The historical development of refugee protection in Europe

Authored by: Phil Orchard

The Routledge Handbook of the Politics of Migration in Europe

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  July  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138201187
eBook ISBN: 9781315512853
Adobe ISBN:


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Europe played a critical role in the development of key norms around refugee protection in three significant time periods. In the nineteenth century, the emerging democracies of Western Europe first developed legal protections for refugees at the domestic and then – through extradition law – at the bilateral level. In the interwar period, European states established new forms of refugee protection by leading the creation of the first international organization dedicated to the task – the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Finally, following the Second World War, European states found that their common interests in protecting refugees diverged both from those of the Soviet Union but also from the United States. Their negotiations with the United States, while frequently unsuccessful, laid the foundation for the modern refugee regime both in terms of the creation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

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