According to Amnesty International, a refugee "is a person who has fled from their own country due to human rights abuses they have suffered there because of who they are or what they believe in, and whose own government cannot or will not protect them. As a result, they have been forced to seek international protection."¹
It is the responsibility of the States (i.e., countries) to protect their citizens.² When governments are unwilling or unable to do so, individuals may suffer serious human rights violations, forcing them to leave their homes and seek refuge in another country.² After World War II, the United Nations General Assembly created the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It is mandated to protect and find sustainable solutions for refugees.
Refugee rights include¹:
- Protection from being forcibly returned to a country where they would be at risk of persecution;
- Protection from discrimination;
- Protection from penalties for illegal entry;
- The right to work, housing, and education;
- The right to freedom of movement;
- The right to identity and travel documents.
International humanitarian law
International humanitarian law says that victims of armed conflict, displaced or not, should be respected, protected against the effects of war, and provided with impartial assistance.² Refugee law is often closely linked to humanitarian law, as many refugees find themselves in the midst of international or internal armed conflict.² An example of this would be Colombian refugees in Ecuador, who are not only refugees but victims of brutal armed conflict in their home country.²
1. Amnesty International. Who is a refugee? Retrieved May 6, 2014, from https://www.amnesty.org/en/refugees-and-migrants/rights-of-refugees-and-migrants