The Refugee and the World Community, by John G. Stoessinger
Events in Hungary and Egypt have once again made the refugee a central figure on the international stage. In the case of the Hungarian refugees, the Western states have insisted on their right to be resettled elsewhere, and have backed this up with offers of asylum markedly more spontaneous than the precedents of the past quarter-century. Nevertheless, as a result of the steady introduction of restrictive immigration policies by most nations in recent decades, it has become more difficult for refugees to find a haven from persecution. Obviously, if the possibility of flight to another country were to vanish altogether, only the alternative of “conversion” or destruction would remain to oppressed minorities.
As Mr. Stoessinger’s book makes clear, very little has been done by the nations of the world to facilitate “the transfer of human beings from areas where fundamental human liberties are not yet recognized to those parts of our earth where freedom beckons”—which he defines as the primary task of international organization in refugee work. Article 14 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, for example, which recognizes “the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” does not insist on the corresponding duty of states to provide asylum—even though the Declaration is only a hortatory statement of principles. Similarly, the draft Covenant on Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights—both of which, unlike the Declaration, were conceived as legally binding instruments—do not so much as mention a right of asylum. And even the valuable Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which guarantees various rights to refugees in the countries where they have already found asylum, fails to guarantee the right of asylum itself: the refugee seeking desperately for admittance somewhere gains nothing by it.
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