The UN Refugee Convention turned 70 last month. Here's some facts and figures about the landmark document...

• Formally known as the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the convention was grounded in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of human rights 1948, which recognises the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries.

• The convention was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Geneva, Switzerland, in July, 1952. entered into force on 22nd April, 1954. It was followed by a protocol in 1967, which removed the geographic and temporal limits of the 1951 convention which was originally generally seen as applying to protecting European refugees in the aftermath of World War II.

Colombia UNHCR refugee camp

A Venezuelan migrant child carries a broom and a bucket while he walks in a camp run by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Maicao, Colombia, on 7th May, 2019. PICTURE: Reuters/Luisa Gonzalez/File photo.

• The core principle of the convention is that of 'non-refoulement' - an assertion that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. Other principles undergirding the convention include that of 'non-discrimination' - the principle that it be applied without discrimination as to sex, age, disability, sexuality - and that of 'non-penalisation' - the principle that refugees should generally not be penalised for their illegal entry or stay.

• Some 149 states across the world are party to either the Convention or the Protocol or both.

• The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), commonly referred to as the UN Refugee Agency, as seen as the "guardian" of the convention.

• The 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol have been followed by a range of regionally based instruments including the 1969 OAU Refugee Convention in Africa, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration in Latin America and the development of a common asylum system in the European Union.

• The convention and accompanying protocol are the only global legal instruments which explicitly cover the most important aspects of a refugee’s life - access to the courts, to primary education, to work, and the provision for documentation - and, according to their provisions, refugees should have, as a minimum, the same standards of treatment enjoyed by other foreign nationals in a given country and, in many cases, the same treatment as nationals. 

• Under the convention, a refugee is defined as a person who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence, has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion and is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

• The convention does not apply to those people who have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, serious non-political crimes, or are guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN. It also doesn't apply to those refugees who benefit from the protection or assistance of a UN agency other than UNHCR, such as refugees from Palestine who fall under the auspices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) or those refugees who have a status equivalent to nationals in their country of asylum.

• The principles of the convention were reaffirmed in December, 2018, by the Global Compact on Refugees, described as "a blueprint for more predictable and equitable responsibility-sharing". Like the convention, it recognises that a sustainable solution to refugee situations cannot be achieved without international cooperation.

Sources: UNHCR; The 1951 UN Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol