ASYLUM SEEKERS & REFUGEES
The search for safety
Courtesy of the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law
A ‘refugee’ is someone who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, and who cannot return home because this would expose them to a risk of persecution. Countries have obligations under international law to protect refugees, as well as people fleeing other serious human rights violations, such as torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Recently, Australia has accepted about 15,000 refugees a year.
An ‘asylum seeker’ is someone who is seeking protection but has not yet had their refugee claim determined by an official – in other words, they might be a refugee, but we do not yet know because no one has heard and evaluated their claim.
A ‘migrant’ is someone who chooses to move to another country, usually for work, education or family reasons. Whereas refugees are compelled to leave their countries, migrants do so voluntarily.
THE REFUGEE CONVENTION
The treaty outlining who is a refugee and how refugees ought to be protected first arose in the aftermath of the Second World War; since then 148 countries have bound themselves to apply its provisions.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (commonly known as the Refugee Convention) is the main international treaty concerning refugee protection. It was adopted in July 1951 and was initially drafted to meet the needs of European refugees in the aftermath of World War II. It applied only to people who had been displaced as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951. It was supplemented by the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (1967 Protocol), which removed the temporal and geographical limitations of the Refugee Convention, making it applicable to refugees all over the world. Countries that have ratified the Protocol agree to apply the provisions of the Convention as well. There are currently 148 States Parties to one or both of the Convention and the Protocol. LINK HERE for more information