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Refugee Rights and State Responsibility

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Refugee Rights and State Responsibility

The number of refugees is continuously increasing, and as reported by the UN (2022), every minute 20 people leave everything behind to escape war, persecution, or terror. Today, many refugees are enduring protracted displacement, and living under legal and economic uncertainties. Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in the world; Whoever they are, those forced to flee need to be treated with dignity, regardless of who they are or what they believe.

Refugees are those fleeing their homes due to the fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion or in many cases due to the effects of natural or human-made disasters. However, more important than the reason, the right of these people to be protected should be taken into account given that everyone has a right to be safe (United Nations, 2022).

Yet, give this non-negotiable right, many states fail to provide refugees with what they deserve, disregarding the law and transporting refugees across borders with no regard for their rights. Africa exemplifies many of the challenges faced by refugees and how states disregard the law, transporting refugees across borders with no regard for their rights. Poverty, instability, conflict and climate emergencies form the context in which people are forced to leave home and seek shelter across international borders. They then find themselves housed, often for indefinite periods of time, in already overcrowded camps. Lastly, taking into account the poor human rights records that often feature in many African countries, refugee law – forged in the language of human rights and applicable to already very vulnerable people – drops from view, leading to irreparable social and personal consequences (The Conversation, 2022).

Africa is facing major challenges caused mainly by conflicts and acts of terrorism which are the main drivers of the mass displacement of people within the continent, creating a complex and protracted crises, exacerbated by the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the ongoing armed conflict around the world. This population needs support to holistically address immediate food and nutrition needs, advance resilience and livelihood opportunities, support social cohesion through diverse support to host locations, and increase focus on contributions to peace, stability, and conflict sensitive programming across all locations to address the root causes of displacement. This is while despite the support from donor partners, resourcing remains insufficient to meet even the very basic needs of refugee households (Reliefweb, 2022).

It is an undeniable fact that the international community has an obligation to support African states and Africa’s refugees in ways that are equitable and offer actual benefits for refugees and hosts alike. The international community must understand that the rising tide of refugees may be most intense in Africa, but is globally prevalent. Good refugee management is key to a sustainable and equitable world. A clear prioritization is urgently needed to separate responsibility for refugees from short-term economic gains or cross-border struggles. A key step would be to reposition humanitarian obligations as central to development to counter existing dynamics of dependency. In line with the Sustainable Development Goals and their promise to leave no one behind, African states have the chance to make refugee rights key obligations of states and spearhead the issue, which is of global relevance (The Conversation, 2022).

More than ever, there is a need for sustained investments in fostering the self-reliance of refugee populations that require progressive national policies, integration into social protection systems, multi-year funding, and co-operation amongst nations for voluntary and safe repatriations and re-integrations (Reliefweb, 2022). African states must also take responsibility for much more efficient processing of asylum claims and resettlement, and support one another. They should link refugee protection to other core interests, such as health, youth futures and social inclusion. In this way, refugee protection and support become key features of development, which should be people-centered The Conversation, 2022). It is high time that Africa’s solidarity with refugees and displaced people is adequately supported, as emphasized by the Chairperson of African Union (2022).

African Union (2022). African Union Commemorates World Refugee Day. https://au.int/en/pressreleases/20220616/african-union-commemorates-world-refugee-day
Reliefweb (2022). WFP Southern Africa: Regional Refugee Update, Issue No. 3 – April 2022. https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/wfp-southern-africa-regional-refugee-update-issue-no-3-april-2022
The conversation (2022). The rights of refugees in Africa are under threat: what can be done. https://theconversation.com/the-rights-of-refugees-in-africa-are-under-threat-what-can-be-done-182892
United Nations (2022). Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety. https://www.un.org/en/observances/refugee-day

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