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World Refugee Week

© UNHCR/Olivier Jobard

On occasion of the Network for Migration Matters’ World Refugee Week, we have the honour of speaking with Ambassador Drahoslav Štefánek, the Special Representative of the Council of Europe Secretary General on Migration and Refugees.

We will delve into Ambassador Štefánek’s mandate and  the activities of the Council of Europe (CoE) with regard to refugees and migrants, concentrating more on refugees as this conversation is occurring on occasion of world refugee day (20 June).

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Image by Steve Johnson

Happy 70th Birthday 1951 Refugee Convention!

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as "the 1951 Refugee Convention" is the leading document that defines who is a refugee. 

According to Article 1.A.2, a refugee is a person who "owing to well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it"

To this day we still refer to the definition of a refugee according to the 1951 Refugee Convention.


However, throughout the decades certain regions and countries have extended this definition. Below you find some examples.

Want to know more about the definition of "a refugee"? Click here.

Section III.3

in view of the experience gained from the massive flows of refugees in the Central American area, it is necessary to consider enlarging the concept of a refugee, [...] Hence the definition or concept of a refugee to be recommended for use in the region is one which [...] includes among refugees persons who have fled their country because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalized violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.

Article 1.2

The term "refugee" shall also apply to every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality.

Article 2(f)

‘person eligible for subsidiary protection’ means a third-country national or a stateless person who does not qualify as a refugee but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to his or her country of origin, or in the case of a stateless person, to his or her country of former habitual residence, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm [...] and is unable, or, owing to such risk, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country;

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According to UNHCR, by the end of 2020 these 5 nationalities accounted for 68% of refugees and Venezuelans displaced abroad!


UNHCR stated that by mid-2020 39% of refugees and Venezuelans displace abroad were present in these 5 nations. 


Click on them to find out.



Many refugees have become distinguished international authors.
Looking for some summer reading?
Click on the book covers below that have refugees, as their authors and in their stories.

Have you heard of these books and authors?

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. By Malala Yousafzai.

The title says it all. In this autobiography, Malala Yousafzai not only tells her own story, but that of others who stood up on their own way for education or against oppression. Yousafzai that the value and power of education is the most powerful weapon against terrorism or extremism.

A long way gone. By Ishmael Beah

To this day there are thousands of child soldiers, as young as 8 years old, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s, in more than fifty conflicts around the world. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. He is one of the first to tell his story in his own words in A long way gone. Although this story shows the hell that some children literally go through, it is a story of hope and redemption...something that still cannot be said for numerous children across various countries.