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The right to asylum or the right to sovereignty Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2019


Asylum seeking and the factors that cause have for a long time posed challenge for the internally displaced persons and the nation (Titus 1978, 263). Most conflicts are often seen to be intrastate, meaning the main goal is always displacement. However, in the process of the refugees seeking asylum serious conflicts arise with the sovereign nation (Bell 2003, 331).

Before the Second World War, there was no specific definition of a refugee, but following the UN general assembly war, the term refugee was finally given a specific definition (Green 2004, 19). A refugee was then defined as

“any person who as a result of events occurring before January, 1 1951and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. It could be outside the refugees’ nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear is unwilling to unveil them of the protection of that country.

In addition was a person 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” (United Nations High Commission for Refugees 2000, 108).

Refugee basic principle

Protection has been offered to asylum seekers under different legislation acts that call for the protection of refugees (Green 204, 21). A person enjoys this form of protection under certain categories provided by the 1950 Act; the person has to fit the description provided under the statue of a refugee to fall under the refugee protection (Bell 2003, 332).

A person seeking asylum and has no nationality in the country of habitual residence and cannot return to the former habitual residence, then the person has the right to protection. Those who also fall within the extended definition of a refugee under the UNHCR mandate, because they are no longer under their habitual residence (Frank 2003, 58).

Nevertheless, persons in need of protection who do not fall under the proper definition of a refugee are also extended some rights to protection. In this case, the sovereign country offers complementary forms of protection (Dauvergne 2003, 92). Some states also offer subsidiary protection to asylum seekers without defining the person’s situation.

UNHCR mandate is to provide protection for all refugees, and to ensure that this is well implemented. Therefore, UNHCR came up with a refugee determination criteria that would help vet and ascertain whether the person in question should be protected, assisted or resettled to another country (Emma 2003, 297). The country in which the person seeks asylum is responsible in carrying out refugee status determination.

This gives the state the responsibility of identifying those in need of international protection and enjoys the entitlements attached to the refugee status (United Nations High Commission for Refugees 2000, 108).

The state is given this responsibility in order to maintain and exercise national security, as they vet the asylum seekers. However, the state cannot return any person where his or her life is in danger and this is known as the principle of non-refoulment (Aoun 2002, 123). This principle covered by the 1951 Act is binding to all states including those that were not party to the 1951 convention.

To ensure that the asylum seeker is given fair representation UNHCR participates in the determination process in various positions (Aoun 2002, 123). The organization sometimes participates as an advisor or an observer, the body also vets through the application and act as a national authority representing the refugee’s case (Loescher 2001, 33).

International protection to refugees at the global level remains the UNHCR responsibility. UNHCR also tries to seek permanent solutions to the problem of refugees and also find a way to have the refugees settled (Adelman 1988, 7). Persons of concern to the UNHCR body are returnees, stateless persons and to and extend internally displaced persons.

UNHCR also ensure the refugee rights are not violated and that they acquire all what they are entitled to (Adelman 1988, 9; Pickering 2004, 362). The organization ensures that the host provides opportunities for the refugees to survive by allowing access to school and job opportunities (Pickering 2004, 364).

The refugees also have the right to freedom of movement within the host country and to some extent other states unless the refugee poses a threat to the sovereign state. It is the right of the asylum seeker to reunite with family members in the host country as soon as possible (Adelman 1988, 11).

Refugee impact and durable solutions

There is always an impact on development and environmental degradation on forced displacement (Papastergiadis 2004, 8). When refugees are displaced to a foreign land, the host country has to take them in and place them under refugee protection. This means that the host country extends the limited resources also to the refugees (Papastergiadis 2004, 9).

This stretches the resources available leading to environmental degradation. People displaced by development and degradation should be placed under temporary refugee status to prevent further environment harm. Rehabilitation then should be introduced and the refugees resettled back to their original habitat (Emma 2003, 299)

There has been a long-term acknowledgment that material assistance alone cannot ensure the well-being of refugees (Koppel and Anita 2003, 8). Humanitarian assistance and development strategies then need to be applied to come up with durable solutions.

These solutions would do more to protect internally displaced persons from exploitation, violence, abuse and harassment as opposed to financial aid (Koppel and Anita 2003, 8). UNHCR should pursue voluntary repatriation, where refugees voluntary return to their original habitat residence, with safety and dignity.

The body looks at ways to motivate refugees to return to their homelands by helping them resettle in the initial stages. Local integration could also be an adequate solution. Here legitimate refugees will be provided with citizenship of the host country, where they sought asylum (Loescher 2001, 44). This way they seize to be refugees and acquire new citizenship; this would apply best for the asylum seekers with no nationality.

The third strategy would be resettlement of the refugees. If the host country cannot take the refugees, the organization could transfer the person to a third state on permanent basis. The refugee then enjoys the rights and freedoms of the host country as a refugee (Koppell and Anita 2003, p.8).


The issue of refugee has been a long-standing one, attracting journalist and social scientist. Refugee status creates acute vulnerability where states feel the need to protect internally displaced persons. However, there has been the debate on how this can be accomplished without exposing national sovereignty and causing environmental degradation.

The answer greatly lies on basis of UNHCR strategy on asylum seekers under the 1951 act. Refugees can seek protection and material assistance without posing any threat to the host nation. The refugee status determination criteria call to implement a systematic system that commits to address this complex situation. Addressing this issue fosters durable peace and stability for long-term development.


Adelman, H. 1988. ‘Refuge or asylum: A philosophical perspective’. Journal of Refugee Studies, 1(1): 7-19.

Aoun, I. 2002. “Different Art Forms, Mutual Concerns.” Community, Culture, and Globalization. (Eds). Don Adams and Arlene Goldbard. Rockefeller Foundation. New York.

Bell, E. 2003. Gender and Armed Conflict: Supporting Resources Collection. Brighton, bridge. London.

Dauvergne, C. 2003. ‘Challenges to sovereignty: migration laws for the 21st century’. New Issues in Refugee Research. Working Paper No. 92. UNHCR.

Evaluation and policy Analysis Unit. Available at <> .

Emma, H. 2003. “The Refugee: The Individual Between Sovereigns”, Global Society: Journal of Interdisciplinary International Relations, 17: 297-322.

Frank, B. 2003. Tampering with Asylum: A Universal Humanitarian Problem St.Lucia: University of Queensland Press.

Green, L. 2004. ‘Bordering on the inconceivable: The Pacific solution, the migration zone, and ‘Australia’s 9/11’. Australian Journal of Communication, 31(1): 19-36.

Koppell, C and Anita, S. 2003. Preventing the Next Wave of Conflict: Understanding Non-Traditional Threats to Global Stability. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Washington DC.

Loescher, G. 2001. ‘The UNHCR and world politics: State interests vs. institutional autonomy’. International Migration Review, spring: 31(1): 33-56.

Papastergiadis, N. 2004. ‘The invasion complex in Australian political culture. Thesis Eleven, 78 (5): 8-27.

Pickering, S. 2004. ‘The production of sovereignty and the rise of transversal policing: People smuggling and federal policing’. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 37(3): 362-379.

Titus, A. (1978) Unravelling Global Apartheid: An Overview of Global Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996); Gernot Köhler, “Global Apartheid”, Alternatives, 4, 2; pp. 263-275.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees. 2000. The State of the World’s Refugees, 2000: Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

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