The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is the dominating instrument of the international refugee regime implemented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other institutions maintaining refugees, displaced, stateless persons, and migration safety, resettlement, and repatriation issues. Though the 1951 Convention has some highlighting drawbacks in the current era of modern warfare and emerging strategies, it is considered as the elementary tool of the international refugee regime.

International refugee regime refers to a body of law established based on a series of norms, and rules functions to regulate the matter of protection, settlement, and ensuring a better life standard for the refugees, forced migrants, and the stateless community around the world. Various internationally operated institutions implement and monitor this regime.

Since 1921, the lives of refugees became a matter of great attention in the international arena (3). The High Commissioner of the League of Nations termed the concept of ‘refugee’ for the first time, and this is known as the introductory history of the international refugee regime (2).  The Russian Revolution and the First World War made more than one million people displaced from their homelands. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies jointly organized a formal discussion and established a High Commissioner. Dr. Fridtjof Nansen was the first assigned high Commissioner. Several institutions like the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, the Office of the High Commissioner of the League Nations for Refugees, and the Nansen International Office for Refugees were amassed under Dr. Nansen to assess, and battle the contemporary refugee crisis in an effective manner (2). The institutions initiated the 1933 Convention Relating to the International Status of Refugees, the first supranational convention, and reactive efforts related to the protection of the war and conflict displaced. Hence, collaborative action was taken to manage the Jewish influx during Nazi domination in Germany.

The UN General Assembly inaugurated the International Refugee Organization (IRO) in 1946 to resettle the refugees after Second World War. The organization functioned for resettling the displaced rather than prioritizing their repatriation, and indemnification. The assembled efforts by the IRO and several other institutions successfully resettled over one million people (2). The IRO resettled the population between 1947 and 1951.

To minimize the problems related to the other unsolved issues of the resting millions in Europe, the UN established the UNHCR in 1950 (1). The 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was established as the mandate of the UNHCR. The issue of the resting stateless community after the collapse of the Nazi Regime was the major concern of the UNHCR and the 1951 Convention.

Newly discovered distinct forms of displacements have made the 1951 Convention controversial (1). Firstly, many scholars have criticized that the current realities of displacements are less supportive according to the convention. For instance, it was written based on the scenario of the persecution of the Nazis, and the Cold war. As the second debate, we can say about the persecuted peoples based on their sexuality, and gender, and the climate refugees who are ignored in the convention. Then, today’s most highlighted issue regarding the IDPs is also excluded from the convention of 1951 regarding the refugees.

The UNHCR’s Executive Committee drafted, and approved an additional Protocol to reduce the drawbacks of the 1951 Convention that was added to the convention in 1967. Consequently, the additional 1967 Protocol eliminated the Europe-focused geographical limitation of the convention (3). Since 2003, the UN organ initiated to safeguard the displaced due to natural calamities. Furthermore, it administers the issues of the IDPs and asylum seekers.

The UN organ oversees the worldwide displacement phenomena in a systematic manner (3). First of all, it formulates justification groups to justify whether the particular community is the victim of human rights violations or not. In the next phase, by identifying the problems the organization initiates to resettle them. Then, it works to spread the concern, and suffering of the victimized population to the world. Generating concerns globally help the UNHCR to gather funding to take the displaced persons in a new normal. Finally, normalization of life after displacement is the beginning of the repatriation procedure.

Despite having such major limitations, some impactful causes made the international community uphold the 1951 Convention (1). Firstly, the majority of the cases of displacements can be handled by the convention. Secondly, though the IDPs are not included in the 1951 Convention, the UNHCR has been extended its practice to ensure the protection of the IDPs. Thirdly, about 145 states had signed the Convention. It is a matter of suspicion that if any revised version of the Convention is adopted, the number of signatory states can be diminished. Moreover, the extension of the functional scope of the UNHCR according to the global political scenario is another cause of endorsing the convention yet.

The problems of displacements are becoming more politicized day by day. A traditional form of creating an international refugee regime: when a conflict emerges, an institution is developed to monitor the consequences of the tensions (2). World people need a more innovative framework and research in the field of displacements, and the rehabilitation, and reparation of the refugees. As consequence, we would be able to deal with the causes of these problems rather than the consequences. The regimes would be able to recognize a problem before its arousal.


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