With the number of people now displaced from their homes the highest it’s ever been at 60 million
, there has never been a better time to ask how relevant the UN Refugee Convention is. It’s the global agreement that comes up every time we talk about migrants and immigration.
Established in 1951, the convention was designed to protect people from persecution in the aftermath of World War II, the Holocaust and Soviet occupation across Eastern Europe. Millions
of people fled or were expelled from their homes by hostile forces. As borders were redrawn and countries seized, many lost the place where they belonged.
First created to help Europeans most affected by those events, the convention was updated 16 years later so it could apply to anyone needing a safe place, extending its promise of protection to people all over the world.
Criticism of the Refugee Convention is now commonplace. The convention is quite specific on who it will help and some say it’s too narrow, unfairly excluding those fleeing war, general violence, poverty, lack of opportunity and natural disasters. Others say it’s too broad, designed for an entirely different time when global populations were much smaller and the world’s problems were different.
Is it time to overhaul the rules?
The Ethics Centre has set an ambitious goal to present a program on refugee policy that adds to debate and goes beyond the polarised positions that have created political stalemate. We believe narrowing in on the refugee convention is the best way to do this. Our speakers will address the middle ground with intelligence, reason and a healthy passion that won’t descend into name-calling or over-simplicity. Stay tuned as we finalise the line-up.