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As graduate students within the MAGI program Narica Williams and I Abdul Aziz Meslat propose to conduct our exit project on a research study of current international human rights and solutions to protecting human rights through international law as it pertains specifically to the recent refugee crisis.
Protecting human rights through international law (The refugee problem)
Objectives of the study:
1 - Clarification of the statement on the meaning of the refugees in the International law.
2 - Identify the difference between the refugees and displaced in accordance with international rules.
3 - stand on the rights of the refugees in light of international conventions and the principles of the United Nations and its affiliated organizations.
4 - a statement of the means of international protection and protection of refugees.
5 - shed light on the problems experienced by the refugees due to wars and natural disasters in light of the inadequacy of means and procedures prescribed internationally and show practical solutions to them.
Work Methodology: descriptive approach based on rooting and comparison in the International theories, and International law role.
Main discussion points:
1. The term refugees is a term used in international relations, where the view of international law was more profound and broader. It dealt with the provisions of internally displaced persons, including refugees and refugees in the usual sense of the status system.
2- The definition contained in the United Nations Guidelines on Refugees has been concerned with addressing the causes of asylum without regard to the other branches of the term, which is descriptive rather than legal, since the definition of the special rights of refugees and internally displaced persons has not been introduced under international law. 3- After the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court, extensive protection was given to the civilian population from all resulting from armed conflicts. The Statute considered that coercion of the civilian population to be forcibly refugee was considered a crime against humanity.

Background of the Study

This research proposal entails the international responsibility and cooperation in combating significant challenges in several countries and regions pertaining to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. It further discusses about the principles and legal protection that is accorded to the humans by the international law for ensuring protection of their rights. The research proposal describes the historical situations with the help of cases, in which states have worked together for creating and developing cooperative responses to the refugee movements (Smith 2018).

Individuals and groups fleeing persecution for decades and the states have been striving to ensure that the individuals and group are safeguarded. The modern refugee, like the International Human Rights Law has originated because of World War II as well as the refugee crisis of the inter-war years that took place in the preceding years. According to Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that was enforced in 1948 assures the right of the refugees and asylum seekers to enjoy and seek asylum in other countries. The regional human rights instruments have expanded this right by assuring the right to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries (Shelton 2015). Regional human rights instruments, state legislations and International conventions like American Convention on Human Rights under article 22(7) and the African [Banjul] Charter on Human and People’s Rights under article 12(3) have expanded on the right that guarantees right to seek and be asylum in a alien territory.

The International Convention on refugee law that governs the refugee law includes the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees [1951], Convention and its Optional Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees [1967 Optional Protocol]. The 1951 Convention provides the definition of refugee as well as it defines the rights to which the immigrants granted with refugee status are entitled. However, there is no convention for the Internally Displaced persons equivalent to the Refugee Convention 1951. Nevertheless, once persons are displaced under several bodies of law, the international law safeguards such persons from displacement (Donnelly, Jack and Daniel 2017).

The problem associated with the internally displaced persons and the refugees has become one of the most intricate global concerns in this contemporary era. The United Nations persists to ascertain more effective and appropriate ways to assist and safeguard the vulnerable groups. While some suggest enhancing the level of coordination cooperation among relief agencies, others consider that the gaps between the international legislation should be filled to effectively overcome the issues pertaining to refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in the global arena (Forsythe 2017). However, majority of the state parties to the UN agree with the fact that to resolve this global problem, it is imperative to introduce approaches that are both comprehensive and effective in addressing every aspect of the issue. These include the causes of such mass departure to the expansion of the responses that are mandatory to deal with various refugee situations from repatriation and emergencies.

Objectives of the Study

There are certain facts, which are beyond any dispute. For instance, it is possible to prevent certain mass departures but it should be understood that such departures are not voluntary. In other words, people do not become refugee by choice as being a refugee implies being an alien who is dependent on others for their basic needs that is essential for their survival such as food, shelter and clothing. Since the inception of the United Nations, the UN has strived to safeguard the refugees all over the world. There were approximately 1 million refugees under the mandate of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the year 1951 when UNHCR was established. However, there has been an incline in the refugee rate, up to 17.5 million along with an increase in displaced persons to 25 million approximately.

