Persons covered by the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and by the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees (Submitted by the African Group and the Latin American Group)
1. The annexed paper, which was originally submitted to the Executive Committee Working Group on Solutions and Protection in April 1991, consists of two parts. The first, prepared by the African Group, deals with the Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa adopted by the Organization of African Unity in 1969 and the second, submitted by the Latin American Group, covers the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.
2. Both the OAU Convention and the Cartagena Declaration broaden the concept of the refugee enshrined in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. They resulted from a perception and an experience in Africa and Latin America that there was a need to complement the 1951 Convention, as modified by the 1967 Protocol, in order to provide adequate responses to new dimensions of mass displacements of persons in need of international protection and assistance.
ANNEX Working Group on Solutions and Protection: Persons covered by the OAU Convention and the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees
I. PERSONS COVERED BY THE OAU CONVENTION
1. For Africa, the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and the OAU Convention of 1969 must be regarded as forming a whole. The OAU Convention itself is a humanitarian response to the individual as well as the mass character of the refugee problem in Africa. It is a collective undertaking by the Member States of the OAU to receive and protect refugees in accordance with their respective national legislations. Member States undertake to apply the Convention to all refugees without discrimination as to race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group of political opinions.
2. It should be noted that the factors that necessitated the promulgation of the 1969 OAU Convention are no longer restricted to Africa. Similar situations have now engulfed other regions of the world. The principles enshrined in the Cartagena Declaration address the concerns of victims of man-made disasters in that region. However, this still leaves the predicament of a large proportion of persons in this category under an ad hoc mechanism.
3. The Afghan case readily comes to mind. Approximately one third of today's 15 million refugees are Afghans. Similarly, the world is witnessing today, events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, which may trigger off huge displacements of populations, for whom there is no ready international mechanism that could offer protection and assistance. These situations should serve to illustrate the importance of a holistic approach to the needs of refugees classified under Category II.1
4. As has been noted in earlier discussion in the Working Group, the factors compelling departure on account of man-made disasters are complex, and are not easily separated from causes of other refugee flights. In the African experience, among the earliest of such causes was the struggle for national independence. Liberation movements sprang up in many countries across the continent, and as their activities were viewed as subversive by the erstwhile administrative powers, they invariably had to conduct their operations from outside their national boundaries. Independent African governments regarded the struggle of the liberation movement as legitimate, and readily offered asylum to their members. The number of refugees in this particular class, however, has greatly diminished over the years following the national independence of most African countries.
5. Persecution, or fear of it by individuals or group of individuals, by a State or by forces within a given country which the State cannot control or is unwilling to control also give rise to refugee movements in Africa. Likewise dictatorship and authoritarianism resulting in gross and persistent violation of human rights. The victims can be individuals, groups of individuals or large segments of population. Where oppressive government policies combine with economic hardships and other natural or ecological disasters, the compulsion to leave becomes more urgent.
6. By far, the biggest cause of refugee outflows in Africa today is armed conflict. When such outflows do occur, they are distinct in their mass character. The factors that ignite these conflicts range from inter-racial and inter-ethnic rivalries, to border clashes. In some cases, it could be a combination of several factors. Similarly, the support given by third countries to insurgent movements especially in Southern Africa, is also a factor in this regard. Furthermore, institutionalized racism, most notably under the policy of apartheid which also involves denial and violations of human rights, has precipitated departure into exile. The destabilizing policies of the South African regime against its neighbouring States, are already well-known to the international community as major causes of huge population displacements in that sub-region.
7. The OAU Convention does not refer to people who are forced to leave their respective countries of origin due to economic deprivation or chronic poverty but this cause is assuming increasing significance in Africa. So also is the category of people who are forced to leave by a combination of factors. This includes victims of man-made disasters who are at the same time victims of natural disasters. This cause or category of people is not explicit in the OAU Convention, but reference in the Convention to "events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality", can be construed to cover this category.
8. The OAU Convention is a regional complement to the 1951 United Nations Convention. It broadens the definition of a refugee and offers legal protection to a wider category of people in response to the growing refugee problem in the continent. The wider definition has made it possible for the Convention to be applicable to groups of refugees as well as to individual refugees. This significant distinction will be appreciated when formal aspects or recognition of refugee status on an individual or collective basis are being considered.
