It is a general conception that refugees are vulnerable people, who come to seek
protection from prosecution, experience further breaches of their human rights
as a consequence of our system of mandatory detention. Generally people become
refugees to flee violence, economic disparity, repression, natural disaster, and
other harsh living and working conditions. The United Nations more narrowly
defines refugees as persons who are outside their country and cannot return
owing to a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion,
nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
For the most part, little assistance reaches a person fleeing a conflict until
he or she crosses an international border. The United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), established in 1950, distinguishes refugees and IDPs as:
When a fleeing civilian crosses an international frontier, he or she
becomes a refugee and as such is eligible to receive international protection
and help. If a person in similar circumstances is displaced within his or her
home country and becomes an internally displaced person, then assistance and
protection is much more difficult.
On Jan. 1, 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated
that there were more than 12 million refugees in the world. This number of
refugees has remained relatively constant at greater than 10 million since 1981.
Some refugees have been living in camps for most of their lives. For example,
Afghans have lived in camps in Pakistan and Iran since the early 1980s when the
Soviet Union invaded their nation. While some return each year to resettle,
almost equal numbers leave to escape new regional fighting. The number of Afghan
refugees living abroad now stands at over 3.5 million
Currently, Asia hosts nearly 50 percent of the world's refugee population, with
Africa and Europe both hosting just over 20 percent. Ongoing conflicts in
Afghanistan, Iraq, central Africa (Angola, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo,
and Burundi), and Bosnia-Herzegovina have either created new refugees or
prevented refugees from returning home in 2001. Each of these countries now has
over 400,000 refugees living abroad, with Afghanistan having at least seven
times more than any other.
Today a larger number of refugees go for dangerous journeys fleeing from place
to place. The International law has stipulated and states have long recognized
the right of refugees to protection and asylum. When considering asylum
requests, States cannot make distinctions based on religion or other identity –
nor can they force people to return to places from which they have fled if there
is a well-founded fear of persecution or attack. This is not only a matter of
international law; it is also our duty as human beings.
It is the shared responsibility of all community to protect the refugees and now
much more is required. All governments should provide comprehensive responses,
expand safe and legal channels of migration and act with humanity, compassion
and in accordance with their international obligations.
It should also be remembered that high number of refugees and migrants are the
symptom of deeper problems, endless conflict, and grave violations of human
rights, tangible governance failures and harsh repression. The Syrian was has
just been manifested on a roadside in the heart of Europe.
In addition to upholding responsibilities, the international community must also
show greater determination in resolving conflicts and other problems that leave
people little choice but to flee. The problems of refugees are a human tragedy
that requires a determined collective political response. It is a crisis of
solidarity, not a crisis of numbers.
Thus these issues should be the area of focus and priority of leaders of world
community before United Nations.
Throughout the world and over the centuries, societies have welcomed frightened,
weary strangers, the victims of persecution and violence. This humanitarian
tradition of offering sanctuary is often now played out on television screens
across the globe as war and large-scale persecution produce millions of refugees
and internally displaced persons.
Yet even as people continue to flee from threats to their lives and freedom,
governments are, for many reasons, finding it increasingly difficult to
reconcile their humanitarian impulses and obligations with their domestic needs
and political realities. At the start of the 21st century, protecting refugees
means maintaining solidarity with the world’s most threatened, while finding
answers to the challenges confronting the international system that was created
to do just that.
A central practice to the United Nations is the protection of humanitarian
rights. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 it
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from
persecution,” and from this declaration the United Nations’ commitment to the
protection and assistance of refugees, displaces persons, and asylum seekers
began. According to the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees there are
51 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, all of whom have been uprooted
from their homes and must seek asylum elsewhere. This is the most since the end
of the Second World War seventy years ago. Such numbers testify to the several
problems of internal warfare and armed conflict in countries as diverse as
Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia,
Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria.
While humanitarian obligations are universally accepted, their interpretation
depends not only on international law, but also on domestic law of welcoming
countries as well as their government policies. Virtually all states say they
respect the needs and rights of refugees and internally displaced people. But
the willingness to accept refugees varies greatly. Countries like Ethiopia,
Germany, India, Kenya, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine, for
example, are widely recognized for their willingness to accept refugees.
Countries like Australia and the United States have more complicated polices and
take far fewer.
1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol
This treaty is split into 6 chapters that cover the topics, general provisions
regarding refugees, juridical status of refugees, the right to gainful
employment, welfare, administrative measures to be taken by the host state,
executory and transitory provisions, and final clauses. Each chapter is made of
articles and within these the rights of refugees were enumerated. The general
provisions section of the treaty enumerates the basic rights of a refugee and
establishes what a refugee actually is.
The convention defines a refugee as As a result of events occurring before 1
January 1951 and owing to well-founded 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.” The inclusion of the section about
occurring before 1 January 1951 would become an issue later on because new
refugee crises arise and these same rights would be applied to them.
This part of the definition was taken out at the second convention relating to
the status of refugees in 1966. This chapter goes on to enumerate several key
rights, they include: refugees are to be granted the same rights as aliens, the
ability to live under the same circumstances as though they were not a refugee,
protection against discrimination, a refugee is obliged to abide by the laws and
customs of their host state, and guarantees the right to freely practice
The following chapter addresses the judicial rights of refugees, and inside of
the chapter the rights to have access to courts, they have the same protection
of their intellectual and personal property as anyone else, and the right to
Chapter three focuses only on gainful employment. In short refugees have the
right to work in any way they wish as long as they follow the laws of the
country of residence. Chapter four focuses on welfare. Refugees must receive a
food ration and the option of public education; otherwise they are to be treated
as any other alien would. The rest of the chapters are pointed directly at the
states on the administrative side of refugee relief and making sure that a
system is in place to actually make sure these refugees can be helped.
