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Report on International Protection (submitted by the High Commissioner)

Executive Committee Meetings

Report on International Protection (submitted by the High Commissioner)

20 September 1976


Twenty-seventh session


(submitted by the High Commissioner)


1. The new problems of refugees which emerged in recent years throughout many parts of the world have called for a considerable increase in the protection activities of UNHCR. The growing importance of the protection function of the Office has been recognized by the General Assembly in recent resolutions concerning the UNHCR Annual Report and also by the Executive Committee which is devoting more and more attention to this aspect of UNHCR's activities. While progress continues to be achieved in promoting improvements in the legal status of refugees, the work of protection in today's world is becoming increasingly complex and difficult. The interest and support which the Executive Committee has shown for this activity has been a source of encouragement to the High Commissioner, who welcomes the proposed establishment at the twenty-seventh session of the Executive Committee of a Sub-Committee of the Whole on International Protection to study protection in more detail.

2. The present Report on International Protection deals with a number of key issues on which the Committee's advice would be valued. These issues include a general topic: international legal instruments; the vital problem of asylum and the important related question of eligibility determination; a question which is directly linked to the integration of refugees: access to employment; a major social question: family reunion; and, last but not least, the problem of naturalization which provides an opportunity for refugees to cease being refugees.

International legal instruments concerning refugees

3. In spite of the sustained efforts made by the Office to promote further accessions to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, slow progress continued to be made in this respect during the period under review. As will be seen from Annex I to this Report, there have been, since the Committee's twenty-sixth session, two new accessions to the Convention (Guinea-Bissau and Iran) and three new accessions to the Protocol (Guinea-Bissau, Iran and Portugal). It may be recalled that the significance attached to further accessions was highlighted in the conclusions on international protection which the Committee adopted at its twenty-sixth session and, subsequently, in Resolution 3454 (XXX) adopted by the General Assembly on the annual Report of UNHCR in December 1975.

4. In view of the universal character of the refugee problem, it would seem fitting for all States members of the United Nations and specialized agencies to accede in due course to the Convention and Protocol. Such action is urgent both for the well-being of refugees and for the day-to-day work of the Office, on the part of governments of countries which have received large numbers of refugees in their territory or were recently confronted with refugee problems for the first time, and which are not yet parties to these instruments. Furthermore, as refugees are apt to move rapidly from one country to another, and sometimes even from one continent to another, widespread accession has become all the more important.

5. Accession to the Convention and Protocol also offer advantages for the parties to them. For they are thereby more closely associated with the humanitarian activities of the United Nations and are in a better position to deal with refugees on their territory, and to benefit from provisions of the Convention such as those in Article 2, which provides inter alia that every refugee should conform to the laws and regulations of the country in which he finds himself.

6. During the period under review some progress was achieved in gathering further information in respect of the implementation of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol, a task performed by the High Commissioner in accordance with Articles 35 and 36 of the Convention and Articles I and II of the Protocol. Replies to the questionnaire addressed to States parties to these instruments in order to obtain detailed information on the implementation of the Convention, and laws, regulations and decrees relating to refugees, have so far been received from 40 States. Supplementary clarifications have been requested in a number of cases, where the information provided was inadequate. It is noteworthy, however, that the majority of the main countries of reception of refugees which are parties to the Convention and/or Protocol should by now have replied to the questionnaire. It is also interesting to note from the reports received to date that only in a limited number of instances is there a clear lack of conformity between the legal measures adopted at the national level and the requirements of the Convention and Protocol.

7. In evaluating the degree of conformity of national measures with the standards laid down in international instruments, it is perhaps appropriate to express a word of caution. In some cases, conformity exists in so far as the general legislation of the country permits the application of the provisions of the Convention and Protocol, although no specific measures have been adopted to give effect to those provisions. Furthermore, the practical effect of legislation in respect of refugees more often than not depends on administrative practice. It is therefore necessary for the High Commissioner to go one step further and seek additional information in respect of the administrative practice adopted to give effect to the legislation concerned. This is being done as a matter of current practice and the High Commissioner hopes to be able to report more fully on the matter in due course.

