IRRC No. 904

Obligations of transit countries under refugee law: A Western Balkans case study

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A significant increase in the number of arrivals of refugees and migrants in Europe along the Western Balkans route brought several Balkan countries into the spotlight of international refugee protection in 2015 and 2016. Out of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants recorded entering the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, only a handful remained to seek asylum from their authorities. Under the circumstances, the applicability of the 1951 Refugee Convention with respect to refugees refraining from seeking asylum was brought into question, as well as the extent of transit countries' legal obligations under refugee law. Based on the Western Balkans experience, the present article seeks to re-examine the relationship between the concept of asylum and the regime of the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention's scope of application in "transit countries", and minimal standards stemming from positive law regarding the treatment of refugees and migrants in a transit context.

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