SIHMA | Scalabrini Institute For Human Mobility In Africa

“Still Fit for Purpose” – The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Sudan, Niger, DRC, Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Palestine, the list is endless. The world is witnessing unprecedented levels of international and non-international armed conflicts across the globe; resulting in ongoing internal displacement of populations and mobility across borders as people search for refuge and protection no longer guaranteed in their homelands.

+ Now more than ever, individual citizens and activists must stand up for rights of asylum seekers and refugees; people who are being forced to leave their homes and everything behind to escape violence, persecution, and human rights abuses.

+ Now more than ever, all States must live up to their obligations to receive and protect people escaping conflict and persecution. A responsibility that is enshrined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.  The Convention provides protection by defining who a refugee is, rights that refugees have, and type of obligations that States have when asylum seekers arrive on their territories.

+ Now more than ever, any discussions suggesting that the 1951 Refugee Convention is no longer fit for purpose, nor fit for modern times; and advocating for its reform must be called into question. Suggestions that the convention is too generous to asylum seekers and that courts have unnecessarily expanded the definition of a refugee beyond its scope of “fear of persecution” must be challenged.    

And as the UNHCR rightly defended the Convention in a 26 September 2023 statement;

·         “The 1951 Refugee Convention remains a life-saving instrument that ensures millions of people fleeing conflict and persecution each year can access safety and protection across borders.”

·         “The 1951 Refugee Convention remains as relevant today as when it was adopted in providing indispensable framework for addressing challenges based on international cooperation.”

·         “The need is not for reform, or more restrictive interpretation, but for stronger and more consistent application of the convention and its underlying principle of responsibility-sharing.”

Let us continue to defend the international legal framework that is the backbone of the refugee system in 145 countries.  A system that grants refugees rights including non-expulsion and non-return to a country where life or freedom would be threatened, right to freedom of movement, access to legal services, access to education, right to employment, among others.

For further details on refugee rights and State responsibilities under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, click on the following: 




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