8. A mention should also be made of two important factors with regard to the implementation of the 1951 Convention: the geographical limitation provided for in Article 1B(1) and the reservations provided for in Article 42 in respect of certain articles. Over the years, the geographical limitation has been waived by a number of countries, the latest to date being Portugal, while some parties have also waived some, or all, of their reservations.1 There are, however, still many countries which are confronted with problems of non-European refugees on their territory and which still apply the afore-mentioned geographical limitation so that the 1951 Convention is not applicable to the refugees concerned.

9. With the spreading of refugee problems throughout the world, the regional legal instruments affecting their status are also gaining in significance.

10. One of the most important of these instruments is the OAU Convention of 1969 Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, which entered into force in June 1974. With the recent accessions of Burundi and Ghana, the number of parties to this instrument has now reached 18. It includes 15 States which are also parties to the 1951 Convention and 14 to the 1967 Protocol. Since the majority of refugees who are the concern of UNHCR are spread over the African continent, it is to be hoped that many more African countries, especially those which are confronted with refugee problems on their territory, will accede to the OAU Convention. This instrument not only constitutes an invaluable regional complement to the 1951 Convention but also goes beyond it in that it contains positive provisions concerning the granting of asylum and provides, inter alia, that no persons should be, subjected by a member State to measures such as rejection at the frontier which would compel him to return to, or remain in, a territory where his life, physical integrity or liberty would be threatened. It is of course essential from the point of view of human rights of refugees that this particular clause should be scrupulously observed.

11. The increased scope of problems of refugees in Latin America has given added significance to a number of legal instruments adopted, in the frame of, inter-American co-operation. These include, in particular, the Caracas Convention of 1954 an Territorial Asylum and the American Convention on Human Rights of 19692 which contain clauses on asylum and non-refoulement which are particularly favourable to refugees. Here, as elsewhere, it is of course essential that the letter and spirit of the provisions be fully observed in their day-to-day application - which unfortunately is far from being the case in some countries.

12. In the European context, special attention has been given by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to the problems arising when refugees move from one member State of the Council of Europe to take up residence in another. A number of bilateral agreements have already been concluded on the subject, but differ in substance and are applied between certain member States only. The Parliamentary Assembly has therefore recommended to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe3 that a multilateral agreement be prepared concerning the transfer of responsibility for refugees who move legally from one member State of the Council of Europe to take up residence in another.

Basic rights of refugees with special reference to asylum and non-refoulement

13. The High Commissioner brought to the attention of the Committee at its twenty-sixth session the increasing number of flagrant violations of the basic rights of refugees, including the principles of asylum and non-refoulement, and stressed that these violations had in some cases affected sizable groups of persons and had had dramatic repercussions on the refugees and their families. The Committee accordingly endorsed the proposal that:4

"An appeal be made urging States Members of the United Nations and non-member States to conform fully with the humanitarian principles governing the protection of refugees and, in particular, to abide by the provisions of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and of its 1967 Protocol and scrupulously to observe the principle whereby no refugee should be forcibly returned to a country where he fears persecution."

This appeal was brought to the attention of the General Assembly at its thirtieth session in the High Commissioner's statement to the Third Committee. The Assembly's concern regarding the need to protect the basic rights of refugees is reflected in the preamble to its Resolution 3454 (XXX) (paragraph 4). The appeal was further publicized through UNHCR's public information network, by means of the Tabloid, a publication which is distributed to all governments members of the United Nations and specialized agencies. The High Commissioner renewed the appeal in his annual report submitted to the Economic and Social Council at its sixty-first session, which will be considered by the General Assembly at its thirty-first session.

14. The response so far has fallen below expectations. While it is true that in the period under review a number of countries have admitted large numbers of new refugees, there have unfortunately been recurrences, on an increased scale, of forcible repatriation of group and individual refugees, while in other cases asylum seekers fleeing their homeland have been rejected at the frontier of the country where they were in quest of refuge, without being given the opportunity of explaining their case. Furthermore, in one country in Latin America a number of refugees are known to have been abducted and subsequently tortured and killed. In one country in Africa, a group of persons who fled their country, because they ware deprived of the right to practise their religion, were forcibly returned. In Mozambique, a refugee camp was attacked by military forces from the country of origin of the refugees concerned and, as a result, hundreds of men, women and children are known to have been wounded or to have lost their lives. In South-East Asia, several hundreds of persons, having fled their homeland in boats, were in some cases granted asylum at the next port of call but in others were refused admission and had to continue their journey at the risk of their lives until granted at least temporary admission to another country.