In the year 1951, majority of the refugees were Europeans whereas majority of the refugees today come from Asia and Africa. At present, the refugee movements have rapidly taken the form of mass departure instead of individual migration and the refugees mostly include women and children. Although the primary reason for mass exodus is considered to be the fear of persecution that has been defined under the 1951 Convention but such reasons have multiplied and now include extreme poverty as well as natural or ecological disasters as reasons for such mass departure of the refugees (Horowitz 2017). This refers to the victims who fled for the apprehension of being persecuted on the grounds of belief, ethnic group, race and association with any particular political or communal group or supporting any social or political opinion.

The United Nations have also been equally alarmed about the recent incline in the rate of internally displaced persons all over the world. The ‘internally displaced persons’ refer to those persons who are compelled to leave their residence but stay within the province of their respective countries. Since these persons stay within the territory of their respective countries, these persons are not considered within the existing system of refugee protection. The circumstances where persons are internally displaced within their respective country generally mostly arise in developing countries and they mainly comprise women and children. Further, in some of the developing countries, the internally displace persons make up almost 10 percent of the population of the country. Although the refugee situation and the problems associated, with Internally Displaced persons have become a growing concern but such situation demonstrates the dependence of the international community. It exemplifies how issues in one country can have an immediate consequence for the other countries, also reflects the interdependence regarding the issues (Goodhart 2016).

Work Methodology

There is a comprehensible relationship between the issue of human rights and the refugee problems. This is evident from the fact that the infringement of human rights is one of the significant reasons for mass departure but it excludes the option of voluntary repatriation rule as long as such human rights are violated resulting in mass exodus. The contravention of human rights of the minorities and the increase in the ethnic conflicts forms the source of both internal displacements and mass departure. The other significant cause for the refugees and the internally displaced persons is the disregard for the minimum rights for the refugees and a common factor that forms a relationship between the two issues.

While seeking asylum, an increasing number of persons seeking the same have to experience restrictive measures that prevents them to have admission to safe territories. In some cases, refugees ad asylum seekers are either forcefully returned or retained to areas where their security, lives and liberty are at risk. This is because the armed groups of the country they seek asylum from or apply to obtain the status of a refugee attack some of them or they are forcefully recruited into armed forces where they are compelled to take part in civil conflicts. Majority of the refugees and the asylum seekers are subjected to racial discrimination (Harvey 2015).

It is imperative that the rights of the refugees are respected before and during and after the asylum seekers are granted the status of a refugee. In order to deter and resolve all the issues associated with refugees and asylum seekers, it is pertinent to respect the rights and dignity of the refugees. As asserted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the issues associated with refugees should be regarded as a assessment of their commitment to human rights for all the governments and the people.

The rationale of the research is to understand the various international laws that have been formulated to safeguard the rights of the refugees, asylum seekers and the internally displaced persons. There is a relationship between human rights and the refugees where the violation of human rights have been identified to be a fundamental reason for mass exodus taking place all over the world. Therefore, the research aims at discussing the various international legal provisions that intends to safeguards the human rights of the refugees and the internally displaced persons ensuring they are not deprived of their human rights. The protection of the human rights accorded to the refugees and the internally displaced by international law is evident from the cooperation and collaboration of the international communities with respect to refugee crisis that occurred in several parts of the world (Nanda  2016).

Main Discussion Points

The UNHCR and the 1951 Refugee Convention is the main statutory framework that extends protection and assists the refugees. The human rights law and the international human rights law safeguards the refugees from situation, which gives rise to armed conflict. Although the civilian refugees in States who are engaged in armed conflict are safeguarded under the provisions of the International Human Rights Law, they are also entitled to receive special protection under the Additional Protocol I and the Fourth Geneva Convention. The additional protection that these refugees are entitled to identifies the weakness of the refugees as aliens who are compelled to take part in the armed conflict.

There is no international convention for the Internally Displaced persons like the legislative framework of 1951 Refugee Convention. However, the international human rights law safeguard people being internally displaced as civilians unless they take part in conflict. The international human rights play a significant role in deterring displacement altogether. The international provisions prevent displacement of people unless there is a mandatory requirement to displace persons for military purposes or for safeguarding the civilians themselves. However, a systematic or a widespread policy for displacement of civilians without any proper justified or valid reasons shall amount to a crime against the humanity.

Several rules of the international human rights law aims at safeguarding the civilian population and the contravention of such rights often forms the primary cause of displacement. For example, an attack caused by armed conflict on the civilians and their objects is prohibited as they are considered as an illegal warfare methods, which have an adverse impact on the civilians. The prohibition of acts that prevent displacement include the prohibition of acts that threaten the survival ability of the civilian’s population such as destruction without any valid military reason, health facilities, water, food and electricity supplies. The process of collective punishment with respect to the civilian populations is equally prohibited under the international human rights law.

