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The United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol defines a refugee as someone who, ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country’. The definition of a refugee was expanded by regional conventions in Africa and Latin America to include persons who had fled war or other violence in their home country. It is important to note that article 33 of the Convention provides for the principle of non-refoulement which means that no contracting state shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to territories where his or her life or freedom would be threatened. Those who seek refugee status are referred to as "asylum seekers". The conditions under which a person is granted refugee status is left to the discretion of States. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner  for Refugees (UNHCR) is the principal UN organ that protects and supports refugees. Over time, UNHCR's mandate has been expanded to cover other persons of concern, including some internally displaced persons.  The UNHCR assists refugees in their resettlement or return and finds other solutions to their plight. On an international level, debates continue regarding the nature of the protection that refugees should be granted, the obligations of receiving countries and the role of the international community towards refugees.

This Research Guide is intended as a starting point for research on Refugees. It provides the basic legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Handbooks, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Selective Bibliography section. See the Librarians Choice for the latest important publications on refugees and internally displaced persons. Links to the PPL Catalogue are inserted. The Library's subject heading (keyword) Refugees is instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention in the Research Guide is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, this Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest.

Librarian’s choice
Bibliography manually

Sources of international law

Treaties

Case-law

UN Declarations and Resolutions

The resolutions and decisions of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council may provide valuable information on Refugees. Although they cannot themselves constitute international law or serve as conclusive evidence of a rule of customary law, such resolutions do have value in providing evidence of existing or emerging law. This point of view has been acknowledged by the International Law Commission.

As every Member State has been recognized and has a vote in the UN General Assembly, finding General Assembly resolutions that passed unanimously or near-unanimously may serve as an excellent starting point in the legal research process. Pay attention to the language of the resolution. Those with firm obligations versus those that are merely aspirational or advisory in nature are more likely to be considered valuable as evidence of customary international law.

 Official Document System Search. ODS is the UN's Official Document System. You can search for UN declarations, resolutions and other documents by keywords, then narrow your search.

 Start Your Research: (7) Resolutions and Decisions of International Organizations.

Soft law

Reference works

Selected books and articles

Periodicals, serial publications

Bibliographies

Readings University of Oslo, Refugee and Asylum Law, Spring 2015