Areas of Work

Refugees and Migrants

QUNO works to protect and strengthen the rights of refugees and migrants at the UN level. We seek to uphold the dignity and worth of every individual, regardless of circumstance, and work to see this equality of all people better reflected by the international community in the treatment of people on the move.

We work with the UN human rights mechanisms, as well as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and others to advocate for responses to people on the move that are firmly rooted in international human rights principles. Using our traditional methods of bringing different actors engaged in this work together, we aim to create a more humane global vision and approach to people on the move.

QUNO is actively engaged in the follow up to the New York Declaration, a high-level document agreed by States on the 19th September 2016 focussed on addressing large movements of people. The declaration sets in motion a series of processes at the UN level which aim to improve global governance in this area. QUNO sees this as a significant opportunity to develop a more rights-respecting global framework for addressing large movements of people.

Our work also involves engaging with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on refugee protection issues (in particular related to conscientious objection to military service), ending statelessness and other matters related to forced displacement.

Recent Timeline Events

February 2017

New briefing for Friends on opportunities and challenges for the protection of refugees and migrants at the UN level

We are pleased to launch a new briefing paper for Friends: ‘Protecting refugees and migrants under the New York Declaration: challenges and opportunities at the UN level.’

On September 19th 2016, the UN set a new agenda under the ‘New York Declaration’ for responding to large movements of people crossing borders. Our briefing aims to inform Friends about the Declaration and the developments it initiates for improving global governance on refugees and migrants. It also describes how QUNO is engaging in these opportunities, as well as ways that Quakers around the world can link up with, and benefit from, UN level initiatives.

This weekend, we are sharing this briefing at the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network (QARN) conference on forced migration. The QARN conference, at Woodbrooke Study Centre in Birmingham, UK aims to connect Friends in the UK interested in responding to forced migration issues. Our briefing and our workshop at the conference aims to connect our UN work and the opportunities it presents to local initiatives amongst Quakers in the UK. 

Photo: contributing to the tree of current actions Friends are taking on refugee and migrant issues.


Related Files

Related Areas of Work

February 2017

QUNO contributes to a new World Report on Statelessness

QUNO’s Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, Laurel Townhead, has written an article on childhood statelessness of children of prisoners, for a new World Report on Statelessness.

The World Report on Statelessness, launched by the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion, is the most comprehensive resource on the global situation of stateless people. The second World Statelessness Report (2017) has a specific focus on children, exploring the urgency of and opportunities for addressing childhood statelessness. QUNO’s article focusses on the risks of childhood statelessness for children of prisoners, particularly for children born to foreign national women in prison.

For more information about the report and about statelessness around the world, see the two report websites: and

The full report can be accessed here (the article can be found on page 385). 

Related Areas of Work

November 2016

Putting human rights at the heart of the new UN refugee and migrant agenda

At today’s briefing meeting by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, human rights were championed as vital elements in the new global agenda on refugees and migration.

Peggy Hicks, Director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated during the event, that this discussion must not be “of whether or not human rights apply – but a discussion of how human rights are to be upheld.”

The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in New York on 19th September sets in motion a series of processes at the UN level which aim to improve global governance of large movements of people across borders. The most significant processes will involve a UNHCR-led, practical framework for refugees (a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework leading to a Global Compact on refugees) and a State-led process to improve migration governance (leading to a Global Compact on safe, orderly and regular migration).

QUNO sees this as an opportunity to develop a more rights-respecting global framework for protecting refugees and migrants. Whilst the New York Declaration includes a wealth of human rights language, our key concern now is making sure that in the processes that emerge, the attention given to human rights is more than just lip-service.

This is why QUNO is seeking to contribute to this discussion. In particular, we would like to see:

  • The human rights of all people, regardless of circumstance, as a key message during the development of the Compacts and that this focus is grounded in existing international human rights law.
  • The Human Rights Council and other human rights mechanisms and expertise are utilised effectively to make substantive contributions to the development of the Global Compacts and to ensure their implementation. 
  • Civil society, including migrants and refugees themselves, are given a central role throughout the processes.

Related Areas of Work