The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said that he is “alarmed” by recent attempts by some governments to disregard or circumvent the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Speaking today (28 July) on the 70th anniversary of the signing of the international treaty, Filippo Grandi said that the convention had saved millions of lives.
“70 years since it was drawn up, it is crucial that the international community defends its principles,” he added.
The commissioner criticised the expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum-seekers at land and sea borders, as well as proposals to forcibly transfer them to third states for processing without proper protection safeguards.
Treaty ‘remains relevant’
Grandi said that the treaty was a crucial component of international human rights law, and remained as relevant now as when it was drafted and agreed – particularly in the context of emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stressed the need for the international community to uphold the key principles of refugee protection, as laid out in the convention, including the right of someone fleeing persecution not to be sent back into the path of harm or danger.
The United Nations published the statute of the UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, on 14 December 1950, and the text of the convention was signed on 28 July 1951.
The UNHCR is the guardian of the 1951 treaty, with a mandate under international law to supervise its application, and to work with states to protect refugees.