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

June 2020

"No-one will be safe until everyone is safe." QUNO welcomes Secretary General Guterres’ new Policy Brief.

QUNO welcomes the launch of a Policy Brief from UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, focussing on the situation of people on the move during the Covid-19 pandemic. QUNO has worked for decades on protection of refugees and in recent years on the human rights of migrants, and we are deeply concerned by the severe and disproportionate impact of the pandemic on refugee and migrant communities of all kinds, including migrant workers, migrants in irregular situations, and those in immigration detention. We are particularly concerned that that 99 States have closed their borders to people seeking asylum during the pandemic, in contravention of their international obligations.

We echo the Secretary General’s "four basic tenets to guide our collective response," especially emphasizing that "No-one will be safe until everyone is safe." We also welcome the clear statement that protecting the human rights of people on the move, and effective Covid-19 responses are not mutually exclusive. The pandemic is posing significant challenges for the human rights of refugees and migrants, but it also provides us with an opportunity to reimagine human mobility moving forward. We agree with the Secretary General that the Global Compact for Sage, Orderly and Regular Migration should guide States responses and actions in this regard.

The Secretary General’s Policy Brief is just one of many resources published in recent weeks from the United Nations on this issue. Others include:

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February 2020

Human Rights of Migrants at HRC 43

As part of its ongoing work on the human rights of migrants, QUNO delivered an oral statement to the Human Rights Council, urging the Council to take more focused and sustained action on the issue. Laurel Townhead, QUNO’s Representative for Human Rights and Refugees, listed the names of three of the thousands of migrants who have lost their lives, drawing attention to the individual human beings behind migration statistics.

The statement reflected the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ description of this situation as a ‘lethal disregard’, which is rooted in discrimination and perpetuated by impunity. Noting that the Human Rights Council has repeatedly been reminded of the violations taking place, but failed to take sufficient, decisive action, QUNO’s statement provided some possible enhanced responses which could be taken to tackle this urgent situation.

The statement is available to read below, or to view online here at 01:29:08.

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December 2018

The adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: A QUNO guide for Friends

On 10th December 2018, after a two year negotiation process, States formally adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech. On 19th December, the Compact was then endorsed with a vote at the General Assembly in New York. 

As an international agreement determined to enhance cooperation on migration policy, the Global Compact provides an unprecedented opportunity to acknowledge that all countries are places of origin, transit and destination, and that States have a shared responsibility in their approach to people on the move. Despite the small number of votes against and “withdrawals” at the General Assembly, and the domination within the surrounding conversation of a racist and xenophobic rhetoric, the Compact is nevertheless an achievement of multilateralism, and deserves to be celebrated.

The reasons it endured some diplomatic difficulty in the run up to its adoption are the same reasons that it remains such a necessary and vital agreement – because the human rights of migrants need to be acknowledge, advocated for and protected, irregardless of the political climate, and existing legal standards that govern international migration must be upheld and respected.

This briefing provides a short guide to the Compact, offering an explanation of the final text, a timeline of how it was developed, some suggestions of how Friends can use the document to support their witness and their activism, and a description of what QUNO’s next steps will be. 

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