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Protection of Asylum-Seekers in Situations of Large-Scale Influx

Executive Committee Meetings

Protection of Asylum-Seekers in Situations of Large-Scale Influx
No. 22 (XXXII) - 1981

21 October 1981
Executive Committee 32nd session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/36/12/Add.1). Conclusion endorsed by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme upon the recommendation of the Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection of Refugees.

The Executive Committee,

Noting with appreciation the report of the Group of Experts on temporary refuge in situations of large-scale influx, which met in Geneva from 21-24 April 1981, adopted the following conclusions in regard to the protection of asylum seekers in situations of large-scale influx.

I. General

1. The refugee problem has become particularly acute due to the increasing number of large-scale influx situations in different areas of the world and especially in developing countries. The asylum seekers forming part of these large-scale influxes include persons who are refugees within the meaning of the 1951 United Nations Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees or who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part of, or the whole of their country of origin or nationality are compelled to seek refuge outside that country.

2. Asylum seekers forming part of such large-scale influx situations are often confronted with difficulties in finding durable solutions by way of voluntary repatriation, local settlement or resettlement in a third country. Large-scale influxes frequently create serious problems for States, with the result that certain States, although committed to obtaining durable solutions, have only found it possible to admit asylum seekers without undertaking at the time of admission to provide permanent settlement of such persons within their borders.

3. It is therefore imperative to ensure that asylum seekers are fully protected in large-scale influx situations, to reaffirm the basic minimum standards for their treatment pending arrangements for a durable solution, and to establish effective arrangements in the context of international solidarity and burden-sharing for assisting countries which receive large numbers of asylum seekers.

II. Measures of protection

A. Admission and non-refoulement

1. In situations of large-scale influx, asylum seekers should be admitted to the State in which they first seek refuge and if that State is unable to admit them on a durable basis, it should always admit them at least on a temporary basis and provide them with protection according to the principles set out below. They should be admitted without any discrimination as to race, religion, political opinion, nationality, country of origin or physical incapacity.

2. In all cases the fundamental principle of non-refoulement - including non-rejection at the frontier - must be scrupulously observed.

B. Treatment of asylum seekers who have been temporarily admitted to country pending arrangements for a durable solution

1. Article 31 of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees contains provisions regarding the treatment of refugees who have entered a country without authorization and whose situation in that country has not yet been regularized. The standards defined in this Article do not, however, cover all aspects of the treatment of asylum seekers in large-scale influx situations.

2. It is therefore essential that asylum seekers who have been temporarily admitted pending arrangements for a durable solution should be treated in accordance with the following minimum basic human standards:

(a) they should not be penalized or exposed to any unfavourable treatment solely on the ground that their presence in the country is considered unlawful; they should not be subjected to restrictions on their movements other than those which are necessary in the interest of public health and public order;

(b) they should enjoy the fundamental civil rights internationally recognized, in particular those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

(c) they should receive all necessary assistance and be provided with the basic necessities of life including food, shelter and basic sanitary and health facilities; in this respect the international community should conform with the principles of international solidarity and burden-sharing;

(d) they should be treated as persons whose tragic plight requires special understanding and sympathy. They should not be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;

(e) there should be no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, political opinion, nationality, country of origin or physical incapacity;

(f) they are to be considered as persons before the law, enjoying free access to courts of law and other competent administrative authorities;

(g) the location of asylum seekers should be determined by their safety and well-being as well as by the security needs of the receiving State. Asylum seekers should, as far as possible, be located at a reasonable distance from the frontier of their country of origin. They should not become involved in subversive activities against their country of origin or any other State;

(h) family unity should be respected;

(i) all possible assistance should be given for the tracing of relatives;

(j) adequate provision should be made for the protection of minors and unaccompanied children;

(k) the sending and receiving of mail should be allowed;

(l) material assistance from friends or relatives should be permitted;

(m) appropriate arrangements should be made, where possible, for the registration of births, deaths and marriages;

(n) they should be granted all the necessary facilities to enable them to obtain a satisfactory durable solution;

(o) they should be permitted to transfer assets which they have brought into a territory to the country where the durable solution is obtained; and

(p) all steps should be taken to facilitate voluntary repatriation.

III. Co-operation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Asylum seekers shall be entitled to contact the Office of UNHCR. UNHCR shall be given access to asylum seekers. UNHCR shall also be given the possibility of exercising its function of international protection and shall be allowed to supervise the well-being of persons entering reception or other refugee centres.

IV. International solidarity, burden-sharing and duties of States

(1) A mass influx may place unduly heavy burdens on certain countries; a satisfactory solution of a problem, international in scope and nature, cannot be achieved without international co-operation. States shall, within the framework of international solidarity and burden-sharing, take all necessary measures to assist, at their request, States which have admitted asylum seekers in large-scale influx situations.

(2) Such action should be taken bilaterally or multilaterally at the regional or at the universal levels and in co-operation with UNHCR, as appropriate. Primary consideration should be given to the possibility of finding suitable solutions within the regional context.

(3) Action with a view to burden-sharing should be directed towards facilitating voluntary repatriation, promoting local settlement in the receiving country, providing resettlement possibilities in third countries, as appropriate.

(4) The measures to be taken within the context of such burden-sharing arrangements should be adapted to the particular situation. They should include, as necessary, emergency, financial and technical assistance, assistance in kind and advance pledging of further financial or other assistance beyond the emergency phase until durable solutions are found, and where voluntary repatriation or local settlement cannot be envisaged, the provision for asylum seekers of resettlement possibilities in a cultural environment appropriate for their well-being.

(5) Consideration should be given to the strengthening of existing mechanisms and, if appropriate, the setting up of new arrangements, if possible on a permanent basis, to ensure that the necessary funds and other material and technical assistance are immediately made available.

(6) In a spirit of international solidarity, Governments should also seek to ensure that the causes leading to large-scale influxes of asylum seekers are as far as possible removed and, where such influxes have occurred, that conditions favourable to voluntary repatriation are established.