The international humanitarian law assures that refugees and the internally displace persons are provided with the accessibility for relief under circumstances of armed conflict. The parties associated with the conflict must provide facilities to supply relief materials like blankets, food, tents and medicines (Domínguez, Adrienne and Elizabeth 2016). Unfortunately, these rules have been persistently ignored in several instances where the lives of the refugee populations and the internally displaced persons have been at stake in the situations of armed conflicts. The ICRC have regularly requested the state parties and the non-state armed groups to respect and exhibit respect towards the basic principles of humanity and international law while dealing with the civilians. It is believed that the only way to prevent internal displacement and increasing refugee flows is by demonstrating respect for the rights and dignity of the refugees and the internally displaced persons, thus, ensuring their safety. Moreover, if people are forced to leave their homes, it is imperative that the statutory provisions of the international human rights are complied with to ensure that protection of such people.

The main objectives of this research are as follows:

  • To comprehend the concept of refugee and internally displaced persons;
  • To discuss about the various international principles that govern the status of refugee and asylum seekers with reference to refugee cases;
  • To understand how human rights of the refugees are safeguarded by the International law;
  • To identify the difference between the refugees and internally displaced in accordance with international rules;
  • To highlight the problems experienced by the refugees due to wars and natural disasters in light of the inadequacy of means and procedures prescribed internationally and show practical solutions to them;
  • Who are refugees and internally displaced persons in the framework of international law?
  • What are the various global principles that govern the status of refugee and asylum seekers with reference to refugee cases?
  • How human rights of the refugees are safeguarded by the International law?
  • What is the difference between the refugees and internally displaced in accordance with international rules?
  • What are the issues experienced by the refugees due to wars and natural disasters due to inadequacy in the means and procedure provided under the international law?
  • What are the solutions to the problems that the refugees experience?

This research project has been conducted using the descriptive approach. Descriptive research refers to a study that is designed to describe the subject of the research accurately. Descriptive research aims at shedding light on the present issues or problems using the data collection method, which ultimately enables them to describe the situation more accurately, and in a complete manner as compared to other research methods. The significance of this form of research method lies in the fact that descriptive studies are used to illustrate several aspects of the subject of the research (Tazreiter 2017).

The descriptive research method is used to recognize and describe the status of a situation or a solution that has been earlier put to use. Thus, the descriptive method can be used to understand the effectiveness of any proposed solution and it enables to understand the extent to which such solution could be effective. The research questions under this type of research method usually commence with ‘what is..’ Three essential methods are used to obtain information about the subject matter of the research using the descriptive research approach. Such methods include observational methods, case study methods and survey methods and these can be used with the descriptive studies.

The observational methods under the descriptive approach are related to field observation where close observation of the behavior of the research subject is required. In the survey research method, the participants answer questions that are put to them through either questionnaires or interviews. The researchers describe the responses provided by the participants (Ostrand 2015). The case study method used under this descriptive method involves a profound study of individuals or group of individuals, which often enables the researcher to study rare phenomenon. The advantages associated with descriptive research include the effectiveness of this type of descriptive research methodology to analyze issues or subject matter that is non-quantified. This type of research methodology is less consuming than the other form of research methodologies.

In this research project, the descriptive form of work methodology is used by using the case study descriptive approach. The research paper discusses about the various international legislations governing the status of refugees with the help of several case studies related to the refugee crisis. Since the case studies reflect what has already happened before and the solutions that have been used before, it would help the researcher to understand about the issues that the refugees experience during such situation and what should be done to resolve such issues.

The case studies demonstrate the collaboration and cooperation amongst the international community to ensure safety of the refugees and assist them to recover from the crisis. The use of descriptive approach as the research methodology shall enable the researcher to describe the efficacy of the solutions that have been used to resolve the refugee crisis and the extent to which it has been successful. It shall provide an idea about the issues that the refugees have experienced during such refugee crisis. It further shall enable the researcher to describe solutions that would prevent such crisis from taking place in the future or if it occurs, such solutions would be more effective to combat any such crisis, ensuring safety of the refugees.

Concept of refugee and internally displaced persons 

According to Article 1(A) (2) of the International Refugee law of the 1951 Convention defines the term ‘refugee’ as any person who remains outside the national country for the fear of being persecuted on the grounds of religion, nationality, race and membership of any particular political or social opinion. Such person either does not have access to the protection or is unwilling to avail the protection of the country. This is the fundamental definition for describing the status of a refugee given by international law. However, this definition has been enhanced by provincial bodies and through the progressive development of international human rights law to enhance subsidiary protection (Schoultz  2014).

