Article 1 of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention defines a ‘refugee’ as someone who:
- is outside his country of nationality or habitual residence
- has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, and
- is unable or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
The term asylum seeker can change from country to country, but the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stats that asylum seekers ‘are people who move across borders in search of protection, but who may not fulfil the strict criteria laid down by the 1951 Convention’ [and those who have] applied for protection as a refugee and is awaiting the determination of his or her status.
‘Refugee is the term used to describe a person who has already been granted protection. Asylum seekers can become refugees if the local immigration or refugee authority deems them as fitting the international definition of refugee. .. in most countries, the terms asylum seeker [and] refugee differ only in regard to the place where an individual asks for protection. Whereas an asylum seeker asks for protection after arriving in the host country, a refugee asks for protection and is granted this protected status outside of the host country.’ Click here for more information
The convention and accompanying international legislation is based on the ‘cardinal principle that “no refugees or displaced persons who have finally and definitely ... expressed valid objections to returning to their countries of origin ... shall be compelled to return ...’”.
Click here for more information about the convention
For more information on the plight of refugees, see the UNHCR* website
* The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a regional office in Canberra. The UNHCR is an impartial, non-political humanitarian organisation mandated by the United Nations to protect refugees and seek ways to help them restart their lives. UNHCR's Canberra office covers Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, and focuses on three key areas: legal protection, resettlement and public information.