The Legal Committee is the Sixth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly and one of the original bodies founded in 1945. This Committee is the primary UN’s forum for legal questions, considering both general and specific issues of international law and recommending negotiated treaties and resolutions to the Security Council for adoption.

One of the most important tasks of the Legal Committee is the development of the legal framework in which all the other international initiatives can operate, but what many people do not know is that this Committee is the only United Nations’ body which can both amend and create legislation for the international community.

One of the most important issues which are faced by the Legal Committe is the Right of Asylum. The acknowledgement of the Right of Asylum has been an important issue since the end of the Second World War. In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which claims that “Any individual has the right to leave a country he or she chooses. Furthermore, if this person is facing persecution, he or she can seek asylum in any other country.”

Thought this sentence, the topic of the Asylum-seekers has been partially ignored by both UN and the International Community in the years after its birth. Only in 1967 the International Community adopted the Declaration of Asylum which outlined the principle of the Right of Asylum and which later called for the formation of a conference to fully discuss territorial asylum.

Tips & Tricks: Refugees and Asylum-Seekers

Nowadays the right of asylum in international law is still one of the most important issues on both the current International and the Legal Committee’s Agenda. But often medias and politicians contribute to make confusion considering “Refugee” and “Asylum-seeker” as interchangeable and equivalent notions. So let’s clarify!

A “Refugee” is defined in the 1951 Refugee Convention as an individual outside is home country, who faces the fear of persecution due to religion, nationality, race or membership of a political or social group, and who cannot obtain protection within his state.

An “Asylum-seeker” is an individual who flees persecution within his homeland and decide to submit an application for asylum under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and who remains an Asylum-seeker as long as his application or appeal against an eventual refusal is pending.

When, and if, his application is accepted from the host country, his refugee status is approved and he finally becomes a Refugee.

 Shortcuts: the main important resolutions currently present on the topic

Hoping to facilitate your research, here’s to you the most important documents and instruments about the problem of the right of asylum faced in international law.

– The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (in particular: art. 14)

– The 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees

– The 1967 Declaration on Territorial Asylum

– Regional instruments and regulations (e.g. European Convention on Human Rights, UK New Asylum Model, etc.)

– UNHCR initiatives and projects (e.g. ASQAEM, FDQ, SOP, MOU,RVA, etc.)

Gresia Bernardini
Elena Cirotti
Giuia Stinziani
Matteo Caruso