“Refugees are victims of gross Human Rights violation”. Comment on the Historical Development of International Refugee Law in pursuance to protect Refugee Rights
A refugee is referred to a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution. It refers to a person who involuntarily displaced from his or her homeland. These people run away from their own country due to race, nationality, religion, danger of war, harassment or torture and are in hopes of entering the country illegally hoping to seek protection as a refugee.
Until the late 19th century and the emergence of fixed and closed national boundaries, refugees were always taken in by neighboring countries. Later, immigration restrictions and increasing numbers of refugees necessitated special action to aid them. . In 1921 Fridtjof Nansen created a League of Nations Passport to allow refugees to move freely across national boundaries. Refugee status at that time was accorded only if the migrant’s departure was involuntary and asylum was sought in another country. In 1938 the definition of refugee was expanded to include persons with a well-founded fear of persecution because of ethnicity, religion, nationality, group membership, or political opinion. Later the definition was expanded again to include persons who have fled from their homes to other places in their own countries. Refugee status ceases to apply when the migrant either is resettled or returns home. There are an estimated 11-12 million refugees in the world today. This is a dramatic increase since the mid-1970s when there were less than 3 million refugees worldwide. However, it is a decrease since the 1992 when the refugee population was nearly 18 million, high due to the Balkan conflicts.
Despite seeing the condition of the refugees who does not have any particular shelter for living, there are some individuals and parties who do not acknowledge that refugees are in need of basic protection and safe shelter. As a result, millions of refugees are refused legal entry on a daily basis.
The problem of the refugees are among the most critical and complicated issue before the world community today. It is the responsibility of the state to protect their citizens and when the state is unwilling or is unable to protect its citizens, it is those citizens who move out of their own countries in order to get their basic protection in another country. It is the refugees who have been accepted generously and heartily by the nations in the past half century.
But in the present period of time it is those countries which are shutting their doors for the fears of assuming open ended responsibilities, of encouraging uncontrolled migration and people smuggling, or of jeopardizing national security. Real and perceived abuses of asylum systems as well as irregular movements, have also made some countries more cautious of refugee claimants, and concerned that resources are not being sufficiently focused on those in greatest need. Refugees have been refused admission to safety or have been expelled from asylum countries. Those who have reached a potential country of asylum have sometimes been turned away or sent back without being able to apply for asylum.
Refugees have been the targets of violent attacks and intimidation, largely because they were perceived as “different” from the communities in which they had temporarily settled. Tensions between refugees and local populations have erupted when refugees were seen as competitors for natural and economic resources. Armed combatants have been allowed to mingle freely with and intimidate with seeming impunity with the civilians who required safety in refugee camps and settlements. And, increasingly, governments have resorted to custody of illegal entrants, including women and children, many of whom are seeking asylum.
Seeing the conditions it has be understood that in the present period of time the refugees do not get what they deserve and have become victims of the violations of the human rights for which certain laws and standards have been established in order to protect them.
INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE LAW
International refugee law is a set of rules and procedures that aims to protect the people seeking asylum from persecution, and those recognized as refugees under the relevant instruments. Its legal framework provides a distinct set of guarantees for these specific groups of persons. A number of international instruments establish and define the basic standards for the treatment of refugees. Among all the instruments the most important are the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees: The 1951 Convention, which was drafted as a result of a recommendation by the newly established United Nations Commission on Human Rights, was a landmark in setting standards for the treatment of refugees. The Convention, in its article 1, provides a general definition of the term “refugee”. The term applies to any person who “as a result of events occurring before 1 January 1951 and 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 or her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling, to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his or her former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
The Convention sets the minimum standards of treatment of refugees, including the basic rights to which they are entitled. It also establishes the juridical status of refugees and contains provisions on their rights to gainful employment and welfare, on the issue of identity papers and travel documents, on the applicability of fiscal charges, and on their right to transfer their assets to another country where they have been admitted for the purposes of resettlement.
The principle of non-refoulement
The obligation exists under Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention which is not to return a refugee to a country of territory where he/she would be at risk of persecution: “No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
This is known as the principle of non-refoulement, which is considered part of customary international law and therefore binding on all states. The principle is also incorporated in several international human rights treaties, for example the 1984 Convention against Torture, which prohibits the forcible removal of persons to a country where there is a real risk of torture.
