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World Refugee Day 2024, History, Theme and Significance

Context

  • The world has over 43.4 million refugees, with conflicts escalating globally.
  • World Refugee Day prompts us to remember these individuals’ human stories and underscores the urgent need for comprehensive asylum policies, especially in historically hospitable nations like India.

World Refugee Day 2024

World Refugee Day is observed annually on June 20th globally, dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of refugees worldwide. It serves as a poignant reminder of the millions who are compelled to flee their homes due to war, persecution, or natural disasters. The day honours their resilience, advocates for their rights, and promotes efforts towards lasting solutions to displacement.

About World Refugee Day 2024
Date June 20th annually
Purpose To honor and raise awareness about the millions forced to flee their homes due to war, persecution, or natural disasters.
Origin World Refugee Day began with a regional focus after the UN defined refugee rights in 1951.

  • South Africa established a day to honour refugees in 1970.
  • Recognizing the global refugee crisis, the UN General Assembly designated June 20th as World Refugee Day in 2000.
  • This day raises awareness, builds support, and celebrates the contributions of refugees.
Significance
  • Raises awareness of the global refugee crisis.
  • Builds support for refugees and their contributions.
  • Highlights the human impact of displacement.
  • Fosters empathy and understanding for refugees.
  • Champions refugee rights established in the 1951 Convention.
Themes Varies annually; for example, “Everyone is Welcome” (2024) emphasizes global unity in supporting refugees, promoting inclusion, and ensuring access to asylum.
Actions Encourages advocacy, support for refugee rights, humanitarian assistance, and efforts towards sustainable solutions for displacement.
Impact Raises empathy and understanding, reshapes narratives about refugees, and fosters community integration and support.

World Refugee Day 2024 Theme

The official theme for World Refugee Day 2024 is “Everyone is Welcome” – emphasises global unity and support. This theme underscores the importance of global unity in supporting refugees, advocating for their inclusion, and ensuring access to asylum. It calls for creating welcoming environments in host countries where refugees can rebuild their lives and contribute meaningfully to society. Ultimately, the theme reflects a vision of a world that embraces diversity and provides refuge to those in need, striving towards a future where everyone has a place to call home.

Goals

  • Acceptance and inclusion of refugees in host nations.
  • Access to asylum and opportunities for integration.
  • Safe return home or full integration for refugees.
  • Lasting solutions to global displacement.

India’s Role in Asylum

  • India has a long history of granting asylum, dating back to ancient times.
  • Notable examples include Jews fleeing to India before Christ, Zoroastrians escaping Islamic persecution, East Bengalis during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, as well as Tibetans, Sri Lankan Tamils, Nepalis, Afghans, and Rohingyas.
  • The partition of India in 1947 led to one of the largest refugee crises in history, with 13-15 million people displaced.

Challenges for Refugees in India

  • Dehumanisation of Refugees: As refugee numbers rise, there’s a risk of viewing them merely as statistics rather than human beings with individual needs, fears, hopes, and aspirations.
  • Lack of Legal Framework in India: Despite its historical record of granting asylum, India is neither a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol. It also lacks a domestic asylum framework, leading to ad hoc and inconsistent handling of refugees.
    • Example: The absence of a comprehensive legal framework means that refugees are managed through a patchwork of laws like the Foreigners Act, 1946, the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, the Passports Act (1967), the Extradition Act, 1962, the Citizenship Act, 1955 (including its ominous 2019 amendment) and the Foreigners Order, 1948,, all of which treat refugees as “aliens”.
  • Government Actions: The Indian government’s treatment of certain refugee groups has been criticised as harsh and in violation of international law.
    • Example: In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a circular classifying Rohingyas as “illegal migrants,” leading to their detention under poor conditions and eventual deportation. Over 700 Rohingyas were detained in India as of August 2023.
      • Additionally, the government’s inhospitable attitude towards the Chakmas in Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmarese in Mizoram.
  • Inconsistent Judicial Interpretations: Different judges have taken varied approaches to refugee cases, resulting in inconsistent rulings and a lack of reliable legal protection for refugees.
    • Example: The 1996 Supreme Court ruling in the National Human Rights Commission vs State Of Arunachal Pradesh case stopped the forcible eviction of Chakma refugees, emphasising the need for proper asylum processing.

