Providing relief versus securing rights: ethical assistance strategies
Mass distribution of relief items is facilitated by
concentrating beneficiaries into camps or their equivalents. Encampment is often
justified by security and political concerns about keeping migrants separated
from the host society and economy. Such policies of separation may even be
pursued with internally displaced populations despite their rights as citizens.
People may be encamped who have sought refuge with relatives and friends in the
host community, or who have settled themselves with support from local
institutions, such as churches.
Encampment and dependency on relief systems, justified in the
emergency phase, may become permanent because people are denied the rights to
move, work and integrate themselves in the local community. Consequently, they
cannot become self-sufficient. Since relief is rarely adequate and will usually
be reduced when donor political attention shifts, hardship can persist
unnecessarily in camps. Where refugees illegally engage in economic activities
or enter the labor market in order to survive, rights are often abused.
Corruption of host country officials and police may be encouraged. Epidemics are
more likely in crowded conditions. More ethical and effective policies would
involve efforts to secure for beneficiaries the rights to a livelihood and to
self-sufficiency. Host institutions and service structures need donor support to
facilitate integration with minimal negative