Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2018, 15:01 GMT

International Red Cross aid to refugees

Publisher International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Publication Date 1981
Cite as International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), International Red Cross aid to refugees, 1981, available at: [accessed 17 February 2018]
Comments Resolution XXI, adopted at the 24th International Conference of the Red Cross, Manila 1981.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The 24th International Conference of the Red Cross,

recalling Resolution I of the 23rd International Conference of the Red Cross which stated that the fundamental mission of the Red Cross includes the provision, without discrimination as to race, nationality, religious beliefs or political opinions, of protection and assistance to those who need it, in the event of armed conflict and other disasters,

conscious of the large number of refugees, returnees and displaced persons and the extent of human misery caused by the displacement of populations in many parts of the world,

recalling the primary responsibilities of the Governments of countries of asylum for the care of refugees on their territories, while bearing in mind the obligation of the international community to share equitably the burden of refugee protection, assistance and resettlement, in accordance with accepted principles of international solidarity and co-operation,

recalling that in accordance with the auxiliary role in the humanitarian services of their Governments and with the relief principles of the International Red Cross, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies should take immediate actions to alleviate suffering of victims of calamities, including emergency aid to refugees, returnees and displaced persons,

recalling the primary function of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the field of international protection and material assistance to refugees, persons displaced outside their country of origin and returnees, as laid down by its Statutes, the United Nations Convention and Protocol relating to the status of refugees and relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly,

considering that the ICRC and the League [the Federation] have respective functions in co-ordinating International Red Cross assistance to these victims, especially when they do not fall under the competence of the Office of the UNHCR,

1. approves the policy of the Red Cross in this field as set out in the statement annexed,

2. pledges the unremitting support and the collaboration of the Red Cross with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in their respective activities in favour of refugees and displaced persons, within the framework of this policy.

Annex: International Red Cross Aid to Refugees Statement of Policy

1. The Red Cross should at all times be ready to assist and to protect refugees, displaced persons and returnees, when such victims are considered as protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, or when they are considered as refugees under article 73 of the 1977 Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, or in conformity with the Statutes of the International Red Cross, especially when they cannot, in fact, benefit from other protection or assistance, as in some cases of internally displaced persons.

2. The services offered by a National Society to refugees should conform to those offered to victims of natural disasters, as indicated in the Principles and Rules for Red Cross Disaster Relief. These services should be of an auxiliary character and undertaken in agreement with the authorities. They should be in strict accordance with the Red Cross fundamental principles.

3. Assistance from the Red Cross should at all times take due account of the comparable needs of the local population in the area in which refugees, displaced persons and returnees are accommodated. Since the Red Cross relief programmes are essentially of an emergency character, they should be phased out as soon as other organizations are in a position to provide the aid required.

4. All National Society actions for the benefit of refugees and displaced persons should be immediately reported to the League [the Federation] and/or the ICRC.

5. It is the responsibility of each National Society to inform the League [the Federation] and/or the ICRC of any negotiations likely to lead to a formal agreement between the Society and the UNHCR. The League [the Federation] and/or the ICRC should be associated with the Society in the negotiations and concur with the terms of agreement.

6. Societies, when possible, should use their influence to encourage their Government to accept refugees for resettlement as well as participate as appropriate by assisting with welfare programmes in the resettlement process in close co-operation and co-ordination with their Government.

7. The ICRC, the League [the Federation] and National Societies should co-operate to the maximum possible extent with UNHCR and all other institutions and organizations (governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental) working in the field of refugee relief.

8. As a neutral and independent humanitarian institution, the ICRC offers its services whenever refugees and displaced persons are in need of the specific protection which the ICRC may afford them.

9. The Central Tracing Agency of the ICRC is also always ready in co-operation with National Societies to act in aid of refugees and displaced persons, for instance by facilitating the reuniting of dispersed families, by organizing the exchange of family news and by tracing missing persons. When necessary, it offers its co-operation to the UNHCR, as well as its technical assistance to National Societies to enable them to set up and develop their own tracing and mailing services.

10. The international institutions of the Red Cross will have regular consultations with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on matters of common interest and, whenever considered useful, will co-ordinate their humanitarian assistance in favour of refugees and displaced persons in order to ensure complementarity between their actions.

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