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History of asylum and Ofpra
The first international refugee status was created following World War I (1914-18), and Ofpra has been protecting refugees and stateless persons since 1952.
We invite you to follow this journey on our historical timeline!
This chronology focuses on the history of the refugee status in France during the 20th and 21st centuries. It summarises the main texts adopted by France, the international and national institutions created for the protection of refugees, and the nationalities making the most frequent asylum requests, as well as the major events which have played a key role in these applications. It is important to note that there is not always a correlation between the rate of applications and an historic event.
Discover the 1950s
Creation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on 14 December 1950 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
Adoption of the United Nations Convention concerning the status of refugees of 28 July 1951, known as the Geneva Convention. Now ratified by 145 Partner States, it defines the term “refugee” and sets out the rights of uprooted persons, as well as the legal obligations of the Partner States to ensure their protection.
The law of 25 July 1952 creates the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra), an independent public administrative establishment under the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and responsible for the protection of refugees and stateless persons in France. This public body inherits the protection of refugees recognised by former conventions (Nansen refugees and refugees protected by the IRO), amounting to 350,000 people, and those in charge of their protection in the former offices; its staff thus consists almost entirely of refugees who, in the national sections, provide the eligibility, reception and protection of their refugee compatriots.
The Office opens to the public on 22 September 1952 at the former premises of the French delegation of the IRO, 7 Rue Copernic, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris.
Suez Crisis: the Egyptian government revokes the Egyptian nationality of many Jews. Ofpra would protect a number of them as they could be declared stateless.
In November 1956, 200,000 Hungarians flee the bloody repression by the Soviets of the Budapest uprising, the first manifestation of the unpopularity of the “people’s democracies”. The event is considered by the High Commission for Refugees (HCR) as one of the turning points of asylum, particularly due to the international organisation of the reception. Around 12,000 were given refugee status in France.
Hungary 1956-1957. Hungarian refugees arriving at Traiskirchen Camp.
In 1959 Ofpra moves to the former Majestic Hotel at 23 Rue la Pérouse, Paris 14th arrondissement.