9. All 41 States which were independent when the Convention was adopted in 1969 signed the Convention and more States have acceded to it as they became independent. However, some members of the OAU have not acceded to the Convention of 1951 and the Protocol of 1967. For effective universal protection of refugees, accession to both instruments is essential.
10. Through the Convention the Member States of the OAU undertake not to reject refugees at the frontier, return or expel them to the country of origin. Where a Member State finds difficulty in continuing to grant asylum to refugees, it may appeal directly to other Member States and, through the OAU, take appropriate measures to lighten the burden of the Member State granting asylum. Where a refugee has not received the right to reside in any country of asylum, he may be granted temporary residence in any country of asylum in which he first presented himself as a refugee pending arrangements for his resettlement.
11. The OAU Convention has been recognized by the General Assembly and the international community. The people covered by it have received protection and material assistance from the international community so long as they remain in Africa. Once they are out of the continent, their protection is ad hoe or non-existent. The Working Group may wish to examine how international humanitarian law can further be developed to provide a legal regime for the protection of persons forced to leave by man-made disasters in all regions of the world.
12. The other distinct characteristic of the OAU Convention is in the progress it made in the direction of strengthening the position of the individual in relation to asylum. Whereas, in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol the granting of asylum is left to the discretion of States, the OAU Convention made it an obligation for Member States to "use their best endeavours consistent with their respective legislations to receive refugees and to secure their settlement". (Article II, para. I).
13. The countries of first asylum in Africa are severely constrained in providing asylum and protection to refugees by lack of adequate resources to assist, settle and where possible integrate refugees. Most of these countries are under-developed with serious economic and social problems. They have to cope with massive numbers of refugees on a continuous basis. Some of the countries of first asylum are themselves producers of refugees. Refugees in these countries lead a precarious existence because the ability of the host country to sustain them is limited. Sometimes even the political climate for effective protection is uncertain or non-existent.
14. Traditional African hospitality has been the basis of acceptance and assistance to refugees in Africa. However, with pressing economic and social problems, asylum countries (Governments and people) tend to be more positively inclined to receive and offer protection to refugees if there is assurance of burden-sharing from the international community and an in-built package for durable solutions. Refugee case-loads which go on for several years without a durable solution may generate tensions and frictions with the host communities.
15. The OAU Convention states that "the grant of asylum for refugees is a peaceful and humanitarian act and shall not be regarded as an unfriendly act by any Member State". Despite this provision, some refugees have been subjected to physical threats and harm by agents of the countries of origin. Some asylum-seekers get involved in political and military activities which may jeopardize their status and strain relation between the country of asylum and the country of origin. This security aspect needs to be considered with the right of refugees to return to their country of origin.
D. Broader Responses
16. The spirit of the OAU Convention is to accept the principle that African refugees are essentially an African responsibility. The principle of voluntary repatriation is also recognized and in recent years root causes are being addressed and the responsibility of the State of origin is being recognized.
17. Despite the acceptance of these responsibilities, Africa's capacity to handle the problem (5 million refugees) is severely constrained particularly at this time when many African countries are faced with the serious problems of economic recovery and transformation. All the same, individual countries have continued to host and receive additional refugees and to provide them with assistance and protection.
18. International burden-sharing is most needed for both relief and long term response. In recent years, however, international response has been falling behind the actual needs of refugees, and as a result, many programmes have been adversely affected to barely meet life-saving and life-sustaining requirements.
19. An appropriate response would include a co-ordinated approach by the entire UK system, especially the development and humanitarian agencies, with UNHCR taking the leading role. In this respect, the recommendations of the Task Force IV of the last Working Group are relevant. Cooperation and liaison with the ICRC and IOM are also essential.
20. The OAU Convention assigns a major role to the Administrative Secretary-General of the organization of African Unity. The Secretary-General is the repository of the instruments of ratification of the Member States and is the guarantor of the safety of refugees who voluntarily want to return to their respective countries of origin.
E. Solutions including Prevention
21. The acceptance of the principle of voluntary repatriation in Africa depends on two main conditions: (a) the existence of a conducive political climate to permit safe return; (b) the availability of resources to return and integrate refugees in their respective countries of origin. Sometimes (a) is possible but resources may be lacking as in the recent cases in the Horn.
22. It is increasingly being accepted by governments through regional or sub-regional arrangements or commissions involving UNHCR that voluntary repatriation is a legitimate right of refugees and constitutes a factor for peace and national reconciliation. For example, recently Rwanda has accepted to take appropriate steps to facilitate the return and reintegration of refugees and to declare a comprehensive general amnesty for refugees as defined by the 1951 United Nations Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention on Refugees.
