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1951 Refugee Convention

he Refugee Convention was adopted at a special UN conference on July 28, 1951. It was initially limited to protecting millions of #Europeans uprooted by World War II, but was later open to all refugees. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol form the foundations of the international #refugee system and provide the legal foundation of refugee assistance and the basic statute guiding the work of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Over the past six decades, 143 countries have signed both the Convention and the Protocol. The commitment means they are obligated to protect refugees who flee to their territory, as well as provide #aid, shelter, and access to #education and work.

Yet many of the world’s top refugee-hosting countries have not done so. This in turn affects the ability of UNHCR to work with and within that State and, importantly, the legal requirement upon that State to comply with international humanitarian standards. Some of the countries include; #Bahrain, #Bangladesh, #India, #Indonesia, #Kuwait, #Malaysia, #Myanmar, North & South #Korea, #Qatar, #SaudiArabia, #Singapore, #Thailand & #UnitedArabEmirates.

The Convention defines a 'refugee' as someone who has fled their country due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of #race, #religion, #nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. Thus, legally there is no term as "illegal refugee" refugees by law are legal. But in order to gain refugee status, one must first claim asylum. An “#asylum seeker” is someone whose claim for refugee status is being formally considered.

The cornerstone of the 1951 Convention is the principle of non-refoulement contained in Article 33. According to this principle, a refugee should not be returned to a country where he or she faces serious threats to his or her life or freedom. Therefore, currently when we see many countries who have signed the convention deporting refugees, technically this is against the law. For instance, refugees from #Afghanistan face a severe case of deportation in countries like , #Australia, wherein the Austrian chancellor recently warned of "new refugee flows", and that #deportations to Afghanistan will continue. The Afghan government has asked European countries to suspend deportations for three months due to the unstable situation in the country. "The escalation of violence by the #Taliban terrorist group in the country and the spread of the third wave of (Covid-19) have caused a great deal of economic and social unrest, creating concerns and challenges for the people," says the Afghanistan's refugees and repatriation ministry. While #Germany says it currently has no plans to stop deporting rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan, #Finland has announced a temporary suspension.

In everyday conversation, we often describe people forced to flee their homes as “refugees”. But the Convention definition is narrow and excludes many displaced people from its provisions to adapt to the current world trends. As an example, those fleeing natural disasters or #climatechange cannot benefit from the Convention. The same way, if someone fled their home country because of their fear of #COVID19, then they would not be entitled to refugee status. The intensity of the current global refugee situation raises questions over whether the document is still relevant, specially combined with the changing reasons prompting people to seek refuge.

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