15. In all the above instances, the High Commissioner has made immediate representations to the authorities concerned, either directly or through his Representatives, or by approaching the Permanent Mission of the government concerned. These interventions also include appeal letters with a view to securing admission for asylum seekers. In some cases they were successful, in others the information reached the Office after the event, when it was too late to save the lives of the refugees concerned. The above developments go to show that what is involved, beyond the scrupulous observance of the rights of refugees, is the more general question of the adherence to the rule of law.

Elaboration of a Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum

16. The vital importance of the question of asylum has been brought to the attention of the Assembly since the inception of United Nations activities on behalf of refugees. Its key role in respect of the fate of refugees has been stressed many times, and the Assembly itself showed its deep awareness of the significance of this subject when it adopted Article 14 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently the United Nations Declaration on Territorial Asylum. In furtherance of the promotional functions of the High Commissioner in this regard, as laid down in his Statute, the possibility of developing and strengthening the law on Territorial Asylum by the adoption of a Convention on the subject has been actively considered by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme and the General Assembly, beginning with the twenty-third session of the former and the twenty-seventh session of the latter.

17. The question of the elaboration of a draft convention on Territorial Asylum was again considered by the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme which met in Geneva from 6 to 14 October 1975. At the end of its consideration of the question it adopted the conclusion, inter alia, that the Conference of Plenipotentiaries should be convened, as envisaged, to consider the draft Convention on Territorial Asylum, and recommended that the cost involved in this Conference be borne from the regular budget of the United Nations. It also recommended that these views of the Committee be conveyed to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

18. At its thirtieth session the General Assembly again considered the question of the elaboration of a draft Convention on Territorial Asylum. Having noted the views of the Executive Committee on this question, indicated above, by Resolution 3456 (XXX) of 9 December 1975, the Assembly requested the Secretary-General in consultation with the High Commissioner to convene a Conference of Plenipotentiaries from 10 January to 4 February 1977 to consider and adopt a Convention on Territorial Asylum. The Secretary-General has accordingly sent to Member States the Report of the Group of Experts under cover of a Note Verbal dated 6 February 1976 inviting written observations and comments that Member States may wish to make on the Report to be submitted to him before 31 July 1976.

19. In recent years the High Commissioner has constantly drawn the attention of the Executive Committee to increasing and flagrant violations of the rights of refugees, leading to abductions, torture and death. At the same time, growing dimensions of this problem in Latin America and in Africa and Asia have begun to highlight asylum and resettlement as growing needs and major daily preoccupations of the Office. In regard to the so-called right of asylum, its relationship to the individual remains to be more clearly defined. In the experience of the Office, many asylum seekers have suffered because they have not been able to state their case adequately before being returned to their country of origin, while in some cases they have not been able to regularize their status and have been subjected to punitive measures. Nor have they been able to seek resettlement elsewhere in such cases.

20. The question of developing the law on asylum so that it adequately responds to our needs in the present context therefore ceases to be purely academic and assumes an urgent character in an area where the difficulties are largely political and progress is extremely difficult. It is these intrinsic factors which nevertheless make the holding of a Conference of Plenipotentiaries an Territorial Asylum and the adoption of a forward-looking and liberal Convention on the subject an important promotional move in the long-term task of influencing hardened and traditional attitudes on related questions.

21. Within the framework of the considerations outlined in the preceding paragraph it is pointed out that, at the request of UNHCR, the 17th session of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee meeting in Kuala Lumpur from 28 June to 5 July 1976 considered the question of the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum. UNHCR was represented by a senior official from Headquarters and the Representative of the High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur. At the end of its deliberations the following recommendations were adopted.

"The Committee

1. Notes that the effort toward the eventual adoption of a Convention on Territorial Asylum constitutes a positive development and an important step forward in the consolidation of humanitarian law relating to territorial asylum.

2. Recommends that all member governments consider favourably their active participation in this Conference in order to ensure the widest possible presence during deliberations on the proposed Convention on Territorial Asylum.

3. Commends the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for his efforts to promote international humanitarian law in the field of territorial asylum."

22. The question of the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum was also considered at the 27th Ordinary Session of the Council of Ministers of the Organization for African Unity which met in Port Louis, Mauritius, from 24 June to 5 July 1976. The resolution on refugee questions adopted by the Council of Ministers upon the recommendation of the Political Committee, inter alia, draws the attention of Member States of the OAU to the United Nations Conference of Plenipotentiaries to be held from 10 January to 4 February 1977 on the elaboration of a Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum and urges them to participate actively in the Conference.

