20th June: The World Refugee Day | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 18, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 18, 2019

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20th June: The World Refugee Day

The World Refugee Day is observed every year on 20th June, dedicated to raising awareness about the plights of the millions of refugees and displaced people around the world. The UN General Assembly passed a resolution declaring 20 June as World Refugee Day as an observance of the 50th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (hereinafter, the Convention). The 2019 theme is “Step with Refugees: Take a Step on World Refugee Day”.

According to the Convention, a refugee is someone who fled his or her home and country owing to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion” whereas asylum seekers are those whose refugee status has not been definitively evaluated. According to the 2018 statistics of United Nations Refugee Agency, there are about 68.5 million forcibly displaced people around the world, among which 25.4 million are refugees, 3.1 million are asylum seekers and 40 million people are internally displaced people. Moreover, there are an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. The report identified Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda among the countries hosting the highest number of refugees. The highest number of refugees came from Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan, comprising of 57% of the global figure.

The cornerstone of international refugee protection is the principle of non-refoulement. This principle is enshrined in Article 33(1) of the Convention. The principle of non-refoulement prohibits a host State from sending back refugee to a country where there is a serious threat to his or her life or freedom. However, the protection under the principle of non-refoulement may not be claimed by those who pose a reasonable threat to the security of the country. The principle does not only apply to recognised refugees but also to those who have not been declared as refugees by the respective states of concern. This has now attained a status beyond convention and has emerged as a norm of customary international law. Exception to the principle has been enunciated in Article 33.2 to the effect that when there are reasonable grounds for regarding an asylum seeker as a danger to the security of the country or where he or she, having been convicted by a final judgement of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the community of that country.

Non-refoulement obligations complementing those appearing in the Convention, have also been established under international human rights regime. An explicit non-refoulement provision appears in Article 3 of the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which prohibits the removal of a person to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture. In pursuance of different decisions made by international and regional bodies and tribunals, prohibition against torture on its own standing has been considered as an inviolable norm of international human rights law.

Bangladesh is not a party to the 1951 Convention, but it has taken in a huge influx of Rohingyas, a stateless minority group who fled the persecution in Myanmar. The recent exodus began in 2017, and the numbers have steadily grown. Bangladesh is currently hosting over 1.2 million Rohingyas. On March 2019, the Government of Bangladesh declared that they would not be accepting any more Rohingyas into its territory. A case has been raised before the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court on whether Myanmar can be prosecuted for genocide and forced deportation, which has been decided in the affirmative. Repatriation of the Rohingya refugees was scheduled to begin in 2018. However, there has not been any co-operation from Myanmar to facilitate the repatriation procedure. Bangladesh has shared its concerns with the UN.


Compiled by Law Desk (SOURCE: UN.ORG).

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