The purpose of refugee law is to provide international protection for vulnerable people who are denied state protection. In fulfilling this purpose, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and asylum states have different legal foundations and implementing materials. When terminating refugee status and protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the obligations and legal authorities of UNHCR and asylum states differ. The UNHCR implementing statute allows the facilitation of voluntary repatriation when refugees can return in safety and with dignity. In contrast, host states are able to mandate repatriation when a change in circumstances occurs in the country of origin. The different evidentiary thresholds for voluntary and mandated repatriation have created deep confusion regarding states’ ability to end refugee status and the UNHCR’s role in facilitating returns. This Note proposes placing voluntary and mandated repatriation on a timeline contingent on developments in the country of origin. Using the current displacement of Rwandan refugees from Uganda as a case study, this Note reconciles the conflicting standards in international law through this timeline.
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