World Refugee Day History

Year Event
1951 The United Nations Refugee Convention establishes international standards for refugee protection and rights, defining who qualifies as a refugee and outlining their rights.
1970 Africa begins observing an annual Refugee Day to honor refugees and raise awareness about their plight.
2000 The United Nations General Assembly officially designates June 20th as World Refugee Day to be observed globally, aiming to raise awareness about the situation of refugees worldwide and advocate for their rights.
Present World Refugee Day serves as a platform to recognize the resilience of refugees, celebrate their contributions, and advocate for their rights, aiming for global solidarity and support towards sustainable solutions for displacement.

World Refugee Day Theme From 2001 to 2024

The themes chosen for International Refugee Day over the years are listed below.

Year Theme
2024 Everyone is Welcome.
2023 To be announced
2022 Whoever. Wherever. Whenever. Everyone has the right to seek safety.
2021 Together we heal, learn and shine.
2019 #StepWithRefugees Take a Step on World Refugee Day.
2018 Now More Than Ever, We Need to Stand with Refugees.
2017 Embracing Refugees to celebrate our Common Humanity.
2016 We stand together with refugees.
2015 With courage let us all combine.
2014 Migrants and Refugees: Towards a Better World.
2013 Take 1 minute to support a family forced to flee.
2012 1 family torn apart by war is too many.
2011 1 refugee without hope is too many.
2010 1 refugee forced to flee is too many.
2009 Home.
2008 Protection.
2007 Perseverance.
2006 Hope.
2005 Courage.
2004 Courage.
2003 Refugee Youth: Building the Future.
2002 Tolerance.
2001 Respect.

World Refugee Day Important Facts

The global refugee crisis is a complex humanitarian challenge affecting millions worldwide. Here are key points that highlight different aspects of this crisis:

  • Forced Displacement: Record numbers of people are forced to leave their countries due to conflict, persecution, or natural disasters, with many unable to return.
  • Children: Half of all refugees are children, totaling around 35 million globally, facing trauma, separation, and disrupted education.
  • Statelessness: Stateless persons lack nationality due to discrimination, facing barriers in accessing rights like education and healthcare.
  • Returnees: Former refugees returning home need support for reintegration to rebuild their lives safely and sustainably.
  • Humanitarian Response: Requires coordinated efforts for immediate relief (shelter, food, medical care) and long-term solutions (resettlement, integration, prevention of statelessness).
  • International Cooperation: Essential for protecting refugee rights, advocating durable solutions, and addressing root causes of displacement.

Way Forward

  • Enact a National Asylum Law: India should pass comprehensive legislation to manage asylum seekers and refugees systematically.
    • Proposal: A Private Member’s Bill introduced in February 2022 sought to enact a Refugee and Asylum law. This bill included criteria for recognizing asylum seekers, specified rights and duties, and called for the creation of a National Commission for Asylum to review and decide applications.
  • Uphold the Principle of Non-Refoulement: The cornerstone of refugee law states that no country should send a person to a place where they may suffer persecution. The proposed Asylum Bill emphasises this principle.
  • Improve Conditions for Refugees: Ensure that refugees can access basic public services, including healthcare, education, and employment opportunities.
  • Consistent Legal Management: Develop a clear and consistent legal framework to deal with asylum seekers, reducing reliance on judicial interpretations and bureaucratic discretion.
  • International Cooperation: India should actively participate in global efforts to address refugee issues, upholding its traditions and demonstrating its commitment to humanitarian values.
  • Judicial Guidance: Follow the Supreme Court’s direction that all individuals in India, irrespective of nationality, enjoy the inviolable rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 20, and 21 of the Constitution.
    • Example: The Supreme Court ruling in the National Human Rights Commission vs State Of Arunachal Pradesh case, which emphasised the proper processing of asylum applications.

Conclusion

  • India’s Potential Role: Enacting a comprehensive asylum law would position India as a leader in global asylum management, reflecting its historical commitment to humanitarian values.
  • Moral Obligation: Urges India to uphold its traditions and serve the cause of humanity, aligning with its self-image as a global leader and vishwaguru.

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World Refugee Day FAQs

Why do we celebrate World Refugee Day?

World Refugee Day builds the concept of understanding for their plight which shows one's resilience and courage in the rebuilding of their future.

Who started World Refugee Day?

World Refugee Day is an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe.

What is the theme of World Refugee Day 2023?

Theme of World Refugee Day 2023 is yet to be announced.

Who is called refugee?

Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.

What is the slogan on Refugee Day?

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

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