Update: 21.05.2019

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Geneva Refugee Convention)

of 28 July 1951 (Entry into force: 22 April 1954)

Text of the Treaty

English / German / French

Grounded in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, which recognises the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees came into force on 22 April 1954 and is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states.

The Convention is both a status and rights-based instrument and is underpinned by a number of fundamental principles, most notably non-discrimination, non-penalisation and non-refoulement. The Convention stipulates that, subject to specific exceptions, refugees should not be penalised for their illegal entry or stay. The Convention also contains various safeguards against the expulsion of refugees. The principle of non-refoulement is so fundamental that no reservations or derogations may be made to it. It provides that no one shall expel or return a refugee against his or her will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is tasked with providing international protection to refugees who fall within the scope of the Statute and seeking durable solutions for the problem of refugees.


146 contracting states (as of 21 May 2019, current count)

Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees

Text of Protocol: English / German / French

The Protocol from 31 January 1967 removed the temporal limits of the 1951 Convention, which was originally limited in scope to persons fleeing events occurring before 1 January 1951 and within Europe. The Protocol removed these limitations and gave the Convention universal coverage. The Protocol entered into force on 4 October 1967 and 147 States ratified it (as at 21 May 2019; current count).

Further Sources

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