The Meaning of `Protection` in the Refugee Definition

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Antonio Fortin

Antonio Fortin

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: October 2000


Lack of national protection is one of the constituent elements of the refugee definition embodied in the 1951 Refugee Convention and in the Statute of UNHCR. To be recognized as a refugee under these instruments, a person who is outside their country of nationality must establish, among other matters, that he or she is unable or, owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for any of the relevant reasons, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country. The author argues that the meaning of this requirement is often misunderstood in current discussions on international refugee law. According to one view, the protection to which the refugee definition alludes is `internal protection`, that is, the protection that the State must provide within its territory to victims or potential victims of persecution. In the view of the author, this view is not supported by the drafting history of the refugee definition, and is not consistent with the wording of the relevant texts. On the contrary, the term `protection` in this context means `diplomatic protection`, that is, the protection accorded by States to their nationals abroad. The article further considers the circumstances and parameters within which the notion of `internal protection` is relevant to the determination of refugee claims.

Suggested Citation

Fortin, Antonio, The Meaning of `Protection` in the Refugee Definition (October 2000). International Journal of Refugee Law, Vol. 12, Issue 4, pp. 548-576, 2000. Available at SSRN:

Antonio Fortin (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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