23. The subject of the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum has also been considered by non-governmental bodies. The Nansen Symposium, which met in Geneva from 27 June to 30 June 1976, set itself the task of attempting to clarify the basic concepts, above all the meaning of asylum in the context of the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum. The organizers of the Symposium had taken the view that a number of questions affecting asylum were still unresolved and that scholars and administrators meeting privately in their personal capacities might contribute towards the clarification of the issues.

24. The Geneva Special Committee on Human Rights of International Non-Governmental Organizations has appointed a Working Group to study the Draft Convention and to prepare a memorandum for submission to governments before the Conference. It is expected that the memorandum will follow the pattern of a similar move made by the NGOs participating in the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law applicable in Armed Conflicts. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has been represented at the meetings of Non-Governmental Organizations called for this purpose.

25. The subject of the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum has also been discussed at the Round Table on Current Problems of International Humanitarian Law organized by the international institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo from 31 August to 5 September 1976.

26. It is the hope of the High Commissioner that the interest and deep-rooted moral forces at work, reflected in various efforts of both intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations relating to the Draft Convention, will result in an advance of the law on territorial asylum, by paving the way for such a development at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries.

Determination of refugee status

27. It is essential for any new asylum seeker to obtain rapid recognition by the authorities concerned of his refugee status, since the granting of permanent asylum normally depends upon this prerequisite. The criteria applied for official recognition are usually those contained in Article 1A of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and in Article I of the 1967 Protocol. By the very nature of his exceptional situation, the asylum seeker has to overcome major problems linked to his sudden flight to new and unfamiliar surroundings - which make it essential for his application to be examined swiftly and in full knowledge of the facts by qualified personnel, within the framework of special procedures which provide the asylum seeker with adequate legal guarantees and, in case of refusal, a possibility of appeal.

28. UNHCR's efforts over the years to promote the establishment of special eligibility procedures have met, on the whole, with encouraging results. Formal procedures now exist in 16 countries5 and generally provide, to a varying degree, for UNHCR's participation or consultation at some stage of the examination of applications. The latest country to have established an eligibility procedure was the People's Republic of Benin, under a decree and ordinance of 16 July 1975, while in Gabon similar arrangements are now under discussion. In Ethiopia, the eligibility of a new group of refugees has been determined by a mission specially sent from UNHCR Headquarters. In several other countries in Africa and Latin America, where no specific mechanism exists, eligibility is determined by the UNHCR Representative or by ad hoc commissions set up for this purpose, whose decisions are accepted in practice by the authorities. In Argentina, which has faced large-scale refugee problems since the events in Chile in 1973, eligibility commissions now function in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Doubtful cases are referred to the UNHCR Regional Office. In Peru the Oecumenical Commission of Social Assistance has been entrusted with eligibility determination, while in Ecuador a similar arrangement has been made. Arrangements in a few other countries are also under consideration.

29. In view, however, of the wide variety of procedures applied from country to country in respect of the determination of refugee status, much still remains to be done in order to achieve some degree of uniformity of the criteria used, in the interest both of refugees and of the States parties to the Convention. This problem was recently examined at a consultation on refugees and exiles in Europe, organized in January 1976 by the International University Exchange Fund, which resulted in a series of proposals aimed at harmonizing criteria for the recognition of refugee status in member States of the Council of Europe.

30. UNHCR has constantly sought to bring about a certain measure of uniformity in the elaboration of eligibility criteria with a view to ensuring that all applicants are treated according to the same standards. In order to facilitate the task of governments and of UNHCR itself in this complex field, the Committee may wish to consider, as a basis, the following general guidelines:

a) in any given country an inter-ministerial committee composed of all interested ministries could seen to be in the best position to decide on questions of eligibility;

(b) the applicant would be the best person to state his case before such an Eligibility Committee. The services of an interpreter should be available where necessary to help the applicant in his task;

(c) an appeal against a negative decision in the first instance to be made to a superior authority would allow for a considered decision;

(d) the applicant should always be given an opportunity to contact and/or consult the local representative of UNHCR,

(e) a Representative of the High Commissioner's Office should be consulted especially whenever a negative decision has been taken;

(f) recognized refugees should be documented accordingly, i.e. through identity cards to be issued as soon as possible and Convention Travel Documents should be available upon request for the purpose of travel outside the country of asylum.

