The historical development of refugee protection in Europe
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Asylum and refugee protection have long been a European concept. From the 19th century through the 1949-1950 negotiations which created the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Europe as a whole has played a key role. Not surprisingly, however, these efforts have varied both in their success and in whether they actually sought to protect refugees. As such, this chapter examines three key time periods. The first is the 19th century, a time in which the emerging democracies of Western Europe played critical roles in establishing protections for refugees at the domestic and then bilateral levels. The second is the interwar period, when European states once again played a critical role in establishing new forms of refugee protection by establishing the first international organization devoted to this task but then abandoned refugee protection to focus on restricting migration. The third is the postwar period, where a common European position on refugee protection is frequently observable, but needed to balance against the alternative views of both the Soviet Union and the United States.