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The African Union System of Refugee Protection

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A Champion, not a Recipient?

image of International Organizations Law Review

Africa has often been treated as a mere recipient of legal systems, particularly by the former colonial powers. However, an examination of the African practice of international law reveals that, in the specific area of refugee protection, Africa has been championing a legal framework capable of successfully addressing the African region’s ‘peculiar’ refugee problem. The rise and evolution of the refugee protection system in Africa, within the African Union (which in 2001 replaced the Organisation of African Unity), dates from a time when the process of decolonisation, and the increasing number of refugees and displaced persons in Africa, laid bare the inadequacy of the international regime of refugee protection for dealing with the problem. Accordingly, the African states established a complementary system of refugee protection that has, over the years, contributed to the development of new legal instruments, an analysis of which will answer the question of whether the innovative African system of refugee protection is likely to have an influence on the development of international law in this area.

Affiliations: 1: Post-Doctoral Researcher in International Human Rights Law, Human Rights Centre, Ghent University,


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