Refoulement means the expulsion of persons who have the right to be recognised as refugees. The principle of non-refoulement has first been laid out in 1954 in the UN-Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which, in Article 33(1) provides that:

"No Contracting State shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."

It is important to note, that the principle of non-refoulement does not only forbid the expulsion of refugees to their country of origin but to any country in which they might be subject to persecution. The only possible exception provided for by the UN Convention is the case that the person to be expelled constitutes a danger to national security (Art 33(2)).1

Although the principle of non-refoulement is universally accepted, problems with refoulement frequently arise through the fact, that its application requires a recognised refugee status. However, not all countries are members to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or may not have established formal procedures for determining refugee status.

1Note on Non-Refoulement (Submitted by the High Commissioner on Human Rights), (EC/SCP/2), 23rd August 1977

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