The rights given in the convention were not extended to those who were deemed to
be against the United Nation’s principles and this includes committing crimes
against humanity, war crimes, crimes against peace, or serious non-political
crimes. One topic central to the convention was the prevention of the process
called refoulement. Refoulement is the deportation of asylum seekers, sending
them back to their original country when they still are in danger
Currently there are a multitude of refugee crises happing. Some of the most
urgent situations and some of largest host country situations are as follows:
The diverse nature of country responses to refugee issues are illustrated by a
few prominent examples. While virtually all countries have accepted some
refugees or IDPS, the issues of refugee status is especially controversial in
countries like these:
Australian politics have usually maintained a strict immigration policy, and
that is not changed when it comes to asylum seekers. Beginning in 2008
Australia’s government resumed the operation of its offshore asylum processing
centers in Nauru, Papua New Guinea, and on Christmas Island (an island northwest
of Australia owned by Australia). When an asylum seeker is taken in by Australia
they are moved to one of the three offshore processing centers while they await
The government then made a deal with the Cambodian government to allow for the
resettlement of refugees from these offshore processing centers into Cambodia.
In 2013 the Australian government began a program titled Operation Sovereign
Borders to address maritime asylum seekers. Sri Lankan, Afghani, Iranian, and
Iraqi asylum seekers commonly make the dangerous voyage via boat to Australia,
and under this program the processing of these maritime asylum seekers was
placed into the hands of the Australian navy.
Under this policy the Australian navy has been towing boats of asylum seekers
back to their place of origin. In September of 2014 alone 12 boats filled with
asylum seekers were towed back. The international community has responded by
accusing the Australian government of refoulement, a practice that has been
combated internationally since the League of Nations.
Ethiopia in 2014 overtook Kenya as the country with the most refugees in Africa.
By the end of July Ethiopia became host to over 620,000 refugees. Most of these
new refugees are from a growing situation in South Sudan. Ethiopia is also a
major host for Somali and Eritrean refugees who make up the second and third
most refugee numbers in the country. Unlike the previously mentioned hosts,
Ethiopia has signed the convention and protocol for refugees.
Lebanon currently is host to over 1,000,000 Syrian refugees, and that’s just the
registered number of refugees in the country and does not count the huge number
of refugees from other countries. Lebanon is situated between the Syrian, Iraqi,
and the Palestinian refugee crises.
While the country has staggering numbers concerning the amount of humanitarian
support it gives to their refugees, the budget for their refugee program is more
than 800 million dollars short of the needed amount of funds. The lack of funds
and widespread international support like what is given to Jordan has put
enormous strain on Lebanon and its people.
accounts for nearly one fourth of the population of Afghanistan. Currently
Pakistan is host to 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees. Like Jordan,
Pakistan has not signed the Convention of 1951 or the Protocol of 1967. Pakistan
is also a refugee situation itself, with over 43,000 refugees originating from
The government of Pakistan despite never signing the convention of 1951 or the
protocol of 1967 has been working with the UNHCR to an impressive extent. Over 5
million Afghans have been successfully resettled into their place of origin
Somalia has one of the worst displacement crises in the world. Over two million
Somalis have been forcibly displaced. Approximately one million of these are
internally displaced, and the other million or so are mostly spread about its
neighbors, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Yemen.
With a mix of political instability and famine nearly a million more Somalis are
at risk. The government that assumed power in 2012 exercises next to no power in
and the country is either run by the extremist organization Al
Shabab, regional war lords, or by de facto independent states such as
Somaliland. The humanitarian situation in Somalia seems to only be deteriorating
as the amount of Somalis at risk for famine is rising and the pressure the
situation is placing on Somalia’s neighbors grows.
The Syrian Civil War has been raging since 2011, and since then an estimated 9
million Syrians have either been internally displaced or have fled to
neighboring countries as asylum seekers. The crisis has put enormous strain on
the asylum systems of states worldwide. 2.5 million Syrians have fled Syria to
its immediate neighbors and over 6 million Syrians are internally displaced.
Even though the Syrian refugees are in huge numbers only around 100,000 have
been lodged in Europe.
In the mid-year report from the UNHCR out of the 44 developed countries selected
for the study almost all of them had Syrians as the most numerous nationality
applying for asylum in their country. What makes this situation worse is that no
end is clearly visible, and the international community will be dealing with the
fallout of this war for a very long time.
The delegates are expected to discuss the problem and come up with possible
solutions to tackle the problem.
Written by: Sayed Qudrat Hashimy
- Refugees International. Somalia | Refugees International. Somalia |
Refugees International. http://refugeesinternational.org/where-we-work/africa/somalia
(accessed October 15, 2014).
BBC News. Australia asylum: Why is it controversial? BBC News. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28189608
(accessed October 14, 2014).
The European Union. Hello, World!. Syrian Refugees. http://syrianrefugees.eu/
(accessed October 15, 2014).
- UN. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UDHR, Declaration of
Human Rights, Human Rights Declaration, Human Rights Charter, The Un and
Human Rights. UN News Center.
- Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees
- International Law Student
E-mail: Sayedqudrathashimy[at]gmail.com , Mobile No.+91 900 8813333