Convention on the International Status of Refugees


This document is the original typewritten text of the Convention on the International Status of Refugees, which was concluded on October 28, 1933, by five countries—Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, and Norway—and subsequently adhered to by a number of others. The convention was the most far-reaching attempt on the part of the League of Nations to define the responsibilities of states towards refugees. It grew out of four multilateral League arrangements that were adopted between 1922 and 1928 in response to refugee problems caused by World War I and various conflicts that arose in its aftermath. The convention applied to Armenian and Russian refugees. States adhering to the agreement were obliged to guarantee refugees certain rights, including access to Nansen Passports (identification and travel papers); protection of personal status rights; access to courts; freedom of labor and protection from exploitation; and access to education and welfare. The convention was the first document in international law to state the critical principle of non-refoulement, which protected refugees from forcible repatriation in cases in which their lives might be in danger. The text is in French and includes the signatures of the representatives of the five signatory countries, along with their reservations (handwritten in the case of Norway) to particular provisions. The use of reservations, whereby a state signs an agreement while opting out of specific parts or provisions, has long been established practice in international law and diplomacy. The convention is held in the archives of the League, which were transferred to the United Nations in 1946 and are housed at the UN office in Geneva. They were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2010.

Date Created

Subject Date


Title in Original Language

Convention relative au statut international des réfugiés

Type of Item


  1. Gilbert Jaeger, “On the History of the International Protection of Refugees,” International Review of the Red Cross (Revue Internationale de la Croix-Rouge), vol. 83, no. 843 (September 2001).

Last updated: August 5, 2016