This section of The Refugee Law Reader examines the legal norms developed in Asia regarding refugee protection. The challenges in framing this section arose from several overlapping reasons. Only a few countries are State Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Furthermore, there is no regional convention on human rights and the non-binding AALCO (Asian African Legal Consultative Organization) principles have not had any serious influence on the law and practice in the region. Moreover, most countries in Asia have not passed national legislation on the status of refugees, with the result that there is little case law and the status of refugees frequently is not distinguished from that of noncitizens in general. While there is literature on the origin and condition of refugees, this rarely includes legal analyses of the relevant issues. Even the legal texts that exist, for example the Memorandum of Understanding between UNHCR and Pakistan, are not readily accessible.
Nonetheless, there are important materials available and the Section on Asia has organized them in three parts. The first presents general materials on the challenges to refugee protection in Asia. It includes readings that explain Asian exceptionalism, and thus provide a setting in which to appreciate the selected references. The second portion of this section focuses on the State Parties to the 1951 Convention: Cambodia, China, Japan, Philippines, and South Korea. It examines national legislation, case law, and literature exploring the protection afforded refugees. The concluding part of the Section on Asia addresses the protection concerns that arise in states that are not party to the 1951 Convention. Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Thailand were selected for this examination, based on the large numbers of refugees they host or the existence of a corpus of reasonably evolved practices and laws. It should be noted that three of these states are in South Asia; this contrasts to the State Parties to the 1951 Convention, all of which are located in Southeast Asia or East Asia. As materials on countries in Central Asia and West Asia have not been included, in this context the Section on Asia refers to South Asia and Southeast Asia.