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Refugees Without an Asylum Country

Executive Committee Meetings

Refugees Without an Asylum Country
No. 15 (XXX) - 1979

16 October 1979
Executive Committee 30th session. Contained in United Nations General Assembly Document No. 12A (A/34/12/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,

Considered that States should be guided by the following considerations:

General principles

(a) States should use their best endeavours to grant asylum to bona fide asylum-seekers;

(b) Action whereby a refugee is obliged to return or is sent to a country where he has reason to fear persecution constitutes a grave violation of the recognized principle of non-refoulement;

(c) It is the humanitarian obligation of all coastal States to allow vessels in distress to seek haven in their waters and to grant asylum, or at least temporary refuge, to persons on board wishing to seek asylum;

(d) Decisions by States with regard to the granting of asylum shall be made without discrimination as to race, religion, political opinion, nationality or country of origin;

(e) In the interest of family reunification and for humanitarian reasons, States should facilitate the admission to their territory of at least the spouse and minor or dependent children of any person to whom temporary refuge or durable asylum has been granted;

Situations involving a large-scale influx of asylum-seekers

(f) In cases of large-scale influx, persons seeking asylum should always receive at least temporary refuge. States which because of their geographical situation, or otherwise, are faced with a large-scale influx should as necessary and at the request of the State concerned receive immediate assistance from other States in accordance with the principle of equitable burden-sharing. Such States should consult with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as soon as possible to ensure that the persons involved are fully protected, are given emergency assistance, and that durable solutions are sought;

(g) Other States should take appropriate measures individually, jointly or through the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or other international bodies to ensure that the burden of the first asylum country is equitably shared;

Situations involving individual asylum-seekers

(h) An effort should be made to resolve the problem of identifying the country responsible for examining an asylum request by the adoption of common criteria. In elaborating such criteria the following principles should be observed:

(i) The criteria should make it possible to identify in a positive manner the country which is responsible for examining an asylum request and to whose authorities the asylum-seeker should have the possibility of addressing himself;

(ii) The criteria should be of such a character as to avoid possible disagreement between States as to which of them should be responsible for examining an asylum request and should take into account the duration and nature of any sojourn of the asylum-seeker in other countries;

(iii) The intentions of the asylum-seeker as regards the country in which he wishes to request asylum should as far as possible be taken into account;

(iv) Regard should be had to the concept that asylum should not be refused solely on the ground that it could be sought from another State. Where, however, it appears that a person, before requesting asylum, already has a connection or close links with another State, he may if it appears fair and reasonable be called upon first to request asylum from that State;

(v) Reestablishment of criteria should be accompanied by arrangements for regular consultation between concerned Governments for dealing with cases for which no solution has been found and for consultation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as appropriate;

(vi) Agreements providing for the return by States of persons who have entered their territory from another contracting State in an unlawful manner should be applied in respect of asylum-seekers with due regard to their special situation.

(i) While asylum-seekers may be required to submit their asylum request within a certain time limit, failure to do so, or the non-fulfilment of other formal requirements, should not lead to an asylum request being excluded from consideration;

(j) In line with the recommendation adopted by the Executive Committee at its twenty-eighth session (document A/AC.96/549, paragraph 53(6), (E) (i)), where an asylum-seeker addresses himself in the first instance to a frontier authority the latter should not reject his application without reference to a central authority;

(k) Where a refugee who has already been granted asylum in one country requests asylum in another country on the ground that he has compelling reasons for leaving his present asylum country due to fear of persecution or because his physical safety or freedom are endangered, the authorities of the second country should give favourable consideration to his asylum request;

(l) States should give favourable consideration to accepting, at the request of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a limited number of refugees who cannot find asylum in any country;

(m) States should pay particular attention to the need for avoiding situations in which a refugee loses his right to reside in or to return to his country of asylum without having acquired the possibility of taking up residence in a country other than one where he may have reasons to fear persecution;

(n) In line with the purpose of paragraphs 6 and 11 of the Schedule to the 1951 Convention, States should continue to extend the validity of or to renew refugee travel documents until the refugee has taken up lawful residence in the territory of another State. A similar practice should as far as possible also be applied in respect of refugees holding a travel document other than that provided for in the 1951 Convention.