suffering and remain in danger in various evacuation centers, participants of a humanitarian mission to Marawi and Iligan cities said.

In a press forum yesterday, participants of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission from the University of the Philippines-Diliman reported the evacuation sites they visited have inadequate facilities and services for the hundreds of families displaced by the fighting. Read more