Refugee law

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Refugee law is the branch of international law which deals with the rights and protection of refugees. The relationship between international human rights law, humanitarian law, and refugee law is disputed among international law scholars. This discussion forms part of a larger discussion on fragmentation of international law.[1] While some scholars conceive each branch as a self-contained regime distinct from other branches, others regard that the three branches form a larger normative system that seeks to protect the rights of all human beings at all time. The proponents of the latter conception state that this holistic regime includes norms only applicable to certain situations such as armed conflict and military occupation (IHL) or to certain groups of people including refugees (refugee law), children (the Convention on the Rights of the Child), and prisoners of war (the 1949 Geneva Convention III).[2]

Definition of refugee[edit]

The 1967 Protocol refined the definition of a refugee as a person who:

  • is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence,
  • has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, and
  • is unable or unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

The 1967 Protocol removed the temporal restrictions, which restricted refugee status to those whose circumstances had come about "as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951", and the geographic restrictions which gave States party to the Convention the option of interpreting this as "events occurring in Europe" or "events occurring in Europe or elsewhere". However, it also gave those States which had previously ratified the 1951 Convention and chosen to use the geographically restricted definition the option to retain that restriction.

Sources of refugee law[edit]

Refugee law encompasses both customary law, peremptory norms, and international legal instruments. The only international instrument is the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, with the 1967 optional Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which a country has to have signed separately, while various regional bodies have instruments applying only to member states. These instruments include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Koskenniemi, Marti (September 2002). "Fragmentation of International Law? Postmodern Anxieties". Leiden Journal of International Law 15 (3): 553–579. doi:10.1017/S0922156502000262. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  2. ^ Yun, Seira (2014). "Breaking Imaginary Barriers: Obligations of Armed Non-State Actors Under General Human Rights Law – The Case of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child". Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies 5 (1-2): 213–257. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 

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