The essential terms included in the definition of ‘refugee’ must be comprehended in the context of the 1951 Convention.

Asylum seeker- any person who has applied for recognition in any other country other than his/her own country as a refugee is known as asylum seeker. If the asylum seekers qualify or fulfills the conditions require to be established to obtain the status of a refugees, shall be granted such status.

Well-founded fear- individual state parties have construed the requirement to establish ‘well–founded’ fear of persecution stipulated in the 1951 Convention in order to obtain the status of a refugee. The asylum seekers must establish that there are reasonable possibilities that they will be subjected to persecution if they are returned to their nations or habitual dwellings. It includes future threat of persecutions for those who have been persecuted in the past.

Persecution- though this term has not been defined in the 1951 Convention or the 1967 Optional Protocol, the Council of European Union have included a non-exhaustive list in the Qualification Directive which may amount to maltreatment such as physical or mental violence, sexual violence, police, lawful or administrative measures that are discriminatory. Acts like denial of judicial redress or compulsion to join military services, which would otherwise amount to crime, or any other acts that are gender or specific acts.

The acts must fall within any of the five grounds mentioned in the definition under the 1951 Convention to obtain the status of a refugee. All the asylum seekers are granted the refugee status as well as their dependent relatives are granted the status of refugees. There are legislative cases that pertains the present issues associated with refugees in the contemporary era (Frieden, Jeffry and David 2015).

In Matter of Kasinga 21 I&N 357 [BIA 1996], the US Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that the asylum seeker,  young women forms a specific social group, as they were not the members of a Tchamba-Kunsuntu Tribe of Northern Togo that was subjected to female genital mutilation as its practice.

Further, in joined cases, Regina v Immigration Appeal Tribunal and Another Ex Parte Shah [AP] [1999] [HL], Islam (AP) v Secretary of State for the Home Department, the House of Lords in UK held that women in Pakistan were successful in establishing that they formed social group and had fled from their country for the fear of being persecuted. They were already subjected to domestic violence and to prevent the same, had fled from their home country.

Internally displaced persons, unlike the refugees, refer to those who remain within the boundaries of his/her own countries. Therefore, the difference between the internally displaced persons and the refugees is legal and technical. Further, their difference has not much relevance with respect to the reasons for their departure from their respective nations. However, both the refugees and internally displaced persons are often subjected to the similar factors that results in their flight and displacement respectively. Their material needs and protection are often similar which calls for equal concentration and cooperation of the international community. Majority of the humanitarian agencies conduct their operations in order to deal with the requirements of both the internally displaced and the refugees (Symons, Jonathan and Dennis 2015).

The United Nations have authorized the UNHCR who is statutorily obligated to ensure protection to the refugees to extend its protection towards the internally displaced persons on an ad hoc basis. The internally displaced persons are subjected to protection from the domestic law and the international human rights law under circumstances where there is armed conflict. The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement are based on these two bodies, which endows with useful guidance about displacement and its several aspects.

As per Article (1) 2 of the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees  the term ‘refugee’ provided by 1951 Convention have been amended. The amended definition of ‘refugee’ states that this term should be applicable irrespective of any geographical and temporal limitations that are stipulated in the 1951 Convention. The definition of the term refugee under the Convention is considered as minimum standard definition to describe the status of a person as a refugee. The definition ‘refugee’ provided under the 1951 Convention forms the basis of refugee formation used in the European Union. Further, Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) stipulates that everyone is entitled to the right to enjoy and seek asylum from persecution in other countries. This definition is applicable to all asylum seekers and merely intends to improve the definition stipulated under the 1951 Convention, thus, endowing the asylum seekers with the protection of the refugee law and the human rights law (Smith 2018).

In regards to the regional protection that is accorded to the refugees, there is a fundamental difference between 1951 Convention and 2004 Qualification Directive where the later stipulated a limitation which restricted the persons who could seek the refugee status under the Qualification Directive to the nationals of the non-EU countries and stateless persons. This is accurate since the EU nationals can initiate a human rights claim directly to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in case their freedom movement is subjected to any form of objection.

