Refugee and Asylum Law: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

 
In the modern era, the principal U.N. agency responsible for refugees is the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, Switzerland.[1]

The UNHCR was established by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 28(v), December 14, 1950 (after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but before the signing of Convention Relating to Status of Refugees). This Resolution adopted the Statute for the UNHCR that charges the agency with “providing international protection . . . to refugees . . . and . . . seeking permanent solutions for the problem of refugees by assisting Governments and . . . private organizations to facilitate         the voluntary repatriation of such refugees, or their assimilation within new national communities.” The Statute also contained a definition of “refugee” that was similar to the one set forth in the subsequent Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. This definition states a “refugee” is

  • “Any person who, as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear or for reason other than personal convenience, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country . . . .”

To fulfill this mandate UNHCR “strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight.” It also publishes a handbook on procedures and criteria for determining refugee status and guidelines on common issues that have arisen in such determinations.[2]

The UNHCR now is concerned with refugees, 80% of whom are in poorer, developing countries,  and certain other individuals in the world. As of January 2010, it was concerned with the welfare of the following people:

Category Number
Refugees 10,397,000
Asylum seekers      983,000
Returned refugees      251,000
Internally Displaced People 15,628,000
Returned IDPs   2,230,000
Stateless persons   6,560,000
Other       412,000
TOTAL  36,460,000

 


[1] This post is based upon the UNHCR website: http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home.

[2]  One example of these publications is UNHCR Guidelines on International Protection No. 1: “Gender-Related Persecution,”  (May 7, 2002), http://www.unhcr.org/3d58ddef4.html.

 

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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