WHO IS A REFUGEE?
● A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely.
● Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status by the contracting state or the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) if they formally make a claim for asylum.
● The leading international agency coordinating refugee protection is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
● Refugees are defined and protected in international law.
The 1951 Refugee Convention is a key legal document and defines a refugee as: “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.”
REFUGEE STATUS DETERMINATION
● Refugee Status Determination (RSD) is the legal or administrative process by which governments or UNHCR determine if a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law.
● RSD is often a vital process in helping refugees realize their rights under international law.
● UNHCR works closely with states to support and capacitate them in taking over increased responsibility for RSD and with improving their RSD systems. UNHCR advocates that states establish national RSD systems that are fair, efficient, adaptable, have integrity and that produce quality decisions.
● In any given year, UNHCR conducts RSD under its mandate in between 50-60 countries, depending on where the applications are received.
RIGHTS OF REFUGEES
Refugee law and International Human Rights law are closely intertwined; refugees are fleeing governments that are either unable or unwilling to protect their basic human rights.
Here are some rights which are given to refugees:
NON-REFOULEMENT: Non-refoulement is universally acknowledged as a human right & basic principle of refugee law.
● It refers to the obligation of States not to refoule, or return, a refugee to “the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
● There are two important restrictions to this principle.
Persons who otherwise qualify as refugees may not claim protection under this principle where there are “reasonable grounds” for regarding the refugee as a danger to the national security of the host country or where the refugee, having been convicted of a particularly serious crime, constitutes a danger to the host community as per Article 33(2) of 1951 Refugee Convention.
RIGHT TO LIBERTY AND SECURITY OF THE PERSON:
● The right to liberty and security of the person is important in the context of how asylum seekers are treated within the intended country of refuge.
● The national laws of several countries provide for the detention of asylum seekers at one point or another during the adjudication of their claims.
● The detention of asylum seekers is a contentious issue because of the conditions found in the detention facilities of several countries.
● For example , The European Court of Human Rights has held in a number of cases that the conditions in the Greek detention centers violate individuals’ rights to humane treatment and dignity under the European Convention on Human Rights.
RIGHT TO FAMILY LIFE:
● The family is seen as the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
● A no. of countries provide for the granting of derivative status to dependent relatives. Thus, where an individual is granted asylum, his or her dependent relatives will also receive protection through him or her.
● The definition of a dependent relative, however, varies by the cultural notions of family prevalent in the State party. In the U.K., dependents are defined as the “spouse, civil partner, unmarried or same-sex partner, or minor child accompanying [the applicant]” while in Kenya, dependent relatives include the brother or sister of an applicant under the age of eighteen, “or any dependent grandparent, parent, grandchild or ward living in the same household as the refugee.”
● The 1951 Convention also protects other rights of refugees, such as the rights to education, access to justice, employment, and other fundamental freedoms and privileges similarly enshrined in international and regional human rights treaties.
● In their enjoyment of some rights, such as access to the courts, refugees are to be afforded the same treatment as nationals while with others, such as wage-earning employment and property rights, refugees are to be afforded the same treatment as foreign nationals.
Despite these rights being protected in the 1951 Convention and under human rights treaties, refugees in various countries do not enjoy full or equal legal protection of fundamental privileges.
Legal Snippet - Sept 9, 2020
Credits - Sakshi Verma