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Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

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Parties to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees:      parties to only the 1951 Convention      parties to only the 1967 protocol      parties to both      non-members

The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is an international agreement that defines who is a refugee, and makes clear what are the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. It also makes clear which people are not seen as refugees, such as war criminals.


The convention was approved at a special United Nations conference on 28 July 1951. It was initially limited to protecting European refugees after World War II but a 1967 protocol removed the geographical and time limits. Because the convention was approved in Geneva, it is often referred to as "the Geneva Convention," though it is not one of the Geneva Conventions specifically dealing with allowable behavior in time of war.

Denmark was the first state to ratify the treaty (on 4 December 1952) and there are now 147 signatories to either the Convention or the Protocol or to both.

Chapter I. Definition of a Refugee

Chapter 1 consists of Articles from 1 to 11. Article 1 of the Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol provides the definition of a refugee:

"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.."[1]

Chapter II. Juridical Status

Chapter II consists of Articles 12 to 16, which define personal status and right of property, of association and access to court for the refugees.

Chapter III. Gainful Employment

Article 17 defines the right to "wage-earning employment", Article 18 on "self-employment" and Article 19 on "liberal professions" for the refugees. Chapter III consists of those Articles.

Chapter IV. Welfare

Article 20 defines the right to rationing, Article 21 defines the right to housing, Article 23 defines the right to public relief, and Article 24 defines the condition on labour and right to social security. Chapter IV consists of those Articles.

Chapter V. Administrative Measure

Chapter V consists of Articles from 25 to 34, which are on the fundamental legal right of the refugees. Especially Article 31 affirms that penalty must not imposed on a refugee who has entered the country illegally, because of escape necessary from a threat to life or freedom of the person. Article 32 affirms that a country must not expel any refugee only because of national security or public order. And Article 33 affirms "Prohibition of expulsion or return (in French Refoulement)". That means any country must not expel or return a refugee to any other countries where the life or freedom of the refugee would be threatened because of the race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or the political opinion of the person. And Article 34 affirms that a country must as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of such refugees.



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