Last Updated: Friday, 29 July 2016, 15:01 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Solomon Islands

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 - Solomon Islands , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c1548.html [accessed 31 July 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 persons were internally displaced in the Solomon Islands at the end of 2001. Most became displaced following the outbreak of conflict on the main island of Guadalcanal in 1998, while an estimated 3,000 more were displaced following a June 2000 coup.

During World War II, the United States brought laborers from Malaita, the most populous island in the Solomons chain, to work on Guadalcanal, the political center of the Solomons. Both the Malaitans and the indigenous population (known as Guali, Guadalcanalese, or Istabu) are ethnic Melanesians, but they share neither culture nor language. The Malaitan transmigrants came to dominate Guadalcanal's economic and political life, which the Guadalcanalese resented.

In late 1998, the resentment erupted into inter-ethnic conflict. The Guadalcanalese initiated a rebel insurgency that demanded autonomy within the Solomons and an end to new migration. The rebels forced Malaitans from their homes and perpetrated other human rights violations.

In 1999, up to 20,000 Malaitans – one-fifth of the population of Guadalcanal – were displaced (the majority of whom evacuated to Malaita), while as many as 12,000 Guadalcanalese fled their homes for other parts of the island. By the end of 1999, a cease-fire had been declared and an international peace-monitoring force was in place.

In 2000, Malaitan militants, known as the Malaita Eagle Force (MEF), began a campaign against the Guadalcanalese insurgency. The police force, largely comprised of Malaitans, supported the MEF. In June 2000, the MEF and paramilitary police officers took over the capital, Honiara, and forced the prime minister to resign. Under duress, the parliament formed a new government.

The coup caused more displacement and civil unrest. The new government was largely ineffective in easing tensions and had insufficient resources to help the displaced return to their homes.

In October 2000, the two sides signed a peace agreement. By the end of that year, however, no stable peace had been secured, and as many as 30,000 persons remained displaced. The International Committee of the Red Cross, along with the Solomon Islands Red Cross, coordinated relief efforts for the displaced.

Although violence diminished somewhat during 2001, and there were no new reports of forced displacement, few if any of the displaced were believed to have returned home.

The number of internally displaced persons at year's end was uncertain. While media reports cited figures of 20,000 to 40,000, the U.S. State Department quoted a figure of 30,000. In April, Action by Churches Together, a nongovernmental organization, estimated that some 50,000 to 60,000 were displaced – with virtually all non-Guadalcanalese having fled the areas of Guadalcanal Province adjacent to Honiara.

The Taiwanese government made the equivalent of $6 million available for compensation to displaced persons. Displaced persons complained, however, that they were not compensated for damage or lost property, although payments were made to MEF members.

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