31. In his efforts to bring about a larger measure of uniformity in the practice of eligibility determination, the High Commissioner relies on the co-operation of States parties to the Convention and maintains continuous contacts with the competent authorities of the countries concerned. By making available the expertise of the Office, especially to States which have recently acceded to the Convention and Protocol, UNHCR seeks to help the national authorities in their task of making eligibility decisions - a task which by its very nature calls for the greatest care. The sharing of information concerning practice and jurisprudence in various countries is thus helpful, and this practice will be intensified. National authorities have expressed the wish for regular consultations on eligibility matters at Headquarters level and these discussions have, over recent years, appeared to be most fruitful. This practice will be strengthened. At the same time, UNHCR Representatives are being kept closely informed of developments in this field. It is furthermore intended to reinforce co-operation and communications between UNHCR Headquarters and field offices as well as government officials by holding meetings or seminars on eligibility problems.

Access to wage-earning employment

32. In view of the trend towards higher rates of unemployment in many countries in 1975, renewed and intensified efforts were made by UNHCR throughout the year to promote effective application of Article 17 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which concerns access to wage-earning employment.

33. In Europe it would appear that the recession had not, in general, resulted in the application of more restrictive practices with regard to the employment of refugees. In some cases, refugees have received the same treatment as nationals of their country of residence, or that of nationals of other members of the European Communities, while in others they have been treated as aliens from non-Community countries, though benefiting from a number of exemptions or dispensations in view of their special status. In Denmark and Norway, for example, refugees are assisted in their quest for employment by the Danish and Norwegian Refugee Councils. In Belgium and Francs, several special measures are applied to encourage and protect the employment of refugees.

34. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the authorities are agreed to allow asylum seekers to take up employment while awaiting an eligibility decision, should a suitable vacancy be available at their place of residence. An asylum seeker who has not found employment will, in any event, receive public welfare assistance in the form of a daily allowance and payment of accommodation. Another welcome development has been the withdrawal by the Government of Austria of its reservation in respect of Article 17, paragraph 2a, of the 1951 Convention, which provides that after three years' residence a refugee shall not be subject to restrictive measures as might be applied to aliens or the employment of aliens.

35. In African countries, where the vast majority of refugees are of rural background, the principal form of employment is in agricultural activity, whether through spontaneous settlement among the local population or in the organized rural settlements established under the UNHCR programme. Refugees who settle spontaneously in rural areas may experience difficulty in gaining secure access to adequate land or employment, especially where the population is already dense. Refugees in the organized settlements have access to land without payment but are sometimes subject to varying degrees of restriction on their freedom of movement in search of other employment. Some of these problems are shared with nationals of the countries concerned, whose difficulties may be aggravated by a refugee influx. In urban areas, employment opportunities are scarce and some governments restrict the access of refugees to urban work. Since it is anticipated that in the years ahead a growing number of refugees will be qualified for and will seek urban employment, it will become increasingly important that Governments apply the provisions of the 1951 Convention which relate to access to employment in the most liberal sense.

36. In Latin America, European refugees, usually admitted as immigrants, as well as other refugees who have been resident for a number of years, are entitled to take up wage-earning employment and self-employment. Refugees from Latin American countries should have the right to permanent residence known as "raticación", which grants the same treatment as nationals in respect of gainful employment. However, persons benefiting only from temporary asylum, such as the refugees from Chile in Peru and part of those in Argentina who have not received permanent residence permits, do not have access to employment. In Asia, it is more difficult to give a general picture of the situation. However, it may be said that in those countries where uprooted persons have been admitted for permanent residence they have access to wage-earning employment, while this is generally not the case when the persons concerned have been admitted on a temporary basis.

Family Reunion

37. The promotion of the reunion of separated members of refugee families has formed part of UNHCR's activities since the early days of its existence, both in view of the humanitarian and social nature of the problem and of the recommendation on the subject contained in the Final Act of the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Status of Refugees which adopted the 1951 Convention. In Recommendation B of the Final Act, the Conference called upon Governments to take the necessary measure for the protection of the refugees' families, especially with a view to:

(a) ensuring that the unity of the refugee's family is maintained, particularly where the head of the family has fulfilled the necessary conditions for admission to a particular country; and

(b) to protect refugees who are minors, in particular unaccompanied children and girls, with special reference to guardianship and adoption.

