U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Fiji
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||10 June 2002|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Fiji , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c14e0.html [accessed 30 July 2016]|
At the end of 2001, fewer than 100 persons were believed to be internally displaced in Fiji. No refugees or asylum seekers from other countries were known to be in Fiji during the year.
The island of Fiji is comprised of 51 percent indigenous Fijians and 44 percent Indo-Fijians – descendents of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent who were brought to Fiji as indentured laborers for the country's sugar plantations. While indigenous Fijians own 83 percent of arable land, Indo-Fijian tenant farmers grow 75 percent of the sugarcane.
Ethnically based disagreement over expiring land leases was a significant factor behind a May 2000 coup that ousted Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister. The political crisis lasted until July 2000, when a military-backed civilian interim government assumed control.
Immediately following the coup, however, ethnic Fijians initiated a campaign of violence against Indo-Fijians. In June 2000, Fiji's first camp for displaced Indo-Fijians was established in the town of Lautoka.
During the height of the displacement crisis – from May to November 2000 – as many as 375 persons sought refuge in the Lautoka camp. The camp continued to shelter displaced persons throughout 2001, although the number of persons seeking safety there steadily decreased. In April, approximately 170 persons remained in the camp, but by October the government announced that 95 percent of the formerly displaced families had been able to return to their farms, enabling the government to focus on reconstruction activities.
By year's end, six Indo-Fijian families remained at the camp. Both the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Fiji Red Cross visited the camp regularly. Talks between the government and the Lautoka Girmit Council, which runs the camp, reportedly produced an agreement to allocate a new parcel of land to each of the families, which would enable them to be relocated in February 2002. Subsequently, however, the government said that it would not provide any assistance if the families did not return to their former homes.
The government provided up to six months of food rations to families who had previously left the camp. Some returnees to Muanaweni were living in new corrugated iron homes, paid for in part by the Red Cross. The government reported, however, that none of the returned families had been able to resume farming because of a lack of farming implements.
Despite the low level of displacement at year's end, the potential for further violence remained high. General elections held between August 25 and September 1 (during which many Indo-Fijians reported fearing violent retribution if voters returned an Indian-led government to power) resulted in a government that effectively excludes Indo-Fijians.