'Unable to Return' in the 1951 Refugee Convention: Stateless Refugees and Climate Change
28 Pages Posted: 2 Sep 2015 Last revised: 25 Sep 2015
Date Written: January 1, 2015
Argues that it is not only a point of literal construction, but also inherent in the object and purpose of the 1951 Refugee Convention, that displaced stateless persons unable to return to their countries of former habitual residence may be eligible for refugee status even if unpersecuted. 'Unable to return' as it occurs in the clause following the semi-colon of 1(A)2 of the 1951 Refugee Convention must be understood as a term of art subject to appropriate canons of construction in its own right. Its construal must therefore be more restrictive than many commentators have suggested, though not so strict as to preclude all but persecuted persons. Then argues that, as a case study, those who are displaced from their island nations because those nations have submerged beneath the sea will count as 'unable to return' in the relevant sense, and so will qualify for Convention refugee status, if they count as lacking a nationality, i.e. as stateless.
Keywords: stateless, statelessness, refugee, 1951 Convention, small island states, climate change, environmental refugee
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