It has been generally believed that a refugee by definition mean a displaced person who has been forced to cross international boundaries due to wars, natural disasters, religious or political persecution and who cannot return home safely. According to the united nations charter on refugees otherwise known as the Geneva convention. It states the following below.
The convention relating to the status of refugees, also known as the 1951 refugee convention or the Geneva convention of 28 July 1951, is a united nations multilateral treaty that defines who a refugee is, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum. The convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals. The convention also provides for some visa free travel for holders of refugee travel documents issued under the convention.
The Refugee Convention builds on Article 14 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution in other countries. A refugee may enjoy rights and benefits in a state in addition to those provided for in the Convention.
The rights created by the Convention generally still stand today. Some have argued that the complex nature of 21st century refugee relationships calls for a new treaty that recognizes the evolving nature of the nation-state, population displacement, environmental migrants, and modern warfare. Nevertheless, ideas like the principle of non-refoulement (Article 33) are still applied today, with the 1951 Convention being the source of such rights.
The Convention was approved at a special United Nations conference on 28 July 1951, and entered into force on 22 April 1954. It was initially limited to protecting European refugees from before 1 January 1951 (after World War II), though states could make a declaration that the provisions would apply to refugees from other places.
The 1967 Protocol removed the time limits and applied to refugees “without any geographic limitation”, but declarations previously made by parties to the Convention on geographic scope were grandfathered.
As of 20 January 2020, there were 146 parties to the Convention, and 147 to the Protocol. Madagascar and Saint Kitts and Nevis are parties only to the Convention, while Cape Verde, the United States of America and Venezuela are parties only to the Protocol. Since the US ratified the Protocol in 1968, it undertook a majority of the obligations spelled out in the original 1951 document (Articles 2-34), and Article 1 as amended in the Protocol, as “supreme Law of the Land”.
With the passage of time and the emergence of new refugee situations, the need was increasingly felt to make the provisions of the 1951 Convention applicable to such new refugees. As a result, a Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees was prepared, and entered into force on 4 October 1967.The UNHCR is called upon to provide international protection to refugees falling within its competence. The Protocol defined refugee to mean any person within the 1951 Convention definition.
Several groups have built upon the 1951 Convention to create a more objective definition. While their terms differ from those of the 1951 Convention, the Convention has significantly shaped the new, more objective definitions. They include the 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa by the Organisation of African Unity (since 2002 African Union) and the 1984 Cartagena Declaration, while nonbinding, also sets out regional standards for refugees in Central America, Mexico and Panama.
Rights and responsibilities of parties to the Refugee Convention
In the general principle of international law, treaties in force are binding upon the parties to it and must be performed in good faith. Countries that have ratified the Refugee Convention are obliged to protect refugees that are on their territory, in accordance with its terms. There are a number of provisions that States parties to the Refugee Convention must adhere to.
The contracting states shall
- exempt refugees from reciprocity (Article 7): That means that the granting of a right to a refugee should not be subject to the granting of similar treatment by the refugee’s country of nationality, because refugees do not enjoy the protection of their home state.
- be able to take provisional measures against a refugee if needed in the interest of essential national security (Article 9)
- respect a refugee’s personal status and the rights that come with it, particularly rights related to marriage (Article 12)
- provide free access to courts for refugees (Article 16)
- provide administrative assistance for refugees (Article 25)
- provide identity papers for refugees (Article 27)
- provide travel documents for refugees (Article 28)
- allow refugees to transfer their assets (Article 30)
- provide the possibility of assimilation and naturalization to refugees (Article 34)
- cooperate with the UNHCR (Article 35) in the exercise of its functions and to help UNHCR supervise the implementation of the provisions in the Convention.
- provide information on any national legislation they may adopt to ensure the application of the Convention (Article 36).
- settle disputes they may have with other contracting states at the International Court of Justice if not otherwise possible (Article 38)
The contracting states shall not
- discriminate against refugees (Article 3)
- take exceptional measures against a refugee solely on account of his or her nationality (Article 8)
- expect refugees to pay taxes and fiscal charges that are different to those of nationals (Article 29)
- impose penalties on refugees who entered illegally in search of asylum if they present themselves without delay (Article 31), which is commonly interpreted to mean that their unlawful entry and presence ought not to be prosecuted at all
- expel refugees (Article 32)
- forcibly return or “refoul” refugees to the country they have fled from (Article 33). It is widely accepted that the prohibition of forcible return is part of customary international law. This means that even states that are not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention must respect the principle of non-refoulement. Therefore, states are obligated under the Convention and under customary international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement. If and when this principle is threatened, UNHCR can respond by intervening with relevant authorities, and if it deems necessary, will inform the public.
