The right of asylum is rooted in the history of mankind (religious right of asylum (sanctuary)) and since the beginning of the modern State it has been rooted in the sovereignty of the State itself (the right of territorial asylum). The State retains the right to grant its protection to certain non-nationals or stateless persons, as a consequence of its territorial sovereignty, once the conditions laid down by the State have been complied with. In principle, it is the sovereign State itself which decides in which circumstances a person deserves such protection.1 Refugee status, on the other hand, is a concept which arose in international law in the 20th century and is defined through international agreements. It protects certain persons, especially when they have had to flee from the countries of their nationality or their habitual residence owing to a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons which concern their race, nationality, membership in a particular social group or their political opinions.2 Despite the underlying humanitarian principles, there is no doubt that the granting of asylum is intimately connected with politics at all levels.3 Therefore the term political asylum is also used. As far as refugee status is concerned, the treaty instruments are the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (further referred to as the 1951 Geneva Convention)4 and the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (further referred to as the 1967 New York Protocol).5 Although there are references to asylum in the Preamble to the 1951 Geneva Convention, the granting of asylum (i.e. granting of full and lasting protection) is not dealt with further in the text of this convention or the 1967 New York Protocol.6 The 1951 Geneva Convention was originally drafted to deal with the displacement of people as a result of the Second World War. It restricted the definition of refugees to those whose fear of persecution arose from events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951. The 1967 New York Protocol removed the time restriction and promoted a gradual removal of the geographical restriction. However, the definition of refugee was not changed.

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Zwaan, Prof. Dr. J.W. de (promotor)
Erasmus School of Law

Ferguson Sidorenko, O. (2006, February 7). European Asylum Law and Policy: The EU and Slovak Perspectives
The EU and Slovak Perspectives. Retrieved from