International refugee law – Essay Example

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The 1951 UN convention relating to the status of refugees defines a refugee as an individual who “owing to a 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 to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country or return there because there is a fear of persecution. ..”2 For a refugee status to attach to an individual, the person should be outside his country of nationality or residence and is unable or unwilling to return home due to well established fear of being persecuted based on their beliefs, race, religion, political opinion or membership to a particular group.

The definition of the convention does not include internally displaced people, those fleeing natural disasters, individuals fleeing general violence and stateless individuals not outside their country. 3 Countries, especially in Africa, facing displacement as a result of armed conflict did not find the convention to adequately provide for the definition of a refugee and consequently extended the status of refugees under the 1969 OAU Convention.

The extension sought to include as refugee individuals who “owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality. ”4 Key assistance agencies for refugees The central role in the protection of refugees is taken by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The agency was created in 1951 to assist in the protection of refugees internationally.

The main objective of the organization is to ensure that all individuals can enjoy the right to seek asylum and find refuge in another country. The most essential task of the agency is to encourage states to adopt flexible and fair processes that support fair and effective refugee legislation. When the agency was established, the material aspects of refugee relief, such a food and housing were left to the state that granted asylum, but with the increase in the number of refugees in less developed countries, the agency has adopted the role of coordinating material assistance. 5 Although coordinating material assistance was not part of the original mandate of the UNHCR, this role has become one of its major functions together with the protection and promotion of solutions for refugees.


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