The rights of refugees in Africa are under threat: what can be done

In April 2022, 70 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were reportedly detained and then deported by the Zimbabwe government. Once back in the DRC, their government rejected 15 of them, who were sent back to detention facilities in Harare. The incident raises legal questions around human rights and the obligations of states that are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. Zimbabwe hosts 22,400 refugees and asylum seekers. Parvati Nair, a professor of migration studies, answers questions about the rights of refugees and the obligations of states.

What are the obligations to refugees under international law?
In the aftermath of World War II, the international community came together to shape and commit to the human rights of displaced persons.

The 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol marked a milestone in framing the responsibilities of states to protect those fleeing untenable or dangerous contexts. These include conflict, disasters, political oppression and other severe conditions.

It also gave refugees and asylum seekers the right to have their cases go through legal processes. A key principle within this framework is that of non-refoulement, a core legal protection for displaced persons seeking asylum. It puts the onus on hosting states to safeguard asylum seekers.

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Author: Parvati Nair

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