The Refugee Convention

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The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is the key legal document that defines who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of States. The 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees removed geographical and temporal restrictions from the Convention. 

Accordingly, the term "refugees" applies to any person who:

"Owing to well-founded fear of being presecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

More information on the Convention is available in the 1951 Convention Q&A.

In 2011, UNHCR will be marking the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention, which has been instrumental in helping an estimated 50 million people restart their lives.

There are currently 145 Contracting States to the 1951 Convention and 146 Contracting States to the 1967 Protocol.

Contracting States in the region covered by UNHCR's Canberra Office:

State 1951 Convention  1967 Protocol 
Australia 22 January 1954 (a) 13 December 1973 (a)
New Zealand 30 January 1960 (a) 6 August 1973 (a)
Fiji 12 June 1972 (d) 12 June 1972 (d)
Tuvalu 7 March 1986 (d) 7 March 1986 (d)
Papua New Guinea 17 July 1986 (a) 17 July 1986 (a)
Samoa 21 September 1988 (a) 29 November 1994 (a)
Solomon Islands 28 February 1995 (a) 12 April 1995 (a)
Nauru 28 June 2011 (a) 28 June 2011 (a)

 Accession (a), Succession (d).




UNHCR Regional Office Canberra

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is an impartial, non-political humanitarian organisation mandated by the United Nations to protect refugees and seek ways to help them restart their lives. UNHCR's Regional Office in Canberra covers Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, and is focused on three key areas: legal protection, resettlement and public information.