Protecting refugees and forcibly displaced persons

The growing scope and complexity of population movements have multiplied the points of intersection between refugee protection, forced displacement and international migration. This intersection is particularly visible in the context of so-called “irregular mixed movements,” in which people with different objectives move alongside each other using the same routes and means of transport or engaging the services of the same smugglers. While the majority of people move to establish new livelihoods, improve their standard of living, join members of their family or take up educational opportunities, mixed movements also include people who are forced to flee by serious threats to fundamental human rights, caused by factors such as persecution, armed conflict and indiscriminate violence. Contemporary drivers of forced displacement are increasingly complex and interrelated. They also include population growth, food insecurity and water scarcity, at times compounded and multiplied by the effects of climate change.

People who cannot return home without serious risks for their human rights have specific rights and needs. There are concomitant obligations of States under international law, including the obligation not to return individuals to countries where their lives or freedom would be at risk (principle of non-refoulement). Refugees, that is, people who are outside their country of origin and unable or unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution are a distinct category of people with a unique legal status. Their circumstances, rights and responsibilities are specifically governed by international law, most notably the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Regional refugee law also includes people fleeing indiscriminate effects of generalized violence or serious public disorder in the refugee concept.

It is important that the linkages that exist between forced displacement and the development process are taken into account in order to establish coherent and constructive approaches. Three considerations are of particular note: the way in which failed and flawed development processes contribute to the root causes of forced displacement; the development dimensions and potential of large-scale or protracted refugee populations; and the contribution of refugees to peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction in their home countries.

This section contains selected tools that are relevant to the intersection between refugee protection, forced displacement and international migration.


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Please be advised that following extensive system-wide consultations and the proposal by the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration, the UN Secretary-General decided, at a meeting of the Executive Committee on 23 May 2018, to establish a UN Network on Migration, as a successor to the Global Migration Group, to ensure effective, coordinated system-wide support to the implementation of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.


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