Start Looking South: The Refugee Convention Fifty Years On
Davies, Sara E. (2004) Start Looking South: The Refugee Convention Fifty Years On. The International Journal of Human Rights, 8(3), pp. 355-366.
The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter referred to as the 1951 Convention) was passed on 28 July 1951. Twenty-six states were represented in the negotiations and the Convention was adopted by 24 votes to 0.1 The Convention was drafted to deal with the situation in post-Second World War Europe, where the developing Cold War had caused approximately 200,000 people to flee the Communist bloc each year since 1945, on top of the 400,000 people still needing resettlement following the Second World War.2 The Convention defined a refugee as a person who had fled their homeland because of ‘a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’ (Article 1). The adoption of political persecution as the only legitimate cause of flight, and the temporal and geographical limitations imposed on those wishing to seek protection (protection was availed only to those seeking asylum due to events prior to 1 January 1951 within Europe), meant that the Convention was not universal in providing protection for refugees. The Convention’s definition of a refugee had little to offer those seeking asylum due to famine, civil war or a more generalised mass fear of persecution. However, these temporal and geographic limits were removed by the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.
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