Further, as an annexure of the definition of refugee provided under the 1951 Convention, the OAU (now AU) have included a broader scope to seek protection. As per definition of refugee under the OAU Convention, it is mandatory to establish that the person seeking shelter has ‘well-founded’ fear of being persecuted in his or her respective country. However, the main supporter of international protection for refugees is the Office of the UNCHR that has a wide-ranging obligation towards the refugees. In regards to the efficacy, the significant role played by UNCHR does not include duty to endow the refugees with direct assistance but to ensure that the actions initiated by the States are in coordination with the public and private organizations.

The States are conferred with the fundamental responsibility to safeguard their citizens. When the government of a country is not providing or is unable to provide its nationals with protection, individuals are left with the option to suffer contraventions of the human rights which often compels them to leave their homes, family, friends and seek safety in other countries. Since the basic definition of refugee suggests that the governments of their respective countries do not safeguard the human rights of refugees, the international community shall have to take the responsibility to ensure that they are protected and their human rights are duly respected (Tomuschat 2016). The phrase ‘international protection’ encompasses various activities that aim at securing and safeguarding the rights of the refugees. The 1951 Convention stipulates certain rights with respect to the status of the refugees; however, certain refugee rights may be subjected to restrictions under specific circumstances. Some of the fundamental refugee rights as stipulated in the Convention include the following:

  • Freedom of religion (Article 4);
  • Non-discrimination (Article 3);
  • Right to work (Article 17);
  • Right to housing (Article 21);
  • Right to education (Article 22);
  • Freedom of movement within the territory (Article 26);
  • Right to public assistance and relief (Article 23);
  • Right not to be departed from a nation unless the refugees pose a risk to the public order or national security;

The most common rights set out in the Convention include the right of the refugees to be safeguarded against refoulement, forcible return to the territory or nations from which the refugee had fled for the fear of being persecuted. By granting asylum to a refugee, it is understood that a country discharges its obligation to safeguard the refugee against refoulement and ensure that the human rights of the refugees are respected and safeguarded (Schabas 2017). The refugees should be permitted to remain within the territory until a permanent solution is found to resolve such issue. The grant of asylum is considered as a humanitarian and peaceful act of State’s autonomy and the states must not be perceive it as an unfriendly act, the refugee’s state of origin, in particular. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to enjoy and seek asylum from being persecuted in other countries.

The infringement of the principle of non-refoulement takes place under three circumstances. Firstly, when there are no chances for the asylum seekers to seek asylum elsewhere and they are rejected at the frontier. Secondly, when a refugee is banished from the country of asylum to a territory where the liberty or physical security of the refugee is at risk. Thirdly, refugees are forcefully returned to their country of origin or sent to a country where they fear of being persecuted. 

  Additionally, the refugees enjoy their basic human rights that are stipulated in other international legislations apart from those set out in the 1951 Convention. The following include the texts that set out the basic human rights, which several States have signed and ratified:

  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [1996];
  • International Convention on the elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [1965];
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [1996]; and
  • UN Convention on  the Rights of the Child [1989];
  • OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of the Refugee Problem in Africa

Refugee law and the international human rights are intertwined where the international humanitarian law ensures the safety of the human rights. The following are the basic rights stipulated under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

  • Right to life, security and liberty of person;
  • Right to seek asylum;
  • Freedom from servitude or slavery;
  • Freedom from cruel, torture, degrading or inhuman punishment or treatment;
  • Recognition as a person before the eyes of law;
  • Freedom of conscience, religion and thought;
  • Freedom from arbitrary detention and arrest;
  • Freedom from arbitrary interference in home, family and privacy;
  • Right to be educated and participate in cultural life of a community;

As stated earlier, that the term ‘persecution’ is not precisely defined in the 1951 Convention which is used in the definition of ‘refugee’. However, the contravention of the above human rights either individually or collectively shall amount to persecution provided such contravention is serious enough to make it impossible and unbearable for the refugee to stay in his/ home country. Singer (2017) states that such contravention should be based on any of the five grounds (religion, race, nationality, political opinion or membership in any specific social group) mentioned in the refugee definition.

Enforcement: Asylum claims

The settlement of asylum claims varies from one state to another. Although some States, those that comprise the Council of the European Union, in particular, have made several attempts to accept a uniform asylum system, there is lack of jurisdiction to adjudicate individual asylum claims among the uniform asylum system. Generally, an official from a designated government agency or department who possess sufficient knowledge about refugee law conducts refugee status or asylum adjudications. The asylum seeker is obligated to establish that he fulfills the requirements of the refugee definition mentioned in the 1951 Convention and must endow the official agency or department with evidence to support his contention that he is a refugee (Zwaan 2017).

