Military or Armed Attacks on Refugee Camps and Settlements
No. 48 (XXXVIII) - 1987

Executive Committee 38th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/42/12/Add.1). Conclusion endorsed by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme upon the recommendation of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection of Refugees.

The Executive Committee,

Remained gravely preoccupied with the continuing incidence of unlawful attacks on refugees and asylum-seekers in different areas of the world, including military or armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements and, in view of the tragic and indiscriminate consequences of these attacks, resulting in untold human misery for the refugees and asylum-seekers, believed it was necessary and timely at this session to express its humanitarian concern and condemnation in the strongest terms;

Noted with appreciation those Resolutions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, adopted by consensus, in particular General Assembly Resolution 39/140 (1984), which condemned all violations of the rights and safety of refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular those perpetrated by military or armed attacks against refugee camps and settlements;

Predicating this Conclusion on the assumption, inter alia, that refugee camps and settlements have an exclusively civilian and humanitarian character and on the principle that the grant of asylum or refuge is a peaceful and humanitarian act that is not to be regarded as unfriendly by another State; hoping to assist in guaranteeing the safety of refugees and asylum-seekers, as well as to reinforce their rights, obligations and responsibilities and those of States and international organizations pursuant to relevant rules and principles of international law; and underlining that the rights and responsibilities of States pursuant to the Charter of the United Nations and relevant rules and principles of international law, including international humanitarian law, remained unaltered;

1. Condemns all violations of the rights and safety of refugees and asylum-seekers and in particular military or armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements.

2. Strongly urges States to abstain from these violations, which are against the principles of international law and, therefore, cannot be justified.

3. Calls upon States and competent international organizations, in accordance with the principle of international solidarity and in order to alleviate the burden of the country of refuge, to provide, according to their means, all necessary assistance to relieve the plight of the victims of such military and armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements if ever they occur.

4. Urges States and other parties to be guided by the following considerations in promoting measures to enhance the protection of refugee camps and settlements;

(a) Refugees in camps and settlements have, together with the basic rights they enjoy, duties deriving from the refuge and protection granted or afforded to them by the country of refuge. In particular, they have duties to conform to the laws and regulations of the State of refuge including lawful measures taken for the maintenance of public order and to abstain from any activity likely to detract from the exclusively civilian and humanitarian character of the camps and settlements.

(b) It is essential that States of refuge do all within their capacity to ensure that the civilian and humanitarian character of such camps and settlements is maintained. All other States are called upon to assist them in this regard. To this end relevant organs of the United Nations, within their respective terms of reference, are also called upon to co-operate with all States in providing assistance whenever necessary.

(c) UNHCR and other concerned organs of the United Nations should make every effort, within their respective terms of reference and in keeping with the principles of the United Nations Charter, to promote conditions which ensure the safety of refugees in camps and settlements. For UNHCR this may include maintaining close contact with the Secretary-General of the United Nations and providing liaison, as appropriate, with all the parties concerned. lt may also involve making appropriate arrangements with States of refuge on methods of protecting such refugee camps and settlements including, whenever possible, their location at a reasonable distance from the frontier of the country of origin.

(d) States have a duty to co-operate with the High Commissioner in the performance of his humanitarian protection and assistance functions, which can only be effectively accomplished if he has access to camps and settlements of his concern.