Non-refoulement, push-backs and the EU response to irregular migration

The non-refoulement principle has become entrenched so deeply in international and constitutional law since 1953 that it has, under the unforeseen later developments, trumped more fundamental interests and brought the whole system of popular sovereignty out of balance. This article provides a good overview for those who want to find out how that happened.

European Parliamentary Research Service Blog

Written by Susan Saliba

boats © European Union – EP, 2014

Non-refoulement is a core principle of international refugee law. As a part of customary international law, it is binding on all States even if they are not parties to the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol. Article 33(1) of the 1951 Geneva Convention provides that ‚No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion ‚. The principle of non-refoulement is enshrined in EU law in Article 78(1) TFEU and Article 18 and 19 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights . Judgments of the European Court of Justice (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have also consolidated the application of this principle in the…

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