II) These two international legal instruments are applicable to persons who are refugees as therein defined. The assessment as to who is a refugee, i.e. the determination of refugee status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, is incumbent upon the Contracting State in whose territory the refugee applies for recognition of refugee status.
III) Both the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol provide for co-operation between the Contracting States and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. This co-operation extends to the determination of refugee status, according to arrangements made in various Contracting States.
IV) The Executive Committee of the High Commissioner's Programme at its twenty-eighth session requested the Office of the High Commissioner “to consider the possibility of issuing – for the guidance of Governments – a handbook relating to procedures and criteria for determining refugee status”. The first edition of the Handbook was issued by my Division in September 1979 in response to this request by the Executive Committee. Since then the Handbook has been regularly reprinted to meet the increasing demands of government officials, academics, and lawyers concerned with refugee problems. The present edition updates information concerning accessions to the international refugee instruments including details of declarations on the geographical applicability of the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.
V) The segment of this Handbook on the criteria for determining refugee status breaks down and explains the various components of the definition of refugee set out in the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. The explanations are based on the knowledge accumulated by the High Commissioner's Office over some 25 years, since the entry into force of the 1951 Convention on 21 April 1954. The practice of States is taken into account as are exchanges of views between the Office and the competent authorities of Contracting States, and the literature devoted to the subject over the last quarter of a century. As the Handbook has been conceived as a practical guide and not as a treatise on refugee law, references to literature etc. have purposely been omitted.
VI) With respect to procedures for the determination of refugee status, the writers of the Handbook have been guided chiefly by the principles defined in this respect by the Executive Committee itself. Use has naturally also been made of the knowledge available concerning the practice of States.
VII) The Handbook is meant for the guidance of government officials concerned with the determination of refugee status in the various Contracting States. It is hoped that it will also be of interest and useful to all those concerned with refugee problems.
Director of International Protection
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees