While a refugee may be commonly defined as A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war persecution or natural disaster but the term refugee is narrow in the definition in the international law The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees hereafter the 1951 Convention defines a refugee as a person who owing to 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 or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country There are various criteria which have to be fulfilled to a claim by an asylum seeker to recognize him as a refugee The 1951 Convention is distinct in its definition that will constitute to be a refugee The various terms used in the 1951 Convention have been broadly interpreted and are briefly discussed below Well Founded Fear of Persecution An asylum seeker has to demonstrate that he has fled his country of origin because of the well founded fear of persecution The applicant must therefore furnish sound reasons for fearing individual persecution It may be assumed that a person s fear is well founded if he has already been a victim of persecution on one of the grounds enumerated in the 1951 Convention The word fear refers not only to persons who have actually been persecuted but also to those who wish to avoid a situation entailing the risk of persecution
The fear must be well founded the first criteria for determining what is well founded is a subjective element relating to the perceptions emotions and experiences of the refugee claimant and the second is an objective element which may be assessed from the general situation in the country of origin Though the emphasis of the 1951 Convention is on individualised persecution there is no universal definition of persecution Serious human rights violations are indicative of persecution Discrimination of a serious nature on grounds of race nationality religion and membership of a particular social group can also amount to persecution discrimination however is not sufficient on its own to constitute persecution Bona fide prosecution in the country of origin is generally not considered as persecution except when the punishment for a prosecutable offence is excessive and against international human rights standards Under the 1951 Convention a person must demonstrate a well founded fear of persecution for one or more of the following reasons
The Baha'is fled Iran as a result of the discrimination they faced in their country of origin due to their religion More recently two Pakistani Sikhs were executed by the Taliban because they refused to convert to Islam Following the attack a reported sixty Sikh families and likely many more settled in Amritsar Punjab seeking asylum Nationality Nationality is also used as a justification for persecution Nationality is interpreted in a broad sense to include the origins and membership of particular ethnic religious cultural and linguistic groups There is a degree of overlap between the various grounds of persecution and factors often cumulatively contribute to a well founded fear of persecution For instance in the 1980s Iraq passed a decree stating that the Faili Kurds were no longer to be considered Iraqi citizens under the false distinction that they were Iranian nationals Without the right to citizenship many such persons fled and indeed many were forcibly removed from Iraq and sought refuge in neighboring countries Membership in a Social Group Membership in a social group may also be used as a ground of persecution for refugee status under the 1951 Convention It is considered to be a catch all provision which may include any group of persons or an individual associated with a particular group who demonstrate common characteristics e g similar backgrounds sexual orientation habits or social status
These common characteristics must be immutable and fundamental to a person's identity such that the person should not be able to change it A particular social group may also refer to a person's family trade union social organization sexual orientation or gender Political Opinion The political opinion refers to an opinion on any matter in which the machinery of the State or government is engaged Government's persecution based on political opinion occurs when that opinion is viewed as an actual or perceived threat to that government or its institutions A situation may also arise where the refugee does not have a political opinion in opposition to the government or State entity but is imputed to hold such views This concept of imputed behavior is accounted for in the refugee definition An example of political opinion persecution is found in Tibetan refugees in India who faced both political and ethnic persecution by the Chinese government forcing them to flee the region they had regarded as autonomous
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