September 16, 2019

Repatriation of Refugees

Economic and Social Council: Human Rights Council

Topic: Repatriation of Refugees

In recent years, the amount of turmoil, and the number of international and domestic disputes has risen significantly. Initially established in 1950 following the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations General Assembly (GA) first established the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) to deal with the world’s ever-growing refugee crisis. Many of our current refugee emergencies fall within the scope of the UNHCR, however, as these crises persist, human rights issues continue to grow in tandem. The UNHCR has taken the initiative to support the voluntary repatriation of refugees, including ensuring the cooperation of the home nations of said refugees. According to their Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, “the core components of voluntary repatriation are physical, legal and material safety, and reconciliation”, and currently, they have identified eight “ongoing emergencies”, including (but not limited to) the situations in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Syria, and Ukraine. The refugees in these countries, as well as many more, are facing ongoing and critical human rights issues, such as hunger, scarce water resources, homelessness, and lack of medical resources. For this reason, the Human Rights Council (HRC) must lend aid to this cause.

The current challenges identified by the UNHCR are: “increasing conflict, mass displacement, fresh challenges to asylum, the funding gap between humanitarian needs and resources, and growing xenophobia”. Particularly, mass displacement is continuing to increase at a rapid rate, which is why the HRC needs to aid in the ongoing repatriation efforts. The key components of voluntary repatriation are identified above and should be used as a guide for the HRC while coming to a resolution. In addition to discussing repatriation processes and policies in countries where peace has been reached, it is also crucial that the HRC discuss how to aid in the repatriation of refugees whose home nations have not been restored to stability. Specifically, the HRC should bring focus to the human rights violations that are pervasive and discuss how they can be addressed throughout the entirety of the repatriation process, including the political rights and treatment once the refugees have returned home.

It is not within the realm of this body to focus on a singular human rights crisis or a singular country’s circumstance; rather the HRC should take a broad-stroke approach as to how nations can collectively work together to ensure that the human rights needs of all refugees can be met. Some questions that the HRC delegates should focus on are as follows: How do we address the human rights issues throughout each step of the repatriation process? In what ways can the HRC aid the UNHCR in upholding its humanitarian repatriation approach? How can we work with refugees whose home countries are not secure to make sure their human rights are also being upheld? Once refugees have reintegrated back into their home countries, how can we ensure their human rights will continue to be upheld?

Useful Links:

UNHCR Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities

UNHCR 2022 Global Report

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