Advisory Opinion on the Extraterritorial Application of
Non-Refoulement Obligations under the 1951 Convention relating to
the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol*
In this advisory opinion, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (“UNHCR”) addresses the question of the extraterritorial application of the
principle of non-refoulement under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of
Refugees 1 and its 1967 Protocol. 2
Part I of the opinion provides an overview of States’ non-refoulement obligations
with regard to refugees and asylum-seekers under international refugee and human rights
law. Part II focuses more specifically on the extraterritorial application of these
obligations and sets out UNHCR’s position with regard to the territorial scope of States’
non-refoulement obligations under the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol.
UNHCR has been charged by the United Nations General Assembly with the
responsibility of providing international protection to refugees and other persons within
its mandate and of seeking permanent solutions to the problem of refugees by assisting
governments and private organizations. 3 As set forth in its Statute, UNHCR fulfils its
international protection mandate by, inter alia, “[p]romoting the conclusion and
ratification of international conventions for the protection of refugees, supervising their
application and proposing amendments thereto.” 4 UNHCR’s supervisory responsibility
under its Statute is mirrored in Article 35 of the 1951 Convention and Article II of the
The views of UNHCR are informed by over 50 years of experience supervising
international refugee instruments. UNHCR is represented in 116 countries. It provides
guidance in connection with the establishment and implementation of national
procedures for refugee status determinations and also conducts such determinations
under its own mandate. UNHCR’s interpretation of the provisions of the 1951
* This Opinion was prepared in response to a request for UNHCR’s position on the extraterritorial
application of the non-refoulement obligations under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of
Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Office’s views as set out in the Advisory Opinion are offered in
a broad perspective, given the relevance of the legal questions involved to a variety of situations
outside a State’s national territory.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 189 U.N.T.S. 137, entered into force 22 April
1954 [hereinafter “1951 Convention”].
The 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, 606 U.N.T.S. 267, entered into force 4 October
1967 [hereinafter “1967 Protocol”].
See: Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, G.A. Res. 428(V),
Annex, U.N. Doc. A/1775, para. 1 (1950).
Id., para. 8(a).