On this World Refugee Day, the right to seek safety has never been more important

Refugees from South Sudan line up for registration in Busia, in northwest Uganda in December 2016.  © UNHCR/Alessandro Penso

This year the world reached a stark milestone of 100 million children, women and men uprooted from their homes by war, violence, persecution and human rights abuses.As displacement shatters all records, the right to seek protection has never been more important for people – whoever they are, wherever they come from, and whenever they are forced to flee.

This fundamental right is non-negotiable and has given life-saving protection to countless millions of people worldwide, many of them in Africa.

At the close of 2021, the number of refugees worldwide reached 27.1 million, while 53.2 million remained displaced within the borders of their countries.

In recent years, more than 2.3 million people escaping conflict in South Sudan have sought and been granted asylum in five neighboring countries: Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A small, young country, itself facing multiple challenges, South Sudan has also generously opened its territory to 343,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Sudan, but also from Ethiopia and DRC, at the moment they most needed it.

This year on World Refugee Day, each year marked on 20 June to highlight the strength and resilience of people forced to flee, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is restating five core principles that have saved these and countless other lives:

1. THE RIGHT TO SEEK ASYLUM:

Seeking asylum is a human right. Anyone fleeing persecution, conflict, or human rights abuses has a right to seek protection in another country.

2. SAFE ACCESS:

Borders should remain open to all people forced to flee. Restricting access and closing borders can make the journey even more dangerous for people seeking safety.

3. NO PUSHBACKS:

People can’t be forced to return to a country if their life or freedom would be at risk. This means that countries shouldn’t push anyone back without first evaluating the dangers they would face back home.

4. NO DISCRIMINATION:

People should not be discriminated against at borders. All applications for refugee status must be given fair consideration, regardless of factors like race, religion, gender and country of origin.

5. HUMANE TREATMENT:

People forced to flee should be treated with respect and dignity. They are entitled to safe and dignified treatment like any human being. Among other things, this means keeping families together, protecting people from traffickers, and avoiding arbitrary detention.

Protecting people forced to flee is a collective global responsibility. Once they are out of harm’s way, people fleeing wars or persecution need opportunities to heal, learn, work and thrive – in line with the Refugee Convention and the Global Compact on Refugees. And they need solutions, such as the chance to return home in safety and dignity, to integrate locally, or in the most vulnerable cases to be resettled to a third country.

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