|The Courier N° 150 - March - April 1995 - Dossier: Refugees - Country Reports: The Bahamas, Guyana (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)|
Reference is made throughout the Dossier to the various international legal instruments relating to refugees. Below we reproduce some of the key provisions.
The Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 14 December 1950.
Article 2: The work of the High Commissioner shall be of an entirely non-political character; it shell be humanitarian and social and shell relate, as a rule to groups and categories of refugees.
The 1951 UN Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
The Convention was adopted by the UN Conference on the Status of Refugees and stateless Persons held in Geneva from 2 25 July 1951 and entered into force on 22 April 1954. The Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 16 December 1966 and came into force on 4 October 1967
The Convention and Protocol are the main international instruments that regulate the conduct of states in matters relating to the treatment of refugees. While the Convention does not create a right of asylum, it is important for the legal protection of refugees and the definition of their status. It attempts to establish an international code of rights for refugees on a general basis It embodies principles that promote and safeguard their rights in the fields of employment. education. residence, freedom of movement, access to courts, naturalisation and above all the security against return to a country where they may risk persecution
The Protocol extends the scope of the original Convention by removing challenge of Protection, UNHCR the dateline of 1 January 1951 contained in the definition of the term refugee at Article 1 It thus makes the Convention applicable to people who become refugees after that date. The Protocol also provides that it should be applied without any geographical limitation. However if states opted, when acceding to the 1951 Convention. to limit its application to events occurring in Europe, that limit also applies to the 1967 Protocol.
Article 1 A(2): Definition of the term 'Refugee'. (Any person who) owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable to or, owing to 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... is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
Article 33: Prohibition of expulsion or return ('refoulement'). (1) No Contracting State shall expel or return 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 group or political opinion
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Adopted and proclaimed by United Nations General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948. Article 13(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state
Article 13(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Article 14(1) Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Article 15(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
Article 15(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The United Nations has set inter national human rights standards in some 70 covenants, conventions and treaties. The most important of these are the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights, and on economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which were adopted by the UN General Assembly and opened for signature in December 1966. Both Covenants entered into force in early 1976 and they impose legally binding obligations on state parties concerning the rights of people under their jurisdiction. Below are the provisions of the Civil and Political Rights Covenant which are of particular relevance to refugees
Article 12(1) Everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence.
Article 12(2) Everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own.
Article 12(3) The above-mentioned rights shell not be subject to any restrictions except those which are provided by law, are necessary to protect national security, public order (ordre public), public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others. and are consistent with the other rights recognised in the present Covenant.
Article 12(4) No one shell be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Approved by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1984 as Annex to GA resolution 39/46.
The Convection extends the principle of non-refoulement and non-ex-tradition to any state.
Article 3(1) No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture. For the purpose of determining whether there are such grounds, the competent authorities shall take Into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable. the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights
Adopted by the 18th Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 27 June 1981 in Nairobi.
Article 12(3) Every individual shall have the right when persecuted to seek and obtain asylum In other countries In accordance with the law of those countries and international conventions.
Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
Adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at its 6th ordinary Session, Addis Adaba, 10 September 1969.
The OAU Convention adopts a broader definition of the term 'refugee' than the internationally accepted definition found in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees It does not include any temporal or geographical limitations, nor any reference to earlier categories of refugees. The OAU Convention also regulates the question of asylum. In addition, it unambiguously stipulates that repatriation must be a voluntary act.
Article l-Definition of the term Refugee 1. (As in article 1 of
the 1957 Convention) 2. The term 'refugee' shell also apply to every person who,
owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously
disturbing public order in either part or the whole of the country of origin or
nationality, Is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to
seek refuge in
another place outside his country of origin or nationality.
1. Member States of the OAU shell use their best endeavours
consistent with their respective legislations to receive refugees and to secure
the settlement of those refugees who, for well-founded reasons, are unable or
unwilling to return to their country of origin or nationality.
3. No person shell be subjected by a Member State to measures such as rejection at the frontier, return or expulsion, which would compel him to return to or remain in a territory where his life, physical integrity or liberty would be threatened for the reasons set out in Article 1, paragraphs 1 and 2.
Article V Voluntary Repatriation.
1 The essentially voluntary character of repatriation shall be respected in all cases and no refugee shall be repatriated against his will.
Article VIII-Co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
1. Member States shall co-operate with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Cartagena Declaration on Refugees
Adopted at the 'Coloquio Sobre la Proteccion Internacional de los Refugiados en America Central, Mexico y Panama Problemas Juridicos y Humanitarios' held from 19-22 November 1984 Cartagena. Colombia.
The Declaration broadens the definition of the term 'refugee' found in the 1951 Convention to include:...persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalised violence. foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.'
Although a non binding instrument, the Declaration has been accepted and is being applied by the Latin American States to the degree that it has entered the domain of international law.
Convention Determining the State Responsibility for examining Applications for Asylum lodged in one of the Member States of the European Communities
Signed by the Member States of the European Communities in Dublin on 15 June 1990.
The treaty, known as the Dublin Convention, was signed as one of the collective measures taken by Member States towards the realisation of a single market and the elimination of controls at internal Community borders.
In the preamble, the signatories to the Convention express their determination to guarantee adequate protection to refugees in keeping with their common humanitarian tradition. The Convention also contains an expression of the signatories' awareness of the need to take measures to avoid leaving applicants for asylum in doubt for too long as regards the likely outcome of their applications. The signatories state their concern to provide all applicants for asylum with a guarantee that their application will be examined by one of the Member States and to ensure that applicants for asylum are not referred successively from one Member State to another.
In accordance with these objectives, the Dublin Convention sets rules for determining the state responsible for examining applications for asylum. It also elaborates the circumstances and conditions which govern the transfer or readmission of applicants between Member States It provides, moreover, for mutual exchange between Member States of general information and of information on individual cases A number of safeguards are included concerning the protection of personal data.
In Article 2, Member States of the EC reaffirm their obligations under the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol releting to the Status of Refugees, with no geographic restriction of the scope of these instruments, and restate their commitment to co-operate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in applying them.