23. At the national levels, African Governments have continued to demonstrate willingness to work towards greater and genuine democratization of governance to allow more popular participation and political pluralism including greater respect of human rights.
24. At the sub-regional level, confidence-building measures have been established among asylum countries and countries of origin. Such measures exist within the context of the Horn of Africa; Southern Africa, with respect to Mozambique and Angola; and more recently, in the West African sub-region, with respect to ECOWAS and the Liberian crisis. Tripartite Commissions between the country of origin, the asylum country and UNHCR also play an important role in this regard.
25. At the continental level African Heads of State and Governments have accepted to enter into continuous dialogue on root causes of refugees for the purpose of prevention, they have accepted a commitment to the defence and promotion of human and people's rights and to resolve internal and inter-state conflicts peacefully. The role of the OAU Secretary-General has been crucial in this regard. The concept of state-responsibility towards returnees, refugees and asylum-seekers needs further elaboration.
26. From the foregoing, the following conclusions and recommendations may be made:
(a) Category II refugees today not an exclusively regional phenomenon; rather they are universal;
(b) Ad hoc/regional arrangements are not the best solution;
(c) There is a need for a universal mechanism to protect and assist victims of man-made disasters, including armed conflicts;
(d) A UN system-wide solution is required that recognizes roles by ICRC and IOM, with UNHCR taking a lead role; and
(e) There is a need for greater political will on the part of the international community to mobilise extra resources towards greater burden-sharing and humanitarian assistance to refugees in Africa beyond relief to include assistance activities of a more long-term durable character.
II. PERSONS COVERED BY THE CARTAGENA DECLARATION
27. This document was prepared by the Latin American Group as a contribution to the Working Group's2 on going analysis of different categories of persons with a view to facilitating the determination of the status of refugee.
28. The Cartagena Declaration contains a set of principles and criteria guiding the States signatories to it on the treatment of refugees in the Central American Region. The Latin American positions and perspectives in relation to the determination of refugee status are to be found in the Declaration. Its provisions also include durable solutions to the refugee problem which have been put into practice in Central America through CIREFCA and UNHCR with the results that are already known.
29. Account was taken in the Cartagena Declaration of the legislative antecedents and existing practice within the region concerning the right to asylum as well as protection of human rights and of civilian populations in wartime. Particularly noteworthy in this regard is the 1889 Montevideo Treaty on International Penal Law enshrining respect for the right to asylum. The Interamerican Charter on Human Rights and the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
30. The Cartagena Declaration found an inspiring influence in the provisions of the 1969 OAU Convention from which it borrows in particular the concept of refugee.
31. Above all it takes into consideration the notion of refugee contemplated in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.
32. In order to contribute to the analysis of international protection it is appropriate to point out in this document the objectives of the Declaration. The criteria considered therein, its main features as well as its importance and place within the wider context of all categories under consideration by the Working Group.
B. Fundamental Objectives
33. The immediate objective of the Cartagena Declaration was to provide a much needed common framework, unifying criteria and programmes in order to meet the demands of the refugee situation in Central America. In addition, the Declaration performed two important functions. One being to establish regional legislation dealing specifically with refugees; another to make governments of countries in the region more sensitive to the need to eliminate causes leading to the massive displacement of persons from their countries of origin.
C. Basic Criteria
34. The drafting of the Cartagena Declaration adopted criteria which, having been previously developed in different regional meetings, took shape in the Contadora Act for Peace and Cooperation in Central America (Acta de Contadora Para la gas y la cooperación centroamericana). The action of the Contadora Group was one of the first attempts at seeking regional and joint solutions to consolidating peace in Central America. It led countries directly concerned and friendly nations to get together and take on responsibility for examining the problem in all its dimensions. The Esquipulas II Agreement recently laid down the legal basis for a holistic approach to peace in Central America, now being implemented with a good measure of success.
