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Refugee Convention

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Refugee Convention – statement by Inderjit Bhogal

Inderjit Bhogal is a supernumerary (retired) minister within Sheffield Methodist District and the founder of the City of Sanctuary and Church of Sanctuary movements. He has published this response to the recent speech on the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees by the Home Secretary. Please join Inderjit and others at 7pm on Zoom Wednesday 4 October for our important faith based conversation about refugees.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) the majority of the world's refugees are from countries in or close to conflict. They are fleeing war. People flee for safety and security because they are scared, and live through horrors, humiliation and torture. It is important to agree internationally who a refugee is. The Refugee Convention 1951 is not a perfect instrument and does require updating.. It confines a refugee to a person who is fleeing "persecution". In the contemporary world, refugees include people fleeing persecution, but also the disorder, danger and insecurity of war and terrorism, genocide and extreme weather. For many people poverty and hunger is a threat to life. Lives of many people are in danger because of their gender or sexual identity. Refugees are people looking for safety from danger to their lives, sanctuary while they can also earn a living, until they can safely return home. This was the original role of the UNHCR, to provide protection for refugees and to find long-term solutions to their plight. However, the definition of a refugee by the UN Refugee Convention 1951 is not adequate because it does not state clearly who is a refugee today, and it does not offer a long-term strategy for providing sanctuary. The best way to update the 1951 Refugee Convention is to follow the 1951 approach, and that was to work at international agreement.
I am thankful for the 1951 Refugee Convention. It has saved millions of lives. Any update should strengthen it, not weaken it. No one should be forced to flee their home. When they do, people must be able to obtain sanctuary. Signatory nations should honour their commitment to the Refugee Convention fully. I would welcome a global faith based conversation and contribution to this important contemporary discussion.

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