The 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees: The 1951 Convention could benefit only persons who had become refugees as a result of events occurring prior to 1 January 1951. However, the years following 1951 showed that refugee movements were not merely the temporary results of the Second World War and its aftermath. So the 1967 protocol removed the geographical and temporal restrictions established by the convention.
Throughout the late 1950s and 1960s new refugee groups emerged, in particular in Africa. These refugees were in need of protection which could not be granted to them under the limited time-frame of the 1951 Convention. The 1967 Protocol extended the application of the Convention to the situation of “new refugees”, i.e. persons who, while meeting the Convention definition, had become refugees as a result of events that took place after 1 January 1951. As of 1April 1992, 111 States were party to the 1951 Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND REFUGEES
The refugees and the asylum seekers are allowed to have all the rights and fundamental freedom that are included in the international human rights instruments. The protection of the refugees must therefore be seen in the broader context of the protection of human rights. These two elements cannot be separated from each other as they are and should be involved with each other. The people working in the organizations in the field of human rights as well as the people who are working to protect the refugees do have the same task of safeguarding the human dignity. Such as The human rights program of the United Nations deals with the rights of individuals in the territory of States. The refugee organization was established in order to restore minimum rights to persons after they leave their countries of origin.
The rights and obligations of refugees
A refugee has the right to safe shelter. However, international protection comprises more than physical safety. Refugees should receive at least the same rights and basic help as any other foreigner who is a legal resident, including certain fundamental entitlements of every individual. Thus refugees have basic civil rights, including the freedom of thought, of movement, and freedom from torture and degrading treatment.
Similarly, economic and social rights apply to refugees as they do to other individuals. Every refugee should have access to medical care. Every adult refugee should have the right to work. No refugee child should be deprived of schooling. In certain circumstances, such as large scale inflows of refugees, asylum states may feel obliged to restrict certain rights, such as freedom of movement, the freedom to work, or proper schooling for all children. Such gaps should be filled, wherever possible, by the international community.
Besides the rights, the refugees also do have some obligations which they must abide by such as following the laws and regulations of their country of asylum with the measures taken by the authority to maintain public orders.
VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND REFUGEES
As we have seen before that there are certain laws that have been developed which are referred to as the international refugee laws. These laws were enforced in order to protect the refugees and the asylum seekers from any kind of violations. But it has been observed that though these laws have been developed but still there are violations of human rights to the refugees.
· Violations of rights of refugees: The international community has now recognized that human rights violations are a major cause of mass departure of the people. Intolerance, racism, aggression, national and ethnic tensions and conflicts are on the rise in many places and affect many groups, in particular asylum-seekers and refugees. Efforts are being made to solve the problem but the difficulties seem to increase for the people who have left their country of origin. There are three issues which are causing the difficulties.
· The first is the disturbing tendency to close doors to asylum-seekers
· The second relates to violations of the minimum rights of asylum-seekers during the process of applying for shelter and also after refugee status has been granted.
· The third issue is the persistence of human rights violations in countries of origin and the need to address those violations before refugees can be voluntarily repatriated.
· Restrictive measures: In the present period of time there is a growing tendency to close the doors to the asylum seekers. Some of the governments which faced a large number of refugees or asylum seekers have introduced restrictive measures that hinder their access to such territories. These measures include complicated or burdensome visa requirements for nationals of some countries and fines imposed on airlines that carry undocumented aliens.
· Ill-treatment of asylum-seekers: The standard that is set for the asylum seekers is not at all up the mark. It shows no respect to the refugees whatsoever as the level of the treatment towards the asylum seekers are at its minimum level. For example there are situations when there is inadequate refugee-determination procedures and refoulement at airports and borders which cause enormous problems for some asylum-seekers. Then at times refoulement takes inhumane forms such as the forcible return of asylum- seekers to the countries of origin where their lives, liberties and security may be threatened. Boats of asylum-seekers have even been pushed back to sea to die of hunger or make an easy prey for pirates and sharks when they have attempted to land on certain shores. Other examples of ill-treatment include physical assaults, the detention of asylum-seekers for extended periods and without legitimate reasons and harsh interrogation procedures. A Government may also fail to provide adequate protection to refugees and asylum-seekers- thereby exposing them to physical danger from racist and xenophobic aggression. These treatments as we can see is completely against the human rights and the government should strictly enforce its rules and regulations against such treatments.
