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Evaluating the Current International Legal Framework Governing the Status of Refugees in Light of Contemporary Refugee Crises – Making the Case for Granting Refugee Status to Persons Fleeing Generalised Violence

Chow Zi En

(2018) 30 SAcLJ 28

Drafted 66 years ago, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (“Convention”) has been and remains the cornerstone of the international refugee law framework as it determines which individuals deserve refugee protection. Yet, in the past two decades, millions of asylum-seekers fleeing violence in various civil wars have arrived at the borders of states, seeking refugee protection, only to be turned away because they do not qualify as refugees. The fate of asylum-seekers fleeing from the conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Syria are salient instances of this unfortunate reality. Hence, it is pertinent to evaluate the relevance of the international refugee framework in light of modern-day refugee crises. Through examining the context in which the Convention was drafted, this article argues that the Convention continues to be hamstrung by obsolete considerations surrounding refugee crises, which in turn limit its present-day ability to cater to refugee outflows. It seeks to contribute to existing discourse on international refugee law by proposing an expanded definition of “refugees” to include those fleeing generalised violence as a remedy to the weaknesses of the Convention.