Refugees and Asylum

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951

“…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; or 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 to it.”

That is,

  • they are outside their country of origin or outside the country of their former habitual residence;
  • they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted; and
  • the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.


  • If a person has committed of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity
  • Committed a serious crime of non-political nature outside the country of refuge prior to his/her entry to that country as a refugee.
  • Guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the UN.

Basic Principles:

  • Non-refoulment
  • Non-discrimination
  • Protection of Refugees:
    1. Generally in the same manner as aliens (for example, owning and possession of movable and immovable properties, right of association, wage-earning employment, self-employment, liberal profession)
    2. In regard to right to access courts, refugees should be accorded same treatment as the nationals of the state. Similarly, in regard to artistic and industrial property of refugees similar protection that is otherwise accorded to nationals of the state should be extended. (Rationing, Public Education, Public relief, labour legislation and social security
  • Durable Solution
  • Administrative Assistance to Refugees
  • Burden Sharing and International Cooperation



Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

The General Assembly resolution 2312 (XXII) of 14 December 1967 , the Declaration on Territorial Asylum

“The word “asylum” is the Latin counterpart of the Greek word “asylon,” which means freedom from seizure. Historically, asylum has been regarded as a place of refuge where one could be free from the reach of a pursuer. Sacred places first provided such a refuge and scholars are of the view that “the practice of asylum is as old as humanity itself’.”

Still the word asylum does not have a clear definition. Some of the elements that are related to the concept of asylum are:

  1. to admit a person to its territory;
  2. to allow the person to sojourn there;
  • to refrain from expelling the person;
  1. to refrain from extraditing the person; and
  2. to refrain from prosecuting, punishing, or otherwise restricting the person’s liberty.

Various aspects of right to asylum

  1. Right of a state to grant asylum
  2. Right of an individual to seek asylum
  3. The right of an individual to be granted asylum
  4. Application of municipal standards
  5. Non-refoulement right

There is however debate on the admission of asylum seekers. The US Supreme Court’s decision in Sale v. Haitian Centers Council (1993) represents a school of thought that denies the extraterritorial application of non-refoulment right. That is, only when a person is within the territory of a state the right of non-refoulment becomes relevant.