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Who is a refugee in Africa? a principled framework for interpreting and applying Africa’s expanded refugee definition


Wood, T, Who is a refugee in Africa? a principled framework for interpreting and applying Africa's expanded refugee definition, International Journal of Refugee Law, 31, (2-3) pp. 290-320. ISSN 0953-8186 (2019) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1093/ijrl/eez026


Africa's expanded refugee definition - article I(2) of the 1969 Convention - provides the legal basis of protection for a significant number of the world's refugees. It is a gateway to a host of rights aimed at protecting refugees from future harm and preserving their dignity until a durable solution can be found. The expansive nature of the African definition has seen it praised for being more humanitarian, more reflective of current causes of displacement, and an exemplar for the development of refugee protection regimes elsewhere. Despite this, the scope of the definition and the meaning of its terms remain poorly understood in both literature and practice. Attempts to interpret the definition to date have been largely superficial and often lacking in any principled interpretative framework. This undermines its implementation in practice, potentially risking the lives and security of those entitled to protection as refugees in Africa.

This article sets out a principled framework for interpreting and applying Africa's expanded refugee definition. The framework is drawn from international law principles of treaty interpretation, as set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and customary international law. However, this article goes beyond merely reciting the relevant principles: it analyses their scope, applicability to Africa's expanded refugee definition, and implications for the interpretation of the definition's terms. It also identifies, and describes in detail, four key principles for interpreting the expanded refugee definition. These four key principles are critical to addressing the shortcomings of existing understandings of the definition and some of the main controversies that arise in its interpretation and application. They also provide a practical and accessible source of guidance for refugee status decision makers and others that could assist in promoting consistency, transparency, and fairness in refugee status determination within African States.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:asylum, war
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Law in context
Research Field:Law reform
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:Wood, T (Mr Themistoklis Wood)
ID Code:151605
Year Published:2019
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Office of the Faculty of Law
Deposited On:2022-08-02
Last Modified:2022-08-02

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