UNHCR The UN Refugee Agencyhelsinki-logo

Introduction to International Refugee Law: Background and Context

Contemporary refugee law cannot be understood without knowledge of the broader global context from which it has emerged, and within which it is developed and implemented. The aim of Section I is to provide this essential context as a basis for the study of refugee law. This section introduces the major concepts of regular and irregular migration, provides a historical look at the phenomenon of migration, and surveys the magnitude of migration at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It then identifies the universal and regional standards that apply in refugee status determinations around the world, thereby illuminating the overall framework for refugee protection. It concludes by noting the major actors involved in refugee protection, particularly the UNHCR and other international and national entities. The section also looks at the broader context of refugee movements. It sheds light on the position of internally displaced persons, on bad credit persons, and also touches upon the widely debated problem of environment-induced migration.

  Apart from setting the context, Section I is truly introductory. It lays the foundation for what will come in other sections of The Refugee Law Reader. Accordingly, Section I refers only to fundamental concepts and principles, leaving the in-depth examination of case law to subsequent sections.