The Migration and Refugee Forum for the Arab World (MARFA), of the Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), and Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, with the support of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung – Palestine and Jordan, held two-day conference in Amman, starting on September 29, that focused on the different forms of discrimination faced by refugees and migrants.
Addressing the conference, HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal stressed the need for promoting humanitarian solidarity and respect for individuals to fight discriminatory policies and affirmed the importance of collaboration and networking among local, regional, and international bodies to overcome the challenges refugees and migrants face.
He added that the conference, titled “Refugees and migrants in and from the Arab region: The long shade of discrimination”, was a continuation of two previous meetings — “From humiliation to dignity – from the United Nations to the united peoples: from the abyss to a future of dignity”, and the other about promoting a universal humanitarian system based on rules and “a law for peace” in which experts from around the globe participated and which emphasized that respect for human dignity must be the guiding principle for all policies.
Prince Hassan noted the importance of addressing issues pertaining to refugees on humanitarian, political, and developmental grounds. He recommended the establishment of a national knowledge network and of a regional economic and social council, which should work on humanizing statistics relevant to refugees and migrants, and group topics within categories. He stressed that only through comprehensive and collaborative efforts, and responsible dialogue based on knowledge and information can refugees be helped to lead a better life .
Participants included representatives of international organizations, civil society and official bodies , as well as Arab and international academics. The conference offered a critique of the discrimination targeting refugees and migrants from the Arab region and discussed the structural and political hindrances, and the role of local and international bodies in addressing them. It aimed at engendering a result-based dialogue, and defining recommendations and advocacy messages based on legal tools, institutional mechanisms, and strategies promoting protection.
In her opening speech, ARDD Chief Director, Samar Muhareb said that the Arab region is the third most affected by forced displacement and migration, and as such, MARFA believes in the need to support refugees and migrant workers suffering from challenging circumstances and discrimination, and in collaboration among citizens, governments, and local and international institutions to ensure that refugees are protected and have their rights respected. She also stressed the urgent need for a united Arab stand that addresses the roots of discrimination and issues like migration and refuge seeking.
Francesca Albanese, senior advisor on Migration, Forced Displacement, and Statelessness at ARDD’s Al Nahda Thought Center said that protecting refugees and migrants in the region has never really been a priority, which creates problems that have consequences, and therefore, migration and discrimination against migrants and refugees are issues decision makers need to focus on .
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung – Palestine and Jordan’s representative commended the conference for the light it sheds on issues of refugees and migrants, and the opportunity to network with relevant authorities.
The first session, run by Dr Oroub El-Abed, from The Centre for Lebanese Studies, under the title “Discrimination against migrants and refugees in and from the Arab region
at a glance: is it an issue?”, attempted to present the issues just as refugees and migrants experience them, after hearing the presentations of representatives of refugees and migrants in Jordan, Linda al-Kalash, president of Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, and Dr Samia Adam, member of ARDD’s Refugees and Migration Council.
Moroccan philosopher Dr Ali Oumlil said migration is the issue of the century, suggested that refugees and migrant workers be looked at through a humanitarian lens, and discussed the role of policies in doing so.
Dr Ameera Ahmad from the American University in Cairo discussed the experience of refugee and migrant women in the Arab region, and their forced transformation into “disposable wives” through trafficking and discrimination against women.
The second session was moderated by Dr Mariam Abu Samra from Al Nahda Thought Center; it discussed “Political actors, institutional frameworks, and legal avenues in the MENA region to prevent and address discrimination ”. Dr Asem Khaleel, from Birzeit University, discussed legal issues relevant to refugees and migrants, and Igor Ivancic, from UNHCR, presented a case study concerning the protection of refugees in the Arab region.
Ahmed Badawy, from the Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights, discussed rights and violations, and the legal framework concerning asylum seekers in Egypt .
Abd Al Moneem Al Hur from the Arab Organization for Human Rights shared his paper titled “The journey with no return and now way forward: surviving
Libya as a foreigner”.
The third session, titled “Europe’s responsibilities and duties: toward a new partnership – exploring discrimination faced by mobile people”, was run by Dina Baslan . It showed that human rights violations and discrimination are not limited to the Arab region but are evident in Europe as well.
Dr Ayman Zahri from the American University in Cairo presented a piece titled “The carrot and stick approach in the migration through the Mediterranean”, while Yara Hasan from the Cross-Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants talked about the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe. Emiliga Avopaito from the Sinos Group for Refugees – Lithuania discussed the West’s treatment of refugees and how the European Union uses national security as a reason to discriminate against them. Dr Abdullah El Sayyed Ould Abah from Mauritania reconceptualized the encounter with migrants and refugees from a humanitarian lens.
The forth, and final, session discussed the future of MARFA and Haquna, where Dr. Ahmad Al-Mousa presented a summary of the most important items and action points to be addressed in the conference.
In conclusion, participants stressed that it is important to work relentlessly to address the issue of discrimination against refugees and migrants in and from the Arab region. They also highlighted the importance of having the voices of refugees and migrants amplified, addressing their issues thoroughly, through collaboration among local, regional and international official institutions, and working collectively to bring about legal frameworks that ensure the dignity of refugees and that they are treated fairly.
MARFA, is an independent network of Arab academics, human rights activists, and lawyers established in 2019 in response to the great need for collective work to advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants, and raise awareness about issues they face, including statelessness and discrimination, as well as about the Arab Shataat.
MARFA had issued a statement before the conference about the discrimination against migrants and refugees from and in the Arab World.