According to Article 31 of the 1951 Convention, the State parties are required to incorporate in their domestic laws that the irregular entry of the applicant without any documentation or entry visa shall not have any adverse impact on the application of the asylum seeker. Once the asylum seeker establishes that they have well-founded fear of being persecuted in their home country, he or she shall be granted asylum and the individuals may receive residencies permit for their dependent relatives themselves as well as for themselves. Individuals who are found ineligible for asylum may become entitled to restricted forms of protection under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture where the state parties are safeguarded from returning or extraditing any refuges or asylum seekers to any country where their life is at risk.

  • Protection of human rights of refugees under international law

In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been enforced to bring the human rights into the sphere of international law. Since then the organization has been duly safeguarding the human rights through legal instruments and other human rights related activities. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been conferred with the responsibility in the UN system for the protection and promotion of human rights. The Human Rights Council that was established 2006 replaced the Commissioner on Human Rights as fundamental and independent UN governmental body responsible for human rights (Cole 2015).

Legal instruments that assist UN safeguard Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) was the first legal document that safeguards the universal human rights. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the UDHR together form the International Bill of Human Rights. The other UN offices and bodies that are responsible for safeguarding human rights include Security Council, Third Committee of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Human Rights and Refugees

The refugees and asylum seekers are entitled to all the fundamental freedoms and rights that are highlighted in the international human rights instruments. The protection of the refugee must be perceived within the wider context of the protection of human rights. The work of the High Commissioner with respect to the refugees and that of the United Nations with respect to human rights is intertwined as the purpose of both the entities is common which is to show respect towards human self-respect. The human rights program of the UN deals with the rights of the individuals within the territories of States. The refugee organization was established for restoring human rights to the persons after they leave their respective countries of origin.

Violation of human rights and refugees

Refugees are at risk when their human rights are contravened in their home country. The violation of the human rights amounts to a significant factor that led to the departure of refugees and is considered as an impediment to the safety and voluntary return of such refugees to their home. Therefore, it is imperative that human rights of the refugees in their countries of origin should be safeguarded for preventing violation of the human rights and resolving the problems associated with refugees. Therefore, it is essential to respect the human rights of the refugee and ensure them protection in countries they seek asylum (Schoultz 2014).

Human Rights protection for Refugees

The states that signed the 1951 Convention are primarily responsible for safeguarding the refugees as per the terms stipulated in the Convention. Article 31 of the Convention does not invalidates illegal entry of the refugees into other countries because the refuges hardly have time to prepare legal documents or obtain visa while leaving their home country. However, the entry of the refugees shall only be regarded as valid if they present themselves before the authorities without causing any delay after entering into the country and establish good cause for their illegal entry into such country. The United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees [UNHCR] is a humanitarian agency, non-political that was created by the UN General Assembly and is obligated to provide international protection to the refugees and promote permanent solutions to the problems associated with the refugees.

UNHCR and Protection of Refugee Rights

The UNHCR works to ensure that refugees whose human rights are at risk in their home country are not subjected to refoulement. This is considered as a powerful and direct means of safeguarding the basic human rights of the refugees. In past decades, refugees who have been forced to return to their countries have been killed, forced to live or tortured. Therefore, the protection accorded to the refugees by the UNHCR is an effective means to prevent any future human rights violations.

The international community has now accepted that the contravention of human rights have become growing concern for mass departures. While the efforts are being made to resolve this issue at the grass root level, much attention is drawn towards the inconveniences and the complexity that the asylum-seekers are experiencing after they abscond from their home country. The essential issues that are being perceived as the main reasons for the growing concern of mass exodus is explained below:

Limited measures- Firstly, the issue pertaining to the troubling tendency to shut the doors to the asylum-seekers is one of the primary reasons. Some governments have introduced limited measures, which hinders the accessibility of the refugees and the internally displaced persons to their territories owing to the incline in the rate of illegal aliens, asylum-seekers and economic migrants. These measures include making the visa necessities for the nationals of certain countries more intricate and imposing fines on airline that carried aliens without any proper and valid documentation (Bariagaber 2016).

Mistreatment of asylum-seekers- Secondly, another significant issue is the contravention of the minimum rights of asylum-seekers during the process of applying asylum as well as during the procedure after they are granted the status of refugee. The lack of adequate refugee-determination procedures and refoulement at borders and airports of the asylum seeking countries often give rise to huge problems associated with the asylum seekers. The refoulement of the asylum seekers have often resulted in forcefully returning the asylum seekers to their homeland country where their life is at risk. Further, asylum-seekers have been compelled to go back to the sea where they often starve to death or become prey to pirates or sharks, thus, jeopardizing their lives (Türk, et al. 2017).

