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rev_bri / Flickr

In 1951 after dealing with the horrors of WWII in Europe and the thousands of displaced persons, the free world in cooperation with the United Nations sought to protect refugees through a multi-lateral international treaty. It was called The Refugee Convention and spelled out the protections of all refugees and asylum seekers regardless of place of origin or their story.

The United States was not a signatory of the 1951 agreement. The document continued to evolve, giving a more comprehensive understanding of what a refugee is and expanding those protections first offered only to Europeans to all citizens of the world. The completed document was called the 1967 Protocol. In 1968 the expanded Refugee Convention was ratified and signed by the United States along with 144 other nations. The Convention is not a self executing treaty which means each signatory was required to pass appropriate laws for compliance. The United States codified the 1967 Protocol Articles 1-34 into our domestic laws by updating existing statutes or passing new ones.

For 50 years the Protocol has governed the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by every President until Donald Trump.

Article 1 defines refugee in a basic way

A person 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 or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

Article 31 is quite long and I encourage you to read it. While it says refugee the rules also cover asylum seekers and covers who qualifies and their basic treatment. The only real dis-qualifier is being guilty of a serious crime or being engaged in nefarious acts.

Article 33 covers asylum seekers and again is quite detailed not only concerning the rights of the refugee/asylum seekers and how they are to be handled.

The main dos and don’ts outlining the responsibility fo the signatories regarding asylum seekers referred to as Aliens.

  • Aliens only have to be on US soil, they are not required to come thru a port of entry.
  • Aliens cannot be charged with the crime of illegal entry.
  • Aliens have one year to apply for asylum
  • Aliens must provide proof of substantial danger requiring asylum
  • Family units must be kept together and adjudicated as a single application
  • Aliens must be granted access to legal counsel and the courts
  • Aliens may be finger printed and photographed for identification
  • Aliens have the right to appeal court decisions within 30 days
  • If asylum denied the alien can not be returned to country they fled a neutral safe third country must be found.
  •  The asylum process should take no more than 180 days after alien is positively identified and the filing for asylum
  • There can be no bias in determining asylum Any laws passed regarding refugees and asylum seekers must be in compliance with this agreement.
  • Aliens religious beliefs must be honored items like rosaries   can not be confiscated.

Violations constitute human rights violations at a minimum.  Separating parents and children is considered terrorism, add to it kidnapping, discrimination based on ethnicity and illegal imprisonment constitute a crime against humanity.

We don’t need a new law to fix this particular problem we need to enforce this long standing treaty. We need to share this information with everyone we know, write LTE, contact our Congress people. While everyone is busy wringing their hands and running around in circles not a single person has mentioned even in passing every thing Trump is doing and has done is against long standing international law. Not a single person has mentioned the Protocol or the Refugee Convention. We are a nation of laws which does it no good if we are ignorant of those laws and our leaders ignore them.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


  1. You should forward this information to the major news outlets. I guess that most oeople are not aware of this treaty that was signed onto this agreement and that we are suppose to have had laws put in place to comply with this treaty. They need to be made aware of how this treaty is being violated with what is happening right now.


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