35. The Contadora Act defines the criteria which have to be taken into account in the refugee policy in Central America. These criteria are included in the Cartagena Declaration. The most important of which are as follows:
(a) first and foremost it is imperative to adhere to the 1951 Convention and to its 1967 Protocol, to implement it and to set up national mechanisms for this purpose. It is likewise suggested that States in the region hold regular consultations with the UNHCR and support the work of the High Commissioner in the region (II (a), (b), (c), (d), (e));
(b) the Declaration establishes the necessity to meet refugees' requirements in the fields of health, education, labour and security (II (h)) and to respect their human rights (II (o)). It prohibits the transfer of refugees to other countries against their will. At the same time, it recommends that resettlement in third countries be considered in certain ceases in order to alleviate the situation in those countries burdened with a large number of refugees;
(c) it accepts voluntary repatriation as a durable solution (II (f)). Voluntary repatriation must be based upon the principle of individually and freely-expressed wish of the refugee as well as be carried out in collaboration with the UNHCR. For repatriation process is to be conducted through tripartite commissions made up of representatives of the country of origin, the country of asylum and UNHCR For repatriation purposes, asylum countries have to facilitate any legal or other procedures returnees are subjected to on their departure;
(d) another important criterion is that of providing for self-sufficiency of refugees by means of developing programmes and projects permitting them to engage in productive and gainful activities and thereby making it possible for them to earn a living (II (i)). This does not exclude, however, the possibility of voluntary repatriation, for, even in those cases where the sojourn of refugees is temporary, they ought to play a part in satisfying their own needs, for economic and mental health reasons;
(e) asylum countries are furthermore given assurances by the Declaration that refugees must take no political action against their countries of origin. This criterion proved to be necessary in order to assert the exclusively humanitarian nature of the granting of asylum and of the ensuing protection enjoyed by refugees (II (o));
(f) concluding the explanation on criteria, it is to be stressed that the Cartagena Declaration enshrines the need for Governments of countries in the area to make efforts directed at removing the causes of the flow of refugees (II (m)). It also appeals to the international community to make financial contributions with a view both to finding solutions to the problem of refugees and to eradicating its causes.
D. Main features of the Cartagena Declaration
36. Some of the features of the Cartagena Declaration make it a unique document within the international legal framework relating to refugees. Such features have contributed to the definition of the concept of refugees and to the determination of universal principles of policy and law related to the subject. They have advanced durable solutions which are proving in today's world to be increasingly valid for the treatment of refugee problems in all their dimensions.
1. The concept of refugees
37. In its third conclusion, the Declaration contemplates a broad concept of refugee which incorporates the elements of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the OAU definition, and the doctrine found in the relevant reports of the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. This conclusion states that "the definition of the concept of refugees recommended for use in the region is that which, besides containing the provisions of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, considers to be refugees persons who have fled their country because their lives, security or liberty have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violations of human rights and other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order (III 3.).
38. Such a definition comprises an array of situations affecting the security of persons from a political viewpoint. It makes explicit reference to reasons deemed to be valid justifications for persons to flee their countries of origin, such as:
(a) - the categories contemplated in the 1951 Convention and in its 1967 Protocol;
(b) - generalized violence;
(c) - foreign aggression;
(d) - internal conflicts;
(e) - massive violation of human rights;
(f) - other circumstances leading to a serious disturbance of public order.
39. This definition broadens the concept of refugee to encompass circumstances having a bearing upon the life, security and liberty of individuals in the region. Category (f) offers a still wider possibility as it envisages examining what may or may not be considered as a situation of serious disruption of public order in the light of factors other than those listed in the previous categories. For our region, that definition is sufficient, viewed from the angle of covering all circumstances which may impact on the maintenance of public order to such an extent that the life, security and liberty of persons are put into serious danger.
40. It is important to point out that no reference is made to economic or ecological factors, which today are being regarded as new categories. Though such factors also play a role in Central America, they are not so serious as to pose a threat to the physical integrity of persons in countries of the region.
