This article examines the underlying intentions that guided the authors of Article 33, better known as the non-refoulement principle, of the 1951 Refugee Convention, from February 1950 until the signing of the Final Act in July 1951. I begin by explaining the diplomatic context within which the nonrefoulement principle was inscribed into the text of the Convention, following the schism between the two opposing groups of member states present at the drafting table. Based on unpublished material from Israeli and UK archives, I then study four specific aspects of the drafting of the non-refoulement article. The first issue concerns the geographical scope of non-refoulement regarding refugees on the high seas. The second concerns the addition to non-refoulement in the first paragraph of Article 33 of the category of ‘a particular social group or political opinion’, in direct contemporary reference to political refugees from the Soviet bloc. The third issue studied here is the development of the text of paragraph 2 of Article 33, one of the major conditions restricting protective measures for refugees. This study uncovers how this paragraph was drafted, where it was initially intended to fit within the Convention text, and how it eventually became a qualifying condition for Article 33. Fourthly, this article considers the embedded meaning of the term ‘national security’ as it was inserted into Article 33 by the UK representatives who drafted it.
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