“Refugees are as old as human history. They have been, over the centuries, one of the world’s most enduring tragedies. They are one of the saddest commentaries on the human condition, clearly. Refugees must be of concern to the American people.”
– Senator Ted Kennedy
The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) joins the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Refugee Convention remains a landmark achievement of international law. It is the foundational international agreement that established the rights of refugees and the legal obligation of States to protect them.
This photo gallery commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Convention, illustrating the stories of refugees and displaced people around the world over the past sixty years.
U.S. Implementation of the UN Convention on Refugees
By 1980, world events demanded that the United States develop a comprehensive approach to refugee issues, as millions were being forced from their homes in countries around the world due to persecution and war. Under the leadership of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980 developed an impartial and standardized system of asylum and recognized the need for a fair and generous process for refugee admissions. Since 1980 more than 2.6 million refugees from around the world have been resettled to the United States - reflecting the United States’ highest aspirations and our most noble values. In 2010 alone close to 75,000 refugees from countries such as Burma, Cuba, Sudan, Somalia, and Iran were resettled to the United States. Congress legislated the Refugee Act, but it has ultimately been local communities that have helped to safeguard the resettlement program – by opening their hearts, homes, and communities to refugees from around the world.
The Role of UNHCR Since the 1951 Refugee Convention
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950 to address the needs of people in vulnerable situations. Principally created to address the displacement of Europeans after World War II, UNHCR’s mandate has grown since the signing of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, to help 36.4 people of concern in 120 countries.
UNHCR protects the rights and well-being of refugees and uprooted people, and finds solutions to refugee problems worldwide by striving to ensure that refugees have the right to seek asylum in another country and receive assistance for basic and emergency needs. UNHCR works toward the best durable solution for each refugee: voluntary and safe return to their home country, local integration, or resettlement to a third country. The United States is the largest contributor to UNHCR through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), working in partnership throughout the international system to support a strong UN-led humanitarian architecture.
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