2. Other features of the Cartagena Declaration
41. These are:
(a) the reiteration of the right to asylum as a principle of humanitarian nature which, in no case, can be interpreted as an instrument for criticism or sanction against the country of origin. Accordingly, receiving refugees must not be taken as an excuse for changes in bilateral relations between a country of asylum and a country of origin;
(b) the principle of non-refoulement is another key element of international protection confirmed by the Declaration and respected by countries in the region;
(c) another important aspect is the need for reunification of families, deriving from one of the most distinctive marks of Latin American idiosyncracy;
(d) the Declaration embodies in the notion of integration of refugees into the productive life of countries of asylum a very important humanitarian principle aimed at protecting the physical and mental health of persons. Towards this end, the Declaration suggests that resources made available by the international community be channelled to development programmes which may generate employment, thereby enabling refugees to make proper use of their manual and mental skills and to take care of their own subsistence needs as well as allowing countries of asylum to benefit from skilled labour which refugees may happen to be a source of;
(e) the Declaration requests States of the region to incorporate into their legislations a regime for treatment of refugees including at least the minimum standards of international protection applicable to persons who find themselves in a situation amenable to the establishment of the status of refugee;
(f) finally, another salient feature of the Declaration is its explicit mention of internally displaced persons (III 9.). There is no clear indication of the region's position on the issue. The ninth conclusion contains however an appeal to national authorities and to competent international organizations to provide protection and assistance to persons in this situation. In other words, internally displaced persons deserve the attention of national authorities in the States signatories to the Declaration, but not because of the status of refugee as it is defined therein (conclusion III 3.);
(g) the last main feature of the Declaration is the recommendation for cooperation between the OAS and the UNHCR regarding unification of efforts related to refugees.
E. Importance of the Declaration
42. The Declaration has laid the foundations for the establishment of a regional and unified legislation and for an approach favouring responsibility for refugees in the region as a collective undertaking based on integrated and efficient programmes. This explains why it has been possible for the CIREFCA process and other activities of the UNHCR to be implemented in a positive way, as it has also been the case with repatriation programmes now underway in Central America.
43. The Declaration puts forward durable solutions taking into account the three fundamental aspects in which they may originate:
(a) Voluntary repatriation is a definitive solution when carried out under adequate conditions, that is to say. if it is the result of the individually and freely-expressed wish of the refugee, if necessary resources are made available for his/her re-incorporation in the social and productive life of his/her country of origin, and if conditions prevailing in that country no longer pose any risk to the security of the returnee. Voluntary repatriation must be conducted by means of a joint action of interested parties, namely the country of asylum, the country of origin and the UNHCR.
(b) Integration of refugees in the productive life of the country of asylum. This is a sort of transitional arrangement of caring for refugees wishing to return to their country, but it is equally a durable solution for those who desire either to settle definitively or to stay for a longer period in the country of asylum. Local integration's importance lies in the fact that with it refugees reacquire autonomy in their lives, countries of asylum gain from their involvement in productive activities, and the UNHCR's costs of providing protection can be reduced. In addition, refugees do not lose their sentiment of attachment and responsibility for their family and for society at large.
Integration in productive life ought to be understood furthermore as a pedagogical way of caring for refugees. Not only does it enable refugees to develop their abilities and to make full use of such abilities for their own benefit as well as for the welfare of the countries they live in, but it is also an instrument of prevention against social isolation and any form of discrimination they might be victims of.
(c) The third solution the Cartagena Declaration contemplates is the eradication of causes leading to the status of refugee. In this sense, the Declaration calls on countries to take the necessary steps in order to restore peace in the region. For this reason refugee policy is one of the aspects of the agreements concluded within Contadora and Esquipulas II. These constitute the most important efforts in the region with the aim of eradicating causes of the social and political conflicts tormenting countries in Central America.
F. Final comments on the Cartagena Declaration
44. The Cartagena Declaration has been important not only for having offered bases for a solution to a complex refugee problem at a time when it was highly serious and delicate for the Central American region. It has also projected its importance as a landmark for positive developments which ensued its adoption. A clear instance of this is the transcendency of its principles in the approach taken subsequently by Latin American countries in recognizing the status of refugee and the measures on which it rests, essentially protection and the search for durable solutions.
45. The dynamism of the Cartagena Declaration has already resulted in the adoption in certain countries such as Mexico and Ecuador of legal measures embodying its principles, in particular the broader concept of refugee. Other countries in the region are considering adopting positive rules on the matter. This is the case of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. The same applies to Belize, a country which has recently adhered to the 1951 Convention.
46. In other Latin American countries, the principles enunciated in the Declaration have been observed de facto, the status of refugees having been granted to persons who would not have fulfilled all the conditions set forth in the 1951 Convention.
47. Within the framework of regional organizations, the repercussion of the Cartagena Declaration has manifested itself since its adoption. The Organization of American States has been passing yearly since 1985 a consensus resolution on the problem of refugees which stresses the importance of the Declaration and its relevance for the development of international law. It recommends to all States members of the Organization to comply with its provisions. Coming as it does from the chief organization on the American continent, this manifestation has a particular transcendency. For its part, the Andean Parliament has also underlined the importance of the Declaration and recommended its observance in the resolution it adopted in 1991.