Other examples of maltreatment include confinement of asylum seekers and physical assaults for prolong period without providing any justifying or valid reasons for the same. The failure of government to extend protection towards the refugees or asylum seekers or the internally displaced person may often expose them to physical injuries and danger.

Denial and violation of rights of refugees or the asylum seekers- Thirdly, the persistency in the contravention of the human rights of the refugees and the asylum seekers in their country of origin and the lack of proper solutions to such contraventions prior to the voluntary repatriation of the refugees is yet another fundamental issue. The problems associated with asylum seekers do not cease when they cross the borders and apply for the asylum seeking process, which results in interrogation and detention. In some instances, refugees are forcibly restricted to camps and are refused access to judicial assistance and courts. Furthermore, the refugees are subjected to regular attacks and are abused. Several refuges die in such armed attacks on refugee settlements and camps. Young minors or male refugees are forcefully recruited into armed conflicts and are compelled to take part in civil wars.

Refugees and racist aggression- there has been an incline in violent attacks against the asylum seekers and refugees in the recent years which has resulted in constant fear amongst the refugees from being subjected to physical threats and assault to their refuge and lives. Refugees being a vulnerable group of foreigners mostly become prey to racism and hatred.

The outcomes are threefold. Firstly, there has been repeated contravention of the principles of no-refoulement and protection of refugees. Secondly, there has been an incline in the number of violent accidents against refugees and the asylum seekers. Thirdly, the issues associated with the refugees have been perceived as political issues instead of humanitarian approach which has resulted in the distortion between the refugee policy and the immigration policy.

Violation of human rights of refugees and the internally displaced: Case Examples

The UN General Assembly has been subjected to criticisms for the attacks on the refugee camps. The Commission on Human Rights has also been concerned with respect to specific areas such as the attacks on Palestinian Refugees in Lebanese camps as well as for the attacks on the Thai-Cambodian border. Refugee women and children are the most vulnerable group that suffers the most while seeking asylum in other countries for their survival. The Convention on the Rights of the Child [1989] makes a particular provision under [Article 22] for extending humanitarian assistance and appropriate protection to the refugee child. Women make up a huge proportion of the refugee population of the world and are subjected to sexual and physical abuse in the countries where they seek refuge (Fisk 2016).

Syria continues to remain in a state of humanitarian and human rights crisis. The UN states that 9 million Syrians as refugees and internally displaced peoples making it the most significant refugee crisis in the world. Thousands of civilians across Syria, which included children, have been compelled to experience hardships and other inconveniences in life.

The civilians persist to be subjected to indiscriminate attacks committed by the Syrian government forces. The government forces persist to commit other serious violations, which includes war crimes like torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, arrests and extrajudicial execution. The crimes in the Syrian refugee crisis was said to be both systematic and rapidly growing as a part of the state policy. The Syrian refugee crisis has witnessed armed conflict resulting in assaulting of the refugees or the asylum seekers and the internally displaced person that was committed by the opposition group, Islamic State of Iraq ad al Sham (ISIS) on minority groups, in particular (Nordin et al. 2016). The areas over which the ISIS forces exercised control have committed number of serious abuses that amounted to violation of the human rights of the refugees including war crimes like abductions, torture, unlawful killings, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention.

As the issues discussed above, the Syrian refugee crisis gave rise to all the above issues where the refugees have been subjected to mistreatment in the form of violation of the human rights. They are frequently subjected to racism, aggression and forcefully forced to take part in the armed conflicts. The armed conflict contravenes the human rights of the refugees and the internally displaced persons by committing torture, ill-treatment, torture and abductions.

However, in the Syrian refugee crisis, the international law has played a significant role in assisting the refugees in resettling and ensuring protection of their human rights. The UNHCR sought 30,000 resettlement and humanitarian admissions for the refugees Syrian in 2014 and reserved an additional 100000 slots for 2015-2016. The refugee families that have recently arrived have waited for resettlement to the US for several years but are already demonstrating their ability to obtain residence. They have received tremendous support from the local communities as well as from the international communities that have assisted the refugees and the asylum seekers to resettle in the asylum seeking countries and ensuring protection of their human rights (Shannon et al. 2015).

