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Drøftelse af flygtningebegrebets definition

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image of Nordic Journal of International Law

The main subject of the debate was whether or not it is advisable to extend the concept of refugee beyond the present strict legal definitions and include more humanitarian concerns as suggested by Poul Hartling. On the one hand it was maintained in alia that — an extension of the international concept would create a discrepancy between the national concepts and the international concept — the concept of refugee applicable at the time of passing legislation concerning refugees still pertains — the quota-systems require strict adherence to legal definitions — the unsuccessful conference on territorial asylum proved the difficulty of adopting common norms of a broad humanitarian nature wrich is at the same time acceptable to governments - it was easier for the UNHCR in his pragmatic international work of a humanitarian administrative and social nature to adopt a wide concept, whereas the national refugee agencies whose problems is primarily that of issuing residence permits have to apply a more precise and narrow definition. Others took the view that — even in international law the concept of refugee is not totally static; in this respect it was mentioned that in spite of unmerous laws on refugees in Sweden, a precise definition has never been found - a liberal interpretation of existing written norms was called for rather than attempts to establish totally new definitions in a legally binding form - humanitarian concerns are not opposed to legal concepts; on the contrary, the legal concepts emerge from humanitarian and other political concerns — the definition in international law is to be considered a minimum norm. It was suggested that the refugee concept could be much wider in the field of assistance rather than in the field of protection. The dichotomy of having two refugee concepts, an international and a national come out as a practical problem when it comes to recognizing the refugee status. Theoretically, the dichotomy does not create serious problems, because the recognition is declaratory, not constitutive. In practical terms, there is a problem, however, because there is only one (effective) recognition of refugee status, the national recognition. It was noted that the High Commissioner often responded spontaneously to emergency situations involving wholely or in part groups of people falling beyond or on the verge of his mandate. The UN General Assembly, however, never failed to welcome such action thereby accepting a wider definition of UNCHR's mandate. The problems of de facto refugees were discussed. Reluctance was expressed towards extending the number of categories of refugees, e.g. by adding C and D categories to the A and B categories existing in the Nordic countries. It was preferable to extend the general definition of refugee in the manner of e.g. the Netherlands, Switzerland, or Sweden. A consequence of recognizing de facto refugees explicitly one way or the other was that the concept of de facto refugee would disappear. A common international definition which includes de facto refugees was called for. On the other hand, a warning was issued against adopting a very precise definition thereby creating new limits and new categories of people needing humanitarian assistance or protection but falling outside accepted categories. The problem of lacking international sanctions against countries which do not apply the international minimum standards was mentioned. It was pointed out, however, that the good offices and diplomatic initiatives of the High Commissioner often proved highly effective. Finally, a number of participants invited the High Commissioner to engage deeper into regional arrangements and to open a regional office in the Nordic countries.


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