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Refugees. History, Types and Number. Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 15th, 2021

Introduction

A refugee is defined as a person who due to a justifiable reason of being persecuted for reasons of race , religion, nationality, membership of a certain social or a political group is out of the country of origin and is not convinced of protection in that country owing to the same fear.(Refugees status today ,2008)

Historically, refugees have been a by-product of war: people have fled in fear of violence, or because they have lost all their possessions in the fighting. Increasingly, however, forcing people to leave their homes has become a tactic in war. Where claims to political power have been framed in terms of ethnic, racial or religious identity, a group mobilizes itself on the base of that identity, and then tries to assert its right to power by excluding “others” from the territory. Extreme cases of this have been witnessed in Rwanda, with the Hutus and Tutsis, in Yugoslavia, with Croats, Serbs and Bosnians. In other cases individuals may be targeted in the instance of Iraq, some Iraqis who have worked alongside the US-backed Iraqi administration have fled the country after being warned by anti-government militiamen.

The UNHCR

After the World War II had ended, the League of Nations incorporated the right to asylum in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In 1950, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created to protect and assist refugees. In 1951, the United Nations agreed on Convention addressing the Status of Refugees, and by February 2002, it had been approved by 140 countries The agency has a mandate to direct and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee their problem. Its primary aim is to safeguard the civil liberties and well-being of expatriates. It strives to see to it all people can seek asylum and get safe refuge in another country, having the option to go back home at his will, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

Types of refugees

Mass movements of humans across borders are often divided into political refugees and economic migrants. Economic migrants are people who have left their homes voluntarily to earn a better wage elsewhere across the boarder, while political refugees are seen as having been forced by conditions to leave for their own safety. This important legal distinction was established by the Geneva Convention of 1951.Refugees are under the protection of the approximately 150 countries in the world which have signed the Geneva Convention, but irrespective of this, economic migrants are time and again are refused such rights. People who have made a formal application to the relevant authorities for a refugee protection, but are awaiting confirmation of their refugee status, are said to be asylum seekers. On the other hand people may make decision to leave a country neither by force nor their own will but rather due to pull and push factors they are then refereed to as migrants. These factors may be economic opportunities, political freedom and even social tolerance that may make people to move to move into or away from a country.

International law is a fails to define Cleary the point at which the push factors that makes people to leave their home, often under cases of fear, is so strong that their migration could be seen as forced. The legal classification of refugees is therefore rather narrow. Those who leave their homes due to severe poverty, food shortage or environmental factors fails to qualify as refugees. The Organization of African Unity Convention of 1969, used by African states, has a wider description of a refugee; a person who crosses borders because of events critically disturbing public arrangement in either part of, or the entire country of origin or nationality (OAU,1969). All the same, if you don’t go over an international border, you cannot be a refugee. People in nations such as Colombia, Kenya and Sudan who left their homes due to violence, but has remained in the same country, are not refugees but are instead referred to as internally-displaced persons (IDPs).

A further category of refugees is that of stateless people do not have a nationality, a fundamental human right denied to most likely as many as 11 million people world over. Stateless people can only be refugees, if they fit the Geneva Convention’s definition.

No. of refugees

At the beginning of 2007, 9.9 million people were grouped as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)- the multilateral organization charged with their protection. This saw a 14% increase on figure in 2006, when the number of refugees then at 8.7 million was the lowest ever since 1980, following a climax of 18.2 million in 1993 after the end of the Cold War. Afghanistan is the state of origin for the greatest figure of refugees. More recently, more refugees have originated from unstable countries like Burma, Somalia, and currently Zimbabwe (UNHCR, 2007). The current exodus from Iraq is being viewed as todays world most grim refugee crisis. The total number of refugees in the world today stands at overt 35 million where half of them are women and children.

The universal refugee crisis affects every continent and nearly every country. In 2001, 78 percent of all refugees were from 10 areas: Burma, Burundi, Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo , Eritrea, Iraq, the Palestinian territories., Sudan ,Somalia and Palestinians are the world’s oldest and major refugee population, and make up more than 25 percent of all refugees. Asia hosts 45 percent of all refugees globally, followed by Africa with 30 percent then Europe having 19 percent and finally North America with 5 percent.

How are asylum seekers treated by host countries?

In the past 50 years, states have largely regressed in their commitment to protect refugees, with the wealthy industrialized states of European and American countries are first adopting hostile and restrictive policies. Governments have subjected refugees to arbitrary arrest Since September 11, many countries have pushed through emergency anti-terrorism legislation that curtails the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

You can only apply for refugee status from inside a country; so many states have unsubtly tried to keep out would-be applicants. This has included placing visa restrictions on visitors from certain countries: without a visa, people can’t enter the country, and therefore can’t apply for asylum. To support this, many governments now fine airlines and other transport operators who bring those without visas into the country. International proposals have also recently been put forward arguing for refugees to be kept in the developing world, where their claims to asylum can be processed.

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right article number 14 on how to seek and to enjoy in other nations asylum from harassment. This principle recognizes that victims of human rights abuse should be able to leave their country of origin freely and to seek refuge in a different place. Governments repeatedly see refugees as a threat or a burden and there fore fails to respect this core principle of human rights and refugee protection. Another convention is the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which is an international convention that spells out who a refugee is, and explains the rights of individuals who are given asylum and the duties of states that grant asylum.(Declaration of Refugees 1984). The convention also states clearly the groups of people who do not qualify to be termed as refugees, such as war criminals. It also provides for some visa-free travel for holders of travel documents given under it. certain phrases of the conventions are considered so fundamental that no alterations may be made to them. theses include the definition of the a refugee and the concept of non-refoulement i.e. no state should can expel a refugee against his or her own will in a territory where she fears being persecuted but this convention does not apply to refugees who are the concern of UN agencies apart from UNHCR.

References

(2008). Refugees Status Today. Web.

(1951). The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Davies, J. (1967) Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

(1966) Bangkok Principles on Status and Treatment of Refugees adopted at the Asian-African Legal Consultative Committee in 1966.

OAU (1969). Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa.

The (1984). Cartagena Declaration on Refugees. Latin America Vol.2.

The Council of Europe’s Recommendations (1976). : Situation of de facto Refugees Vol.3.

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