1. Establishing a universal basis
48. It is necessary to strip the concept of refugee of its allusions to historical events. Three definitions are being currently used which should be combined in a single concept devoid of any reference to local and regional circumstances no longer correlated with social reality.
49. The definition contained in the 1951 Convention refers to events of 12 May 1926 and 30 June 1928. These events have no influence at all on the determination of refugee status as they no longer constitute a cause for generating refugees.
50. As mentioned in the previous document by the Latin American Group, greater coherence is required between reality and law on a universal basis. It would be convenient to recommend to future meetings that account be taken of the need for making the concept of refugees of the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol a universal one, removing the dates previously mentioned and taking into consideration the criteria for defining refugee status contained in the OAU Convention and the Cartagena Declaration.
2. Durable Solutions
51. We consider that the most recommendable durable solution is voluntary repatriation, provided that it is based on the individually and freely expressed wish of the person concerned and that it is timely and appropriate, that is to say, if the conditions leading the refugee to flee his/her country of origin have been previously ascertained in a tripartite way not to be prevailing any more or in any event not to present any danger to his/her life and security. The risk of repeating the cycle of a new displacement of the returnee leading to new dangers to his/her life and to new expenses for the UNHCR is to be avoided. In this connection it is also our view that it is necessary to think of alternatives which favour reintegration of returnees in the productive life of their countries.
52. We also insist on the integration of refugees in the productive structure of the country of asylum, since this is a solution highly convenient for all parties. It may be difficult to implement in cases of massive flows of refugees. Nonetheless it means in all cases development for the country of asylum, when this is a developing country, welfare for the refugee and savings of human and material resources for the UNHCR. This solution calls for an efficient interinstitutional work and lies in the recognition of refugees' capacity to contribute to their own development and that of the asylum country.
53. The eradication of causes is another aspect that must be viewed and handled as a stricto sensu permanent solution. It is the condition for preventing the problems that cause individuals and groups to leave their country and for ensuring a safe and adequate return of refugees. The UNHCR ought to contribute towards that end. But undoubtedly this task goes much beyond the UNHCR's mandate.
54. Presently the source of most refugee flows is to be found in political conflicts caused to a large extent by poverty, which in turn has its roots in an uneven distribution of income and in unequal development prospects across regions and countries. Redressing that situation depends on the international community as a whole and demands a redefinition of strategies guiding international relations. Criteria of equity must be developed which can mould a pattern of concerted international action under conditions where social justice may become a vital priority. It is required to elaborate a policy and a pedagogy for coexistence, for development, for observance of human rights. This policy and this pedagogy have to be firmer and more committed to peoples and individuals, as well as driven by the entire United Nations system and individual States, with the participation of all intergovernmental and non-governmental associations.
3. International Protection
55. The Latin American Group understands that international protection comprises two aspects of equal importance which are the legal status of and social assistance to refugees.
56. The legal status is closely linked to respect for fundamental principles of humanitarian law such as those of non-refoulement of displaced persons, of recognition of the right to asylum and of the reunification of families. It also involves the speedy issuance of documents granting the status of refugee. With respect to this point, we call in particular on national authorities in both countries of origin and asylum to facilitate the registration of children born during the asylum of their parents, for it is an inalienable right of the child to have a legal identity and nationality. Special criteria could in addition be developed for the protection of children who do not have a legal representative. Another recommendation is that a study be undertaken on loopholes which may be found in the present public and private international legal framework in relation to international protection.
57. Assistance is another essential aspect of international protection. We cannot lose sight of the fact that assistance is the materialization of protection and that, as a result, meeting the needs of refugees must be ensured not only by minimum subsistence but also by ensuring their enjoyment of basic social, economic and cultural rights. Prominent amongst the factors to be considered in identifying refugees' needs is their capacity to work with a view to either offering them opportunities to make use of such capacity or allowing them to improve it and to acquire new skills. Another relevant factor is the degree of vulnerability of children, the elderly and women who either cannot work or have dependent family members. The document approved by the ExCom on protection of refugee women (EC/SCP/59) deals with this matter, as complemented by the document on policy in relation to refugee women.
1 Persons covered by the OAU Convention or the Cartagena Declaration fell into Category II of the typology established by the Working Group on Solutions and Protection.
2 The Executive Committee Working Group on Solutions and Protection.