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UNHCR updates The Handbook

February 22, 2012

UNHCR has re-issued its Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The new version includes the eight new “Guidelines” that UNHCR has issued on the interpretation of refugee law over the past decade.

The Handbook was first issued in 1979 at a time when there were few texts explaining how to apply the international refugee definition. It became one of the most influential documents in the field and helped to establish basic foundations of refugee status, such as the eligibility of people who flee persecution by non-state actors.

In 2002, UNHCR began issuing a series of Guidelines that incorporated more recent developments in refugee law, such as its application to cases of gender-based persecution. In the re-issued version, the original Handbook and the Guidelines are published as separate documents, rather than synthesized them into a single text. But the new publication may help to signal that the newer Guidelines are meant to have the same status and authority as the older Handbook.

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