How can international law protect both international security and the human rights of displaced people? Existing international law protects only displaced refugees: those who flee persecution on the basis of religion, race, nationality, or political opinion. This article argues that a new Displaced Persons Convention must be created to protect the human rights of the world’s other 35 million victims of civil conflict and climate change who do not meet this narrow definition. International Refugee Law must be preserved as it is because it enshrines critical protections for minority rights that must not be diluted. However, an additional instrument of international law is necessary to resolve an issue that is at once one of the greatest human rights issues of our time and a threat to international peace and security. To support this argument, this article presents a comprehensive history of refugees in international law, combining primary sources and original interview data to trace how states have agreed for centuries that refugee law should protect minority rights, even as shifting state interests have changed refugee protection over time. This article refutes other scholarly proposals and UN practices that expand the category of “refugee.” It also contributes to growing scholarly interest in the history of human rights law by arguing that refugee law predates the modern human rights regime, challenges its foundations, and extends its claims to universality.
About the Migration Network Hub
What is the Migration Network Hub?
The Hub is a virtual “meeting space” where governments, stakeholders and experts can access and share migration-related information and services. It provides curated content, analysis and information on a variety of topics.
The Hub aims to support UN Member States in the implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact for Migration by serving as a repository of existing evidence, practices and initiatives, and facilitating access to knowledge sharing via online discussions, an expert database and demand-driven, tailor-made solutions (launching in 2021).
What content is displayed in the Hub?
The Hub aims to help you find information on migration, ranging from policy briefs and journal articles, existing portals and platforms and what they offer, to infographics and videos. The different types of resources submitted by users undergo peer review by a panel of experts from within the UN and beyond, before being approved for inclusion in the Hub. To provide guidance to users based on findings of the needs assessment, the content is ordered so that more comprehensive and global resources are shown before more specific and regional ones. Know a great resource? Please submit using the links above and your suggestion will be reviewed. Please see the draft criteria for existing practices here.
Apply to join the Peer Review Roster
Content submitted to the Migration Network Hub is first peer reviewed by experts in the field from both the UN and beyond. Applications are welcomed to join the roster on an ongoing basis. Learn more here.
We welcome your feedback and suggestions, please contact us