Right of Asylum

May 3, 1950

Report Outline
Poltical Refuges and the Cold War
Development of Doctrine of Asylum
Asylum and International Relations
Efforts to Establish Refugee Rights

Poltical Refuges and the Cold War

Flights of political refugees from countries behind the iron curtain, and their appearance in American or American-occupied territory with none of the formalities of legal entry, have become a dramatic feature of the cold war between East and West. Current rumors of new purges in Russia and her satellite states may foreshadow a large increase in the flow of refugees in the immediate future. Although the vast majority of persons seeking asylum outside their homelands have come from Communist or Communist-dominated countries, occasionally an American opponent of capitalism forsakes his country and requests asylum under the hammer and sickle.

The United States has been generous in granting the privilege of asylum to the politically oppressed of other lands, but care has been taken throughout its history to give no countenance in domestic law, court decisions or diplomatic correspondence to any claim by foreign nationals to a right of asylum in territory under its jurisdiction. Different countries have followed different practices at different times, with the result that there is no generally accepted body of international law on the subject of asylum. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations sets forth that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution,” but there is extreme doubt that this declaration will be implemented at any early date.

In Latin American countries, where revolutions have been frequent, the provision of asylum for members of defeated factions periodically raises acute political issues. The Organization of American States is faced with the problem of defining proper conduct for persons who have been afforded asylum in connection with current disputes in the Caribbean area. A controversy over the protection granted to an opponent of the Peruvian government by the Colombian Embassy at Lima is now before the International Court of Justice.

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