In the 1951 Geneva
Convention the term refugee
applies to any person who, due to
fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality,
membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is
outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to
such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that
country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the
country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events,
is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.
In the case of a person who has more than one nationality, the term
'the country of his nationality" shall mean each of the countries
of which he is a national, and a person shall not be deemed to be
lacking the protection of the country of his nationality if, without
any valid reason based on well-founded fear, he has not availed
himself of the protection of one of the countries of which he is
Convention of 1951,
Article 1A (2).
Signatories to the Convention undertake to protect refugees by allowing
them to enter and granting temporary or permanent residence status.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the
Executive Committee of the High Commissioners Programme have developed
guidelines on the interpretation of the terms of this definition.
In 1967 the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees incorporated
post-1951 refugees and explicitly included those from outside Europe
in the definition. Some countries, however, still define refugees
by the geographic limitations of the 1951 definition and do not
recognize non-European refugees. In 1969 a convention of the Organization
of African Unity, applying only to African countries that have signed
it, extended the definition to include as reason for refugee status
"external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events
seriously disturbing public order in either part or whole"
of a country. The Cartegena Declaration of 1984 broadened the scope
of the refugee declaration in a similar manner for countries in
is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?
Asylum seekers are people who move across borders in search
of protection, but who may not fulfil the strict criteria laid down
by the 1951 Convention. Asylum seeker describes someone who has
applied for protection as a refugee and is awaiting the determination
of his or her status. Refugee is the term used to describe
a person who has already been granted protection. Asylum seekers
can become refugees if the local immigration or refugee authority
deems them as fitting the international definition of refugee.
definition of asylum seeker may vary from country to country,
depending on the laws of each country. However, in most countries,
the terms asylum seeker/asylee and refugee differ only in regard
to the place where an individual asks for protection. Whereas an
asylum seeker asks for protection after arriving in the host country,
a refugee asks for protection and is granted this protected status
outside of the host country.
more information see "Who
is a refugee?" on United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)