The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees' definition of a refugee is no longer viable. It was originally designed to deal with the limited refugee situation that existed forty years ago. Both the passage of time and the internationalization of refugee problems have weakened the effect of the definition to the point where a majority of de facto refugees do not even come within its ambit. Many of those who should be covered by the definition are not afforded protection under the national schemes designed in accordance with the Convention's provisions. The UNHCR tries to deal with refugee situations as they arise but without guaranteed, long-term funding, the response is woefully inadequate. It is clear that a new regime governing refugees needs to be promulgated. An international proposal for dealing with refugees must be acceptable to state governments to gain acceptance. It should also take into account current practices with regard to refugees. I suggest that a proposal based on the idea of temporary refuge and envisaging eventual voluntary repatriation would be most acceptable to all involved. In practice, most refugees already remain in the country of first refuge. Western states, through the UNHCR, already foot a large part of the bill for these refugees and would be amenable to increased funding if they could also renounce the obligation to accept large numbers of refugees as citizens. A treaty, codifying a scheme along these lines, would regularize current practices and provide enhanced protection for refugees.
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Toby DJ Mendel, "Problems with the International Definition of a Refugee and a Possible Solution" (1992) 1 Dal J Leg Stud 7.