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UNHCR Note on the Applicability of the Cessation Clauses of the UNHCR Statute and the 1951 Convention to Refugees From Bulgaria and Romania

Publisher UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Publication Date October 1997
Cite as UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNHCR Note on the Applicability of the Cessation Clauses of the UNHCR Statute and the 1951 Convention to Refugees From Bulgaria and Romania, October 1997, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]

A. Introduction

1. Given the fundamental and durable changes in Bulgaria and Romania, UNHCR considers that those refugees who left Bulgaria or Romania as a result of the events there prior to 1990 can, in principle, avail themselves of the protection of their countries of origin. The cessation clauses contained in Paragraph 6(A) (e) and (f) of the UNHCR Statute and Article 1C(5) and (6) of the 1951 Convention are therefore applicable to these refugees.

2. In accordance with basic principles of refugee law, reaffirmed by the UNHCR Executive Committee in the Conclusion No. 69(XLIII)(1992) on Cessation of Status (annexed hereto), the cessation clauses should not apply to refugees who continue to have valid grounds for claiming a well-founded fear of persecution. Refugees claiming such grounds or other compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution for refusing to avail themselves of the protection of the Governments of Bulgaria or Romania should be afforded an opportunity to present their claims to the authorities concerned or to UNHCR, as appropriate.

B. Legal and practical consequences

3. As far as UNHCR is concerned, in the absence of special circumstances to the contrary, persons falling under paragraph A 1 of this Note will cease to be refugees as from October 1997. Former refugees who remain outside Bulgaria and Romania after that date will not be entitled to international protection, and their continued stay in the asylum country will depend upon the authorisation of the Governments concerned. Such persons should be encouraged to deal directly with the asylum country regarding their legal status and rights in that country, taking into account the possibilities for a new status in the former country of asylum.

4. With regard to refugee status under the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, it is left to governments of the countries of asylum concerned to determine whether and how to apply the relevant cessation clauses of the 1951 Convention in accordance with their domestic legislation. Given UNHCR's supervisory role pursuant to Article 35 of the 1951 Convention, UNHCR may be requested by States to assist in individual application of the cessation clause within the provisions of their domestic law. It is recommended that, consistent with Executive Committee Conclusion 69(XLIII), States consider new arrangements for those persons who cannot be expected to leave the country of asylum due to long stay in that country, resulting in strong family social or economic links there. Such arrangements may include the granting of legal immigrant status or naturalisation

5. In this connection, UNHCR Representatives should also endeavour to ensure that whatever acquired rights individuals concerned may possess will be taken into account by the authorities. Due regard must be taken of the need to avoid unnecessary individual hardship, particularly where the loss of refugee status might lead to an automatic loss of residence and therefore disrupt any successfully initiated integration process in the host country.

6. As regards special circumstances justifying the maintenance of refugee status, States and UNHCR offices should consider the following two grounds for reconsideration of the application of the cessation clauses:

(a) Certain refugees may claim specific reasons for continuing to have a well-founded fear of persecution if they return to Bulgaria or Romania. Persons requesting reconsideration of the cessation clause to their case on such grounds should be afforded an opportunity to present – either to UNHCR or to the authorities of their country of asylum – the specific grounds relevant to their case on which they base their claim of a continuing well-founded fear of persecution.

(b) Individual refugees may have compelling reasons arising out of previous persecution for refusing to re-avail themselves of the protection of their country of origin, which could call for the possible application of the proviso in Article 1C(5) and (6) of the 1951 Convention. This exception to the cessation clause allows re-consideration of those who have been subject to specially atrocious forms of persecution and who are so psychologically affected that they cannot be expected to re-avail themselves of the protection of their country of origin.

7. It should also be noted that the lack of essential personal documentation, such as birth certificates, is still creating difficulties in Romania as regards the exercise of certain basic civil, social and economic rights. Where the return of individuals in this situation is contemplated, such a return should not be undertaken until the legal rights of such persons are resolved with the appropriate authorities in Romania. Similarly, Romanian ex-refugees who have lost their nationality should not be returned to Romania without their nationality issue being resolved with the Romanian authorities. In case these problems cannot be resolved satisfactorily with the Romanian authorities, the authorities in the country of asylum should consider granting such persons continued residence and an alternative status in the country.

C. Material assistance

8. In the case of former refugees who are allowed to continue residing in the host country, the UNHCR Representative, in consultation with Headquarters, should establish a reasonable time-limit for the cessation of UNHCR's assistance.

D. Voluntary Repatriation

9. In the absence of any repatriation operation organised by UNHCR, those persons wishing to repatriate should be advised to contact the consular authorities of their country of residence. Should a need for a repatriation programme arise, or UNHCR assistance be requested for an individual voluntary repatriation, UNHCR Representatives should consult with Headquarters before taking any further action. In regard to Romanians, the Romanian Committee for Migration Problems in Romania may be approached for assisting in the reintegration of Romanian returnees.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

October 1997

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