You are on page 1of 26

Legal Framework

In the aftermath of World War I (1914-

1918), millions of people fled their
homelands in search for refuge.
Government responded by drawing up a
set of international agreements to provide
travel documents for these people who
were, effectively,the first refugees of the
20th century. Their numbers increased
dramatically during and after the World
War II (1939-1945), as millions more were
forcibly displaced, deported and or

Throughout the 20th century, the
international community steadily
assembled a set of guidelines, laws and
conventions to ensure the adequate
treatment of refugees and protect their
human rights. The process began under
the League of Nations in 1921. In July
1951, a diplomatic conference in Geneva
adopted the Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees (1951 Convention),
which was later amended by the 1967
1951 Convention Relating to the
Status of Refugees
Grounded in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights 1948, which recognizes the right of
person to seek asylum from persecution in other
countries, the United Nations Convention relating to the
status of Refugees, adopted in 1951, is the centerpiece
of international refugee protection today.
The convention entered into force on April 22,1954
Held at Geneva
Status: 145 State Parties
The geographic and temporal limits of the 1951
Convention, was originally limited in scope to persons
fleeing events occuring before January 1, 1951 and
within Europe.

1967 Protocol
Considering that the 1951 Convention relating to the
Status of Refugees covers only persons who have
become refugees as a result of events occuring before
January 1, 1951 and that new refugee situations have
arisen since the Convention was adopted and that the
refugees concerned may not fall within the scope of the
Convention and that it is desirable that equal status
should be enjoyed by all refugees covered in the
definition irrespective of the dateline January 1,1951
have agreed to removed the geographic and temporal
limits of the 1951 Convention through the 1967 Protocol
The 1967 Protocol removed this limitations and thus
gave the Convention universal coverage.
took force on October 4, 1967
145 State Parties
Responsibilities of State Parties
In the general principle of international
law, treaties in force are binding upon the
parties to it and must be performed in
good faith. Countries that have ratified the
Refugee Convention are obliged to protect
refugees that are on their territory, in
accordance with its terms.
There are a number of provisions that
States who are parties of the Refugee
Convention and 1967 Protocol must
adhere to. Among them are:

Cooperation With the UNHCR: Under
Article 35 of the Refugee Convention and
Article II of the 1967 Protocol, states agree
to cooperate with United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in
the exercise of its functions and to help
UNHCR supervise the implementation of
the provisions in the Convention.
Information on National Legislation: parties
to the Convention agree to inform the
United Nations Secretary-General about
the laws and regulations they may adopt
to ensure the application of the

Exemption from Reciprocity: The notion of
reciprocity- where, according to a country's
law, the granting of a right to an alien is
subject to the granting of similar treatment
by the alien's country of nationality- does
not apply to refugees. This notion does not
apply to refugees because refugees do not
enjoy the protection of their home state.

Who does the 1951 Convention Protects?
The 1951 Conventions protects refugees.
It defines a refugee as a person who is
outside his or her country of nationality or
habitual residence; has a well founded
fear of being persecuted because of his or
her race, religion, nationality, membership
of a particular social group or political
opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail
himself or herself of the protection of that
country, or to return there, for fear of
Why do Refugees need protection?
State are responsible for protecting the
fundamental human rights of their citizens.
When they are unable or unwilling to do so -
often for political reasons or based on
discrimination- individuals may suffer such
serious violation of its human rights that they
have to leave their homes, their families, and
their communities to find sanctuary in another
country. Since by definition, refugees are not
protected by their own governments, the
international community steps in to ensure they
are safe and protected.

Is Refugee Protection Permanent?
The protection provided under the 1951
Convention is not automatically
A person may no longer be a refugee
when basis for his or her refugee status
ceases to exist.
Can Someone be Excluded from Refugee
Yes. The 1951 Convention only protects
persons who meet the criteria for refugee
status. Certain categories of people are
considered not to deserve refugee
protection and should be excluded from
such protection.

Refugee vs Migrant
forced to flee because
ofa threat of
persecution and
because they lack the
protection of their own
May leave his or her
country for many
reasons that are not
related to
continues to enjoy the
protection of his or
her own government
even when abroad.
Principle of non-refoulement (Cornerstone)

"No Contracting State shall expel or return
('refouler') a refugee in any manner
whatsoever to the frontiers of territories
where his life or freedom would be
threatened on account of his race, religion,
nationality, membership of a particular
social or political opinion" (Article 33(1)).

Innocence of refugees unlawfully entering
the country of refuge:
A refugee has the right to be free from
penalties pertaining to the illegality of their
entry to or presence within a country, if it
can be shown that they acted in good
faith- that is, if the refugee believes that
there was ample cause for their illegal
entry/presence., i.e. to escape threats
upon their life or freedom, and if they
swiftly declare their presence. This right is
protected in Article 31:

"The Contracting States shall not impose
penalties, on account of their illegal entry
or presence, on refugees who, coming
directly from a territory where their life or
freedom was threatened in the sense of
article 1, enter or are present in their
territory without authorization, provided
they present themselves without delay to
the authorities and show good cause for
their illegal entry or presence. (Article 31,

Other Rights in the 1951 Convention
The right not to be expelled, except under
certain, strictly defined conditions(Art.32)

The right to work(Articles 17-19)

The right to housing (Art. 21)

The right to education (Art. 22)

The right to public relief and
assistance(Art. 23)
The right to freedom of religion (Art. 4)
The right to access the courts (Art. 16)
The right to freedom of movement within
the territory (Art. 26)
The right to be issued identity and travel
documents (Articles 27-28)

Does a Refugee also have Obligations?
Refugees are required to abide by the
laws and regulations of their country of
asylum and respect measures taken for
the maintenace of public order.
Who determines whether a person is a Refugee?
How is this done?
This maybe done by an individual or group
assessment as to whether they meet the
definition in the Convention. Although the
Convention does not prescribe a particular
procedure for the determination of whether
a person is a refugee, where an individual
assesment is the preferred approach, any
procedures must be fair and efficient.
Can a country that has not signed the 1951
Convention Refuse to Admit a Person Seeking
Protecting refugees is primarily the
responsibility of States. The principle of
non-refoulment, which prohibits the return
of a refugee to a territory where his or her
life or freedom is threatened, is considered
a rule of customary international law.
What is a Diplomatic Asylum?
"Diplomatic Asylum" in the broad sense is
used to denote asylum granted by a State
outside its territory, particularly in its
diplomatic missions (diplomatic asylum in
the strict sense), in its consulates, on
board its ships in the territorial waters of
another State (naval asylum), and also on
board its aircraft and of its military or para-
military installations in foreign territory.
Asylum on warships
In Naples during the troubles of 1848 the Duke
of Parma found asylum on the Hecate, a ship
flying the British flag.
During the revolution of 1862, the Greek royal
couple found asylum on the British frigate Scylla
and other persons took refuge on the French
warship Znobie
In April 1831, the Vice-President of Peru and
General Miller were received on board the St.
Louis with the agreement of the Peruvian
Government on the understanding that they
would remain on board only long enough to
escape mob violence.
Asylum on commercial vessels
Case of a former Spanish minister who in
1840 took refuge aboard a French cargo
ship, the Ocean, while it was anchored in
a port in the Spanish province of Valencia.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 14
1. Everyone has the right to seek and to
enjoy in other countries asylum from
2. This right may not be invoked in the case
of prosecutions genuinely arising from
non-political crimes or from acts contrary
to the purposes and principles of the
United Nations.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 15
1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.
2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his
nationality nor denied the right to change
his nationality.