The topic ‘Status and Treatment of Refugees’ has been one of the oldest topics on the agenda of AALCO. It was introduced in the agenda of AALCO in 1964 at the behest of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Since 1964, AALCO has been constructively engaging with the topic both independently and in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with whom AALCO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 23 May 2002.

In 1966, AALCO adopted the “Principles Concerning the Treatment of Refugees” also known as the “Bangkok Principles” at the Eighth Annual Session. The Bangkok Principles were improved by the addition of two addenda, the first of which was adopted in 1970 at AALCO’s Eleventh Annual Session held in Accra and contained an elaboration of the ‘right to return’ of any person who because of foreign domination, external aggression or occupation had to leave his habitual place of residence. The second addendum, which added ‘Burden Sharing Principles’ was adopted in 1987 at the Twenty-Sixth Annual Session held in Bangkok. In the year 2001, the revised text of the Bangkok Principles were adopted. Each of these landmark initiatives of AALCO was widely appreciated by the Afro-Asian legal community and beyond.

In addition to the Bangkok Principles, AALCO has also contributed to the conceptualization of important normative principles in the realm of refugee law. The ‘Concept of Establishment of Safety Zones for Internally Displaced Persons’ was a key area of focus for AALCO. In this regard, efforts in this direction culminated in the adoption of “A Framework for the Establishment of a Safety Zone for Displaced Persons in Their Country of Origin” in 1995. The framework incorporated around twenty principles that provide for numerous safety measures for internally displaced persons.

Additionally, AALCO has prepared a “Model Legislation on Refugees’ in pursuance of the mandate received from the Thirty-First Annual Session held in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1992 for the benefit of the Member States so as to facilitate codification of laws in this regard in their domestic setting. The Model Legislation was submitted to the Thirty-Fourth Annual Session held in Doha, the State of Qatar, in 1995.

A Special Study titled ‘The Problem of Statelessness: An Overview from the African Asian and Middle Eastern Perspective” was prepared by AALCO in collaboration with the UNHCR. The Special Study was released at the Forty-Sixth Annual Session of AALCO held at Cape Town, the Republic of South Africa, in 2007.  Given AALCO’s historic thrust on this topic and the emergence of issues of contemporary relevance in the field, the topic was re-introduced as a substantive agenda item for the Sixtieth Annual Session with a focus on the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR). Prior to this the topic was last deliberated at the Fifty-Sixth Annual Session of AALCO held in Nairobi, the Republic of Kenya in 2017.