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Detention of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

Executive Committee Meetings

Detention of Refugees and Asylum-Seekers
No. 44 (XXXVII) - 1986

13 October 1986
Executive Committee 37th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/41/12/Add.1).

The Executive Committee,

Recalling Article 31 of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Recalling further its Conclusion No. 22 (XXXII) on the treatment of asylum-seekers in situations of large-scale influx, as well as Conclusion No. 7 (XXVIII), paragraph (e), on the question of custody or detention in relation to the expulsion of refugees lawfully in a country, and Conclusion No. 8 (XXVIII), paragraph (e), on the determination of refugee status.

Noting that the term "refugee" in the present Conclusions has the same meaning as that in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, and is without prejudice to wider definitions applicable in different regions.

(a) Noted with deep concern that large numbers of refugees and asylum-seekers in different areas of the world are currently the subject of detention or similar restrictive measures by reason of their illegal entry or presence in search of asylum, pending resolution of their situation;

(b) Expressed the opinion that in view of the hardship which it involves, detention should normally be avoided. If necessary, detention may be resorted to only on grounds prescribed by law to verify identity; to determine the elements on which the claim to refugee status or asylum is based; to deal with cases where refugees or asylum-seekers have destroyed their travel and/or identity documents or have used fraudulent documents in order to mislead the authorities of the State in which they intend to claim asylum; or to protect national security or public order;

(c) Recognized the importance of fair and expeditious procedures for determining refugee status or granting asylum in protecting refugees and asylum-seekers from unjustified or unduly prolonged detention;

(d) Stressed the importance for national legislation and/or administrative practice to make the necessary distinction between the situation of refugees and asylum-seekers, and that of other aliens;

(e) Recommended that detention measures taken in respect of refugees and asylum-seekers should be subject to judicial or administrative review;

(f) Stressed that conditions of detention of refugees and asylum seekers must be humane. In particular, refugees and asylum-seekers shall, whenever possible, not be accommodated with persons detained as common criminals, and shall not be located in areas where their physical safety is endangered;

(g) Recommended that refugees and asylum-seekers who are detained be provided with the opportunity to contact the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or, in the absence of such office, available national refugee assistance agencies;

(h) Reaffirmed that refugees and asylum-seekers have duties to the country in which they find themselves, which require in particular that they conform to its laws and regulations as well as to measures taken for the maintenance of public order;

(i) Reaffirmed the fundamental importance of the observance of the principle of non-refoulement and in this context recalled the relevance of Conclusion No. 6 (XXVIII).