38. In carrying out its task in this field UNHCR has been called on to deal with two distinct problems: firstly the problem of relatives seeking authorization to leave their country of origin with a view to being reunited with a refugee who has already left himself and, secondly, the problem of speedy admission of a refugee's relatives by the country of immigration to which the head of the family has already been admitted for resettlement purposes.

39. As for the first problem, UNHCR has made every effort to establish a working procedure whereby detailed notes on each individual case are prepared with a view to an intervention with the Government concerned, either by way of a Note Verbale forwarding the summary of the individual file or, when the cases present exceptional difficulties, through a visit to the capital or to the Permanent Mission of the Government concerned in Geneva. As a result, 26 out of 50 cases submitted in this manner to one State have been successfully concluded. The same procedure has also been applied to several other States. There is a constant follow-up on all pending cases, and in the framework of the survey of problems of individual cases which was commenced in 1974 further developments are kept under constant and close scrutiny.

40. Special mention should be made, in respect of more general developments in 1975, of the intention expressed by the States participating in the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, to deal in a positive and humanitarian spirit with requests for family reunion, and to give special attention to requests of an urgent nature such as those submitted by old and sick persons.

41. With regard to the second problem concerning family reunion of refugee immigrants, thousands of cases have been successfully dealt with since the inception of UNHCR. To quote a recent example, during the past two years, arrangements were made by this Office to help some 3,700 persons in Latin America to join relatives who had already been resettled in other countries as refugees. This task is also being currently pursued.

Acquisition by refugees of the nationality of their country of residence

42. Early recognition by the General Assembly of the importance of naturalization is reflected in preambular paragraph 2(e) of Resolution 428 (V) of 14 December 1950 which calls upon governments to co-operate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the performance of his functions concerning refugees falling under the competence of his Office, especially by, inter alia, promoting the assimilation of refugees by facilitating their naturalization.

43. Naturalization is specifically provided for in Article 34 of the 1951 Convention, which states that:

"The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees. They shall in particular make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings and to reduce as far as possible the charges and costs of such proceedings."

The Executive Committee at its twenty-first session held in 1970 supported the view that refugees, particularly in countries where they have resided for a long period of time, should be given appropriate facilities for the acquisition of the nationality of that country and should be provided with the necessary information on the regulations and procedures in force.

44. The High Commissioner has continued to promote naturalization accordingly. In the main, his efforts have been directed to encouraging the adoption by national authorities of legal or liberal administrative measures for the benefit of refugees by which:

(a) they are enabled to qualify for naturalization earlier than aliens generally;

(b) they are not required to furnish proof of release from or loss of their former nationality;

(c) the fees normally payable for naturalization proceedings are reduced or waived.

Thought is also being given to ways and means through which information on the required legal and administrative measures could be brought to the attention of refugees with the assistance of representatives of the High Commissioner and voluntary agencies.

45. Naturalization practice depends on so many factors that it is bound to vary considerably from one country to another. In most immigration countries where the great majority of refugees are usually admitted as immigrants after they have been found to meet the admission criteria, they are granted the same facilities for immigration as any other immigrants and may, therefore, become nationals of the country concerned in a relatively short span of time and without undue procedural problems. In other countries which, through the hazard of their geographical location, have been called upon to grant asylum to large numbers of refugees over the years, the acquisition of nationality may take a little longer and be a little more complex. Even so, however, progress continues to be made in facilitating naturalization procedures in the countries concerned.

46. To quote a few recent examples in Europe: In Austria, nationality may be granted to refugees after four years' residence instead of ten. In Belgium, the "Grande Naturalisation" (naturalization with political rights) may be obtained after five years' residence instead of ten for ordinary aliens. In Luxembourg, a new nationality law was adopted in 1975 whereby the qualifying period of residence for refugees and stateless persons was reduced from ten to five years. In the Netherlands. refugees may apply for naturalization after four years' residence and are granted naturalization after five years' residence. Although seven years' residence is normally required in Sweden, refugees may apply after five years. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the period of residence is reduced from ten to five years for refugees who marry German citizens. In Italy, in similar circumstances, the period of residence is reduced from five years to two.

