Is there any international mandate by UN which forces nations to accept refugees (For e.g. EU fines countries for not accepting refugees) and if not , can nations simply deny all refugees entering?

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    International conventions that some but not all countries have signed are probably relevant here.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 7:00
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    I would ask three distinct questions: (1) Can they? (That is your literal question.) The obvious answer is yes, if they have enough armed forces and the border is not too long and there are not too many refugees. (2) Are they allowed to deny entry to refugees under international law? (Your question.) (3) If the answer to (2) is "No": Is the law enforceable? If not, are unsanctioned violations wide-spread? Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


The key convention is the 1951 refugee convention.

The key points to this instrument is that refugees should not be returned to a country where they are under threat. Technically a person only becomes a refugee when they cross a border. "Under threat" means "having a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a social group, or political opinion". Refugee status does not apply to those who are escaping economic hardship, natural disaster, or who have committed war crimes or serious non-political crimes.

Now this does not directly require signatories to allow refugees to enter their country. However if they have entered (legally or illegally) they should not then be removed to a country where they will be under threat. Nor can they face criminal charges relating to their illegal entry.

These are international norms, but there no requirement for a particular nation to be a signatory to this convention. While membership of some international organisations would depend on countries following international norms, if a country chose it could withdraw from these conventions.

There was a further convention in 1967 and UN resolution 2198 also applies to refugees

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    " However if they have entered (legally or illegally) they should not then be removed." - in the EU, the Dublin Regulation provides for the transfer of the refugee to the Member State responsible under the Regulation for the refugee, which is usually the state via which the person first entered the EU (some people mistakenly believe this is a requirement for the refugee to seek asylum only in the first state). There is some criticism of the regulation, particularly from those on the EU's border, in terms of suffering an unfair burden as a result.
    – Lag
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 13:08
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    "should not be returned to a country where they are under threat" Does that mean it is ok to redirect them (illegally) to a third country where they are not under threat?
    – Masked Man
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 13:37
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    @MaskedMan "The contracting states shall not ... expel refugees (Article 32)" Wikipedia
    – JollyJoker
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 13:46
  • @Lag what are the requirements for seeking asylum then ?
    – Rsf
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 16:15
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    @MaskedMan If you click through the provided link, the 1951 refugee convention has a definition for "refugee". The full text is longer than this comment box and has been modified later conventions (e.g. so as not to only apply to WWII refugees), but the gist of it is that a refugee is someone who reasonably fears persecution upon returning to their country of citizenship, and cannot reasonably take advantage of the legal mechanisms in that country to rectify it.
    – R.M.
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 18:02

I think it's important to differentiate between a nation and a state. Assuming that you mean to say state and not nation there is nothing preventing them from denying the entry of refugees. There are no authorities above the state that can really compel a state to bend to it's well. Other states can pressure them and even threaten or carry out war but there is no enforcement mechanism that can compel states to behave in ways which they choose not too. So yes a state can outright refuse entry to refugees or anyone else they choose to deny entry to.