· Denial of the rights of asylum seekers: It has been seen that the problems of the asylum seekers do not end when they finally cross borders and go through the first phase of seeking asylum instead they have to go through a new series of problems when they get into the phase of interrogation or detention. The asylum seekers have to confront numerous restriction and obstacles even after they have been granted as a refugee or their processing of being a refugee is completed. In some instances refugees are confined to camps and refused access to courts and legal aid. Moreover, refugees may find themselves unable to obtain employment, own businesses or purchase land. In fact, in many cases where refugees are not forcibly returned they may feel compelled to leave owing to the degrading conditions of life to which they are subjected in host countries.
· Violations of the rights to life, liberty and security: In some places refugees are regularly subjected to attacks and abuse. Many have died in military or armed attacks on refugee camps and settlements. Young males and minors are frequently recruited into armed or guerrilla bands and forced to fight in civil wars. Attacks on refugee camps have been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly in numerous resolutions. The Commission on Human Rights has also been concerned with specific cases, such as attacks on Palestinian refugees in Lebanese camps and attacks on the Thai-Cambodian border. Refugee women and children are a particularly vulnerable group. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) makes a specific provision for giving “appropriate protection and humanitarian assistance” to the refugee child. Women make up a large proportion of the world’s refugee population. They are very frequently subjected to physical and sexual abuse in countries of refuge.
· Refugees and xenophobic or racist aggression: In the recent times it has been seen that there has been a tremendous increase in number of attacks on the refugees and asylum seekers. Today in some countries such conditions have arisen that refugees have to live with constant fear of physical assaults and threats to their lives and security. Refugees, as a particularly vulnerable group of foreigners, often become the primary targets of racist hatred. Political debates in some countries have tended to blur all the issues that relate to foreigners. Asylum-seekers, refugees, economic migrants, immigrants and seasonal workers are often lumped together as foreigners. The consequences have been threefold.
· First, the principles of protection and non-refoulement of refugees have been repeatedly violated.
· Secondly, the number of violent incidents perpetrated against refugees has increased.
· Thirdly, the refugee issue has come to be seen in political, rather than humanitarian terms and the lines between immigration policy and refugee policy have started to blur.
· Violations of human rights and voluntary return: The last relationship between human rights and refugee problems lies in the issue of durable and long lasting solutions. The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees stipulates that refugee status is not permanent and enumerates the conditions under which the Convention can cease to apply. Exile is neither a durable nor a truly humanitarian solution for refugees. Exile, as a form of compelled separation from the homeland, is only a temporary break. Repatriation, however, is feasible and humanitarian only when it is carried out on a voluntary basis and when it takes into account respect for the human rights of refugees. As long as violations of human rights persist in countries of origin, it is doubtful whether any refugee would decide to return voluntarily. Hence, the restoration of respect for and the promotion of all categories of human rights and the cessation of violent conflict in countries of origin are the necessary conditions for the voluntary return of refugees.
Here in our research we have found out that the refugee problem continues to challenge the international community. There have been some international refugee laws established in order to protect the refugees or asylum seekers from the violations of the human rights but those laws are very insignificant to stop the sufferings of the refugees. The world needs to find some actual solution in order to stop such inhuman action towards the refugees and asylum seekers. And in order to do this I feel that each and every nation should deeply study the factors which are actually causing the people to leave their nation of origin and flee to other countries and also concentrate on the rules that are causing the refugees to suffer even after being a refugee. Here firstly each and every nation should find out the main reasons behind the refugees leaving their country of origin and secondly the nations should develop a more rigid and strong system or standard that should be followed by every nation in order to stop the inhuman treatment towards the refugees and develop such a system that enables the refugees to obtain each and every right and the fundamental freedom that they deserve to get. Lastly I would like to show the number of refugees all over the world and do believe some actions will surely be taken in order to protect them.
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN||MAIN COUNTRIES OF ASYLUM||REFUGEES|
|Afghanistan||Iran / Pakistan||3,809,600|
|Sudan||Uganda / Ethiopia / D.R. Congo / Kenya / Central African Rep.||489,500|
|Angola||Zambia / D.R. Congo / Namibia||470,600|
|Somalia||Kenya / Yemen / Ethiopia / USA / United Kingdom||439,900|
|Bosnia-Herzegovina||Yugoslavia / Croatia / Slovenia Tanzania / Congo / Zambia / Rwanda /||426,000|
|Democratic Rep. Congo||Burundi||392,100|
|Viet Nam||China / USA||353,200|
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