Critics of anti-refugee governments such as Australia or Hungary often mention the 1951 Refugee Convention as the reason why all states should respect the right to asylum.

So why don't those countries simply leave the 1951 Convention and completely absolve themselves of all responsibilities towards refugees? Wouldn't it make it easier for them to implement their policies without facing criticism?

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    I think you should differentiate between refugees and migrants. Most people coming through Hungary on foot are/were technically not refugees but migrants. May 8 '17 at 11:24
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    @newenglander that's a different question May 8 '17 at 11:26
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    No, I mean you should reformulate the question to refer to "anti-migrant" governments rather than "anti-refugee" governments, or perhaps even "anti-migrant" and "anti-refugee" governments. May 8 '17 at 11:44
  • @newenglander those countries dislike genuine refugees even more than economic immigrants, whatever the ratio is May 8 '17 at 11:45
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    @newenglander Actually, for a long time that was the situation in Europe but most people coming now (and especially those who came through the Balkans before Turkey closed that route) are if not refugees under the convention then at least people who qualify for subsidiary protection. A bogus refugee application from an overstayer costs some time and money but that's not a big problem, many of these people end up being returned to their country of origin. That's a bit cynical, but a proper refugee, e.g. from Syria, is a bigger problem.
    – Relaxed
    May 8 '17 at 13:25

The convention has no enforcement mechanism of any kind, states can (and do) easily ignore it and many also have pretty funky reservations (as an example with some relevance today, note that Turkey stipulated it only intends to apply the 1951 convention to European refugees).

So the convention only serves as a kind of self-commitment device and simply denouncing it would not be very different from ignoring it, it makes the breach of commitment visible and you can expect criticism either way. Which critics would be placated by such a move?

Beyond that, while the Convention includes many detailed procedural rules, it (and other related treaties) can also be regarded as a way to codify and reaffirm principles that are widely taken as self-evident (cf. the notion of jus cogens). So denouncing it could in principle give states more leeway but not completely free them from all obligations.

  • @Fizz The reservation is enough of a legal basis anyway, that's not really the issue.
    – Relaxed
    Aug 16 '18 at 17:42

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