47. In a number of countries which have admitted large numbers of refugees in Africa, naturalization has also been considerably facilitated in recent years. Thus in Zaire, the naturalization of Rwandese and Burundi refugees has been considerably facilitated in a law of January 1972. In Burundi, refugees qualify for naturalization after a residence period of eight years instead of twelve. In Senegal, any alien or refugee marrying a Senegalese qualifies for naturalization after five years of residence instead of ten. In Asia there are encouraging signs that at least one substantial group of persons of Indo-Chinese origin will be naturalized in the not too distant future in their country of resettlement.

48. In a more general context, it may be recalled that the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, signed on 30 August 1961, entered into force in December 1975. This Convention provides for the acquisition by operation of law of the nationality of the Contracting State by children born of stateless parents in its territory, and will thus contribute towards eliminating the perpetuation of refugee status. It is hoped that further States will accede to this Convention, particularly those where nationality is based on jus sanguinis and where implementation of the provisions of this Convention will effectively contribute to the local integration of refugee children. At present Australia, Austria, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom are parties to this instrument.

49. While the above developments augur well for the future, it is essential, also in view of the considerable influx of new refugees, that wherever voluntary repatriation is not practicable the rate of naturalization should be further accelerated. This depends to a large extent on the goodwill of governments and on the aptitude of refugees to assimilate in new national communities. Since the initiative for the acquisition of a new nationality necessarily rests with the refugees themselves, it is of course also important that they should be aware of existing facilities in their country of admission.

Registration of assets of Asians of undetermined nationality from Uganda

50. The Assets Records Unit for Asians of undetermined nationality from Uganda, which is responsible for registering claims for the assets of these persons with the Ugandan Government, has now been in operation for about twenty months.

51. As at 1 September 1976, 2,163 sets of registration forms had been sent out and 1,117 had been returned to the Unit after completion. A total of 773 forms have been transmitted to the Ugandan authorities while 344 forms had to be returned to the claimants for incorrect completion or because the persons applying did not qualify for registration with the Unit, i.e. they were either British subjects or nationals of some other country.

52. At the end of May 1976, discussions took place between UNHCR and the Ugandan authorities on some of the basic issues involved when a deadline of 31 March 1977 was set by the Ugandan authorities by which time all the registration forms should reach Uganda.

53. UNHCR has taken steps to inform claimants in different countries, through its Branch Offices, of the deadline for submission of claims and that registration forms are obtainable from UNHCR. In the United Kingdom this was done by the High Commissioner during a meeting with some of the leaders of this group in London and further endeavours were made to inform people through the vernacular press and television. The group of Asians from Uganda in the United Kingdom have responded well to this campaign and it is hoped to carry out a similar campaign in other countries where these persons have resettled in substantial numbers.


54. The aspects of the protection activities of UNHCR described above constitute only a sample of the wide spectrum of tasks incumbent on the Office in this field. However, two broad conclusions come to mind: firstly the limited, but even so, constant progress achieved in respect of accessions to international legal instruments and of the adoption of legislation for the benefit of refugees; secondly, the considerable disparity often found between the commitments accepted by States in acceding to legal instruments and the day-to-day practice especially as it is applied to individual cases.

55. As the High Commissioner reported to the Committee at its twenty-sixth session in his Note on International Protection, and to the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly in his annual report, the problems of individual cases are steadily increasing, partly as a consequence of the overall increase in refugees coming within the competence of the Office, and partly a tendency for refugees to move from rural settlements to urban areas. It is very often through their problems that requirements in respect of protection are brought to light and the extent to which their problems can be solved may often be regarded as a yardstick for the success of the work of protection.

56. It is clear from the numerous resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on the subject of protection that, in ensuring its effective implementation and carrying out the task entrusted to him by the General Assembly, the High Commissioner must be able to rely fully on the active co-operation of members of the community of nations. To enable him to fulfil this responsibility he needs, in fact, the full support of all States.

57. From a practical point of view, closer association and co-operation between the competent national authorities and UNHCR is essential to facilitate full understanding of the legal and human problems involved in protection. With this consideration in mind the steps are being taken further to expand this co-operation.

1 An up-to-date list of states parties to the Convention and Protocol with an indication of reservations is available upon request.

2 Not yet in force.

3 Recommendation 775 (1976).

4 A/10012 Addendum 1, para. 69(b)

5 Algeria, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Botswana, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Netherlands, Senegal, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Zambia