The European Refugee crisis

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been working inside Syria in the four refugee receiving countries that surrounds the IRC namely, Lebanon, Iran, Turkey and Jordan. Most people coming to seek refuge in EU from Turkey are not economic migrants. Majority of the interviewed refugees stated that the primary reasons for which they had to flee from their respective countries were individual or specific threat, compelled military service or general warfare and violence. The Syria crisis has enhanced to four million and has been seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Turkey alone has provided shelter to almost Two million Syrian refugees spending about $7.6 billion on their shelters. However, these refugees enters into turkey for a short period with the intention to seek refuge in Europe as the country has means to provide greater support to the huge number of refugees provide them with fair share of shelter, thus, ensuring protection from harm and entitle them to their human rights (Shannon et al. 2015).

The statute was adopted at an international conference in Rome in 17 July 1998 with the objective to prosecute most serious crimes that are becoming a significant concern for the international community. Such crimes include criminal conducts that are against humanity and war crimes. The court was proposed to prosecute crime of aggressions. War crimes are perceived as serious contravention of the Geneva Conventions 1949 and other serious violations of the customs and laws that are applicable to armed conflicts. The Geneva Conventions are considered as international standards that aim at safeguarding the civilian population and provides guidance regarding the treatment of the combatants with respect to internal and international armed conflicts (Hassan et al. 2016).

War crimes in internal armed conflicts refers to acts such as mutilation, torture and cruel treatment, taking of hostages, forcing the male asylum seekers and the refugees to take part in the armed conflict. This was was observed in Negusie v Holder [2009] 555 US 511 and A.B. v refugee Appeals Tribunal and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2011] EHC 198. The US Supreme Court and the Irish High Court have applied for judicial review to determine whether the claimants have participated in crimes against humanity and war crimes.


From the above discussion, it can be inferred that the international framework, which safeguards the rights of the asylum seekers in other countries , is not completely a failure. It sets out the minimum standards of protection; it is not always dependent on political will since domestic law that is based on the model of international law that offers to safeguard the rights of the asylum seekers. The standards of protection have substantial effectiveness through the local and regional authorities.

It might be excessive to expect international law to contribute in a significant way as a legal framework. This is because the international legal system does not seek to investigate the individuals who outline the legal agreement but provide set of agreements instead which are bindis the state parties, similar to the domestic legal systems. The legislative body is responsible for enforcement but the executive body as it lacks a similar enforcement system. The main refugee protection legal framework, UNHCR ensures that the refugees are provided with permanent solutions to the problems associated with infringement of their fundamental rights.

If the environmental conditions of the country of origin of the refugees have undergone significant changes, it is imperative to monitor and support the refugees to voluntarily return to their own home country and assist them to reinstate themselves in their individual community and thus, enjoy their fundamental human rights. Further, the initiative of monitoring the returns of the refugees undertaken by the UNHCR acts as a means to make certain that the human rights of the refugees are not violated that caused them to depart from their home country (Clément et al. 2017). The activities undertaken by UNHCR to ensure protection of the human rights of the refugees in nations all over the world establishes the fact that UNHCR is perhaps the largest functional UN Human rights agency.

However, the international law may serve to highlight the condition of the refugees and provide them with a platform to discuss about their rights. The international refugee law is intertwined with human rights law as well as municipal and regional law but it still lacks sufficient certainty and general applicability. Therefore, it can be said that although the international law had faced glaring failures but has also been able to offer substantial help to the asylum seekers ensuring protection of the refugees.

In order to address the issues associated with the refugees, it is imperative that individual situations should be treated individually and specifically. There three essential reforms that could be recommended in order to enable international law to address the issues associated with refugees. Firstly, there is a need to undergo reform region-centric. For instance, I case of the Syrian refugees, the establishment of a Regional Protection Program (RPP) was suggested in order to deal with the inline the refugee rate. the benefit of such a program would be beneficial for the state parties as it would endow the refugees with sufficient assistance regionally and be reliable over the state parties (Peart et al. 2016).

Secondly, refugee law should be included under the human rights law as some authors recommends that extensive information about refugee law is already provided in the human rights significantly. Thirdly, the mass incline in the refugees should be treated under a separate legal framework altogether. It is already established that states have adopted requirements that enables the state to determine the status of the individual.  Some states grants prima facie refugee status to all the asylum seekers whereas some states apply stringent rules to treat case individually. Therefore, it would be preferable to establish a separate legal framework for dealing with situations where there is a mass departure and huge number refugees seeking protection from the countries. a different asylum framework would enable the states to apply the one of the frameworks that is appropriate for the situation and ensures protection of the rights of the refugees and asylum seekers.

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