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70th Anniversary of the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951

Statement by

Coventry Asylum & Refugee Action group on the 70th Anniversary of the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951. Seventy years ago today, Britain was one of the founding drafters of the Refugee Convention.



The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are the key legal documents that form the basis of our work. With 149 State parties to either or both, they define the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of refugees, as well as the legal obligations of States to protect them.



Written into the Articles of the Convention and International Law was a promise to Humanity that wherever Despots reign through persecution and torture, our fellow Human beings were not restricted by borders to seek sanctuary. That they could flee and seek safety without prior authorisation because they were exercising their Right to Life and safety.


Millions of Jews died during the Holocaust because the world order as it was then required prior consent for Refugees to travel. The drafting of the Refugee Convention post the Holocaust & the 2nd World War was the World saying NEVER AGAIN.


Regrettably, on this 70th Anniversary, the UK Government is rowing back on this cardinal principle of International Law and flagrantly breaching its Treaty Obligations.


The proposals and measures that were introduced to Parliament by Priti Patel which criminalise those Refugees who reach British shores without pre-authorisation are the absolute antithesis of compassion and fairness which the convention envisaged.



So what is at stake with these incendiary proposals by the British Government is the internationally agreed definition of who a Refugee is, it is unconscionable that this country of Magna Carta and liberal Democracy would take these remarkable steps.


The proposals are Neo-colonial and potentially set in train a series of motions that will undermine international law and have a cumulative oppressive impact on refugees, in the process imposing a severe arbitrary penalty, leaving access to justice very difficult to obtain


So on this occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Refugee Convention, we implore the British Government to stop and reconsider the proposals in the Borders and Nationality Bill which are an affront to common decency!



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