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Philippines lawmakers approve refugee law

The Congress of the Philippines [official website] on Wednesday passed a bill [text, PDF] to protect the rights of more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The bill was praised [press release] by the UN Refugee Agency [official website] on Friday. If the bill is signed into law, the Philippines will become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to have legislation embracing the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement [text, PDF] according to the UN. The bill outlines specific protections for displaced persons and offers compensation for IDPs who lose homes and property. The UN High Commission for Refugees has estimated that approximately 300,000 people were displaced throughout the Mindanao region between January and October of last year alone due to natural disaster and rebellion, prompting the passage [JURIST report] of the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013 [text, PDF]. The refugee bill must still be signed by President Benigno Aquino [official profile] in order to become law.

The plight of the internally displaced harkens back to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina as well as the more recent Fukushima tsunami and nuclear disaster. Following the Hurricane Katrina fallout in 2005 the US Human Rights Network urged [JURIST report] that the rights of the hundreds of thousands of hurricane evacuees—in legal terms, not refugees forced out of their own country by persecution, but rather IDPs forced from their homes inside a country—be fully respected according to the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. In 2004 the UN special envoy for tsunami recovery following the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake commended [JURIST report] the efforts made by the affected countries for providing the basic rights under the UN Guiding Principles, but nonetheless urged leadership to do more to protect human rights.

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