The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations treaty that defines who is a refugee.

Article I of the 1967 Protocol removed the 1951 Refugee Convention’s temporal and geographical limitations so that the Convention applied universally. 

According to Article 1 A (2) of the 1951 Refugee convention, a refugee claimant is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin because of  a well-founded fear of being persecuted for one or more of the following reasons:  

  • race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

In the 1951 Convention, Article I defining “refugee” has three parts, which are the “inclusion”, “cessation” and the “exclusion” clauses.

The inclusion clause lists out the requirements for someone to be a refugee. The cessation clauses indicate the conditions where a refugee is no longer a refugee. The exclusion clauses lists out the conditions where someone cannot apply for refugee status.

In addition to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, and the Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there also exists regional instruments such as agreements and conventions in relation to refugees. These regional instruments may define the term “refugee” in their own way.

In Africa, there is a regional instrument called the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. This Convention defines the term “refugee” in 2 parts. The first part is identical with the 1951 Refugee Convention, the second part defines “refugee” as: 

“every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality”.