This section of the Refugee Law Reader focuses on the legal framework for the protection of refugees which has developed in Africa. The legal regime governing refugee law in Africa is comprised of three main legal instruments: the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (46 signatory States in Africa) and its 1967 Protocol (46 signatory States in Africa), the 1969 OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa (46 signatory States in Africa), and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (49 signatory States). It is noteworthy that most of the 53 African States have ratified these international agreements.
The OAU Convention was prepared, in part, to take into account the unique aspects of the refugee situation on the African continent, in light of the fact that the 1951 Convention definition of a refugee, as a "person fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution", had not considered several problems encountered by African refugees and was therefore seen as too narrow within the African context. One of the fundamental innovations of the OAU Convention is its expansion of the refugee definition, and the materials contained in this section highlight several elements of the definition that have had far-reaching effect. Further, this part highlights other significant contributions of the OAU Convention, for example that it expanded the principle of non-refoulement and that it is the only legal instrument that has codified a principle on the safe and humane voluntary repatriation of refugees.
In addition to the in-depth analysis of the OAU Convention, this part of the Refugee Law Reader considers the sub-regional legal frameworks relating to refugee protection and the migration of persons across borders, as well as national refugee laws which have developed since the introduction of the OAU Convention. The material contained in this section demonstrates how many of these domestic instruments have both implemented the states’ international obligations and expanded upon the Convention definitions.
The focus of the section will then turn to address various obstacles pertaining to refugee protection in Africa. It explores the interaction between the exclusion clause and the international criminal justice regime, a high profile issue at present. It also examines many facets of the relationship between refugees and the territories to which they flee. For example, it addresses the interface between refugee law and immigration law, the different situations of urban refugees and those who live in camps, the relations between refugees and their host populations, and the impact of resettlement and the problems that arise when it is not an available durable solution. This portion of the section also devotes attention to two especially vulnerable populations, foreign unaccompanied children and those who are internally displaced.