Refugees from Eastern European countries pictured in a camp in Germany after WWII. When UNHCR was established in 1950, approximately 1.25 million refugees came under its jurisdiction. © UNHCR

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a vital international treaty. According to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, it is more urgent than ever to re-commit to and recover its core principles.

“The Convention continues to protect the rights of refugees around the world,” said Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“Thanks to the Convention, millions of human lives have been saved. Seventy years after its drafting, it is crucial that the international community stand up for its principles. “

The UNHCR chief said he was alarmed by recent attempts by some governments to ignore or circumvent the principles of the Convention, whether they involve deportations and returns of refugees and asylum seekers at borders land and sea, or proposals for forced transfer to third countries, while their asylum application is being processed, without sufficient guarantees of protection.

Speaking 70 years to the day after the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was presented to states for signature, Filippo Grandi said the treaty was an essential component of international human rights law and that ‘it remained just as relevant today as it was when it was drafted and adopted.

“The language of the Convention is clear on the rights of refugees and remains applicable in the current context of unprecedented challenges and emergencies – such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Filippo Grandi.

The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the more recent Global Compact on Refugees both call for international cooperation to find solutions for refugees.

Filippo Grandi stressed the need for the international community to respect the key principles of refugee protection as set out in the Convention, including the right of a person fleeing persecution not to be returned to a situation of danger.

The 70th anniversary of the Refugee Convention comes just months after UNHCR celebrated its seven decades of existence as a global organization mandated to protect uprooted people.

To learn more about the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, click here.

To view UNHCR’s archive of refugee-related multimedia content, click here (you may need to register to log in, which is free).

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