Should liberal countries stop accepting refugees

Escape historically

Peter Gatrell

To person

Ph.D., born 1950; Professor of Economic History at the University of Manchester, Samuel Alexander Building-N2.1, School of Arts, Languages ​​and Cultures, M13 9PL Manchester / United Kingdom. [email protected]

The United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees from 1951 - known as the Geneva Refugee Convention - still forms the basis of international law for the protection of refugees today. At almost the same time, the UN set up a new office and commissioned a high commissioner to ensure that the provisions of the convention are complied with by the signatory states. With a view to the debates in 1950, the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, wrote in 1990: "One of the most outstanding achievements of the 20th century in the humanitarian field is the establishment of the principle according to which the refugee problem affects the international community as a whole must be addressed through international cooperation and burden sharing. (...) The prerequisite for international cooperation in dealing with refugee problems is collective action by states in developing appropriate and lasting solutions for refugees - until an appropriate and lasting solution has been found for them and refugees stop To be refugees (...) - it is necessary to treat them according to internationally recognized basic minimum requirements. "[1]

A brief history of how the Convention came about shows, however, that the provisions of the Geneva Refugee Convention were by no means fixed in advance - and that they were neither welcomed by all UN member states nor could they be applied to all types of population movements. This has not changed until today; nonetheless, the convention remains relevant under the current conditions.


The 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention defines in Article 1 who is considered a refugee: "For the purposes of this Convention, the term 'refugee' applies to any person (...) who as a result of events that occurred before January 1, 1951, and due to the well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, belonging to a certain social group or because of their political convictions that they are outside the country of their nationality and cannot claim the protection of this country or because of these fears or who is stateless as a result of such events outside the country in which he was habitually resident and cannot return there or does not want to return there because of the fears mentioned. "[2]

This definition requires the individual to prove that the criteria mentioned apply to him or her. The emphasis on persecution as a criterion for recognition as a refugee is of paramount importance. Migration that occurred under other circumstances was therefore not recognized. In particular, the refugee had to stay outside his country; Internally displaced persons were not recognized. The definition also imposed geographical (Europe) and temporary (before January 1, 1951) borders. This did not prevent states from admitting refugees beyond this definition and other migrants into their territories - whether for "humanitarian" or other reasons - but did not oblige other states to do the same.

The primary aim of the Geneva Convention was to guarantee refugees international protection; The new High Commissioner for Refugees should play a leading role in this - as a lawyer involved at the time put it - "to seek a solution to the refugee problem either through their repatriation or through their integration and finally naturalization in the asylum-granting countries or in the countries of their resettlement". 3] In December 1950, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established by law, and from then on the High Commissioner was to provide "humanitarian" and "non-political" assistance to refugees in the interests of a "permanent solution".

Article 33 of the Geneva Convention underlined the (self) obligation of states towards the principle of non-refoulement and explicitly assured: "None of the contracting states will in any way expel or reject a refugee beyond the borders of areas in which his life or his life is Freedom would be threatened because of his race, religion, nationality, his membership of a certain social group or because of his political convictions the security of the country in which he is located, or which represents a danger to the general public of this state, because he has been convicted of a crime or a particularly serious offense. " In short: there was no absolute right to be admitted as a refugee and no protection against involuntary return to the country of his or her "habitual residence".