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Refugees Magazine Issue 113 (Europe : The debate over asylum) - Asylum policy in Europe: Chronology

Refugees Magazine Issue 113 (Europe : The debate over asylum) - Asylum policy in Europe: Chronology
Refugees (113, 1999)

1 January 1999
Landmarks in asylum policy in Europe


June 1921

The League of Nations, forerunner of the United Nations, establishes the High Commission for Refugees which is mandated to help Russian refugees and, later, Armenian refugees.

February 1946

The U.N. General Assembly recognizes there is a major refugee problem in the wake of World War Two and establishes a temporary agency, the International Refugee Organization which, between 1947-19541, helped 1,620,000 people, mainly in Germany and Austria.

January 1951

The U.N. General Assembly establishes the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to replace the IRO. In July, the Convention relating to the status of refugees is adopted. It consolidates earlier international agreements to provide the most comprehensive codification of refugee rights in history and will be applied without discrimination according to race, religion or country of origin. The Convention is limited to persons who become refugees before January, 1, 1951. States were free to limit refugee claims to victims of events in Europe.

January 1967

A Protocol to the Refugee Convention is adopted, extending protection to all refugees, whatever the date they were forced to leave their countries.

June 1990

Five nations - Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Germany sign the Schengen Implementation Agreement which, when fully implemented five years later, envisaged the end of border controls and free travel between member states. All EU member states except for Ireland, Denmark and UK have since joined.

June 1990

The Dublin Convention, which entered into force seven years after its signing, is the first major step by Europe to coordinate national asylum policies. Its main aim is to establish the country responsible for examining individual asylum requests.

February 1992

The Treaty on European Union (Maastricht) directs Justice and Home Affairs Ministers to establish a framework for a Europe-wide asylum policy.

November-December 1992

Ministers approve two non-binding Resolutions and one Conclusion on: Manifestly Unfounded Applications for Asylum, Harmonized Approach to Questions Concerning Host Third Countries and Conclusions on Countries in which there is Generally No Serious Risk of Persecution.

November 1994

A model "readmission agreement" is adopted in Brussels which EU member states can conclude with non-member countries making it possible to send asylum seekers back to countries they had transitted en route to EU territory. Many such bilateral agreements were subsequently signed.

June 1995

Ministers adopt a Resolution on Minimum Guarantees for Asylum Procedures containing a number of safeguards for applicants, but crucially allowing states to set some of these aside in certain circumstances.

March 1996

A Joint Position on the Harmonized Application of the Definition of the Term "Refugee" in the Geneva Convention tackled the interpretation of the definition of a refugee and allows states to follow a restrictive approach favoured by several countries which would bar victims of "non state persecution" from being granted asylum.

June 1997

The Treaty on European Union II (Amsterdam) envisages bringing asylum and immigration policies under EU competence and drafting binding instruments in those areas. This includes 'codification' of earlier Resolutions and Joint Positions as European law.

Source: Refugees Magazine issue 113 (1999)