The right of return is a principle in international law which guarantees everyone’s right of voluntary return to, or re-entry to, their country of origin or of citizenship. The right of return is part of the broader human rights concept freedom of movement and is also related to the legal concept of nationality. While many states afford their citizens the right of abode, the right of return is not restricted to citizenship or nationality in the formal sense. It allows stateless persons and for those born outside their country to return for the first time, so long as they have maintained a “genuine and effective link.”
The right is formulated in several modern treaties and conventions, most notably in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1948 Fourth Geneva Convention. Legal scholars have argued that one or more of these international human rights instruments have attained the status of customary international law and that the right of return is therefore binding on non-signatories to these conventions.
The right of return is often invoked by representatives of refugee groups to assert that they have a right to return to the country from which they were displaced.