Refugees shall be treated at least like nationals in relation to
- freedom to practice their religion (Article 4)
- the respect and protection of artistic rights and industrial property (Article 14)
- rationing (Article 20)
- elementary education (Article 22)
- public relief and assistance (Article 23)
- labour legislation and social security (Article 24)
Refugees shall be treated at least like other non-nationals in relation to
- movable and immovable property (Article 13)
- the right of association in unions or other associations (Article 15)
- wage-earning employment (Article 17)
- self-employment (Article 18)
- practice of the liberal professions (Article 19)
- housing (Article 21)
- education higher than elementary (Article 22)
- the right to free movement and free choice of residence within the country (Article 26)
Although the Convention is “legally binding” there is no body that monitors compliance. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has supervisory responsibilities, but cannot enforce the Convention, and there is no formal mechanism for individuals to file complaints. The Convention specifies that complaints should be referred to the International Court of Justice. It appears that no nation has ever done this.
An individual may lodge a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or with the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but no one has ever done so in regard to violations of the Convention. Nations may levy international sanctions against violators, but no nation has ever done this.
At present, the only real consequences of violation are 1) public shaming in the press, and 2) verbal condemnation of the violator by the UN and by other nations. To date these have not proven to be significant deterrents.
Having stated all of the above concerning the UN charter, it is the purpose of this article to objectively look at the facts and fantasy of global refugee crisis. This article does not intend to fan the embers of discrimination or intend to criticize any government(s), rather it is about the realities of refugee migration. I strongly believe that genuine refugees fleeing wars or natural disasters should be given refugee status when and where necessary, the bone of contention should be how to address the abuse of this process by those who claim refugee status despite coming from countries that are not fighting wars or from places that have not suffered any natural disasters.
It is unfortunate to come across people from countries without wars or natural disasters wanting to claim refugee status, thereby denying genuine asylum seekers a chance to be granted refugee status. I say this with a total sense of conviction, that a lot of so called asylum seekers are just nothing but economic refugees. I have travelled far and wide enough to know that a lot of these asylum seekers are always not forthcoming about where they really come from, and when they do, one gets to know that there is no war or natural disaster happening in these countries.
From a deep sense of analysis, I believe where a good case is established for an asylum claim, such claim should be granted. If we take a look at what has been happening in Europe in the last 25 years, especially since 2015 when refugee crisis engulfed Europe, one will conclude that the refugee crisis risk affecting the social cohesion of the EU. It is intolerable that the EU still does not have a mechanism or process in place to sort out genuine refugees from those seeking economic fortune. This article will articulate the impact of refugee crisis on countries affected by this crisis and enumerate the cost benefit ratio.
It is a known fact that refugees come to a new country with their cultural beliefs and practices, the problem most times though is the ability to integrate into the society of their host countries, this cultural divergence has been know to cause friction between host countries and refugees living in that country. A case in point is the clear difference between religious beliefs, concept of marriage and work-life issues. Countries have reported clashes between refugees and citizens of host countries because of glaring cultural or religious differences.
Mental Health Implication:
Whatever your view is on refugee migration, one cannot deny the fact that, there people in host countries who cannot deal with a high level of influx of refugees to their countries. Yes racist exist everywhere, but a lot of people who are not racist are just simply fed up with a surge in uncontrolled number of refugees being allowed into their countries and this can give rise to a certain level of discrimination towards refugees in these countries. A lot of this has more to do with the impact of refugees on the mental health of citizens of these countries rather than discrimination. Fear of losing their jobs is enough to trigger mental health imbalance in citizens of these countries.
The financial implication of refugee crisis on governments in the world cannot be underestimated, this is because the refugee crisis places a huge financial burden on governments the world over, examples abound of countries like Canada, USA and the EU.
Refugees are generally provided with food, housing and a little money upon arrival in the host country. The question to ask then is “where is all the money coming from”, the answer is clear enough, this money comes from TAXES paid by citizens of these countries. Lets be clear it is good to make refugees comfortable enough, but” At what cost one may ask”.
To continually place heavy tax burden on people of these countries will only enable disaffection towards refugees. Without a proper way to sort out genuine refugees from economic migrants will only lead to financial stress on the economy of these host countries. It will just turn out to be a huge financial machine that will need to be continually serviced.
CASE FOR REMEDY:
This article will try to offer some suggestions to remedy this refugee crisis situation.
It would greatly help if countries can have a better vetting process to help determine who deserves to be granted a refugee status. This can be done by investigating if there is an outbreak of war or disaster in the countries they claim to come from, and if there is actually a case of war or disaster, then efforts should be made to find out if the claimant is really from that war stricken country. Example, you cannot have a situation whereby someone from(Nigeria or Ghana} is claiming asylum on the basis of war or disaster when clearly there are no evidence of such happening.
Secondly, the idea of allowing asylum seekers to stay in the host countries or third party countries will only continue to put financial strain on the finances of these countries or territories. The idea that they will not be allowed to work, and then be given housing and stipend will only encourage further irregular migration. Those not deserving of refugee status should sent back promptly to their countries if it is established that NO war has taken place. Keeping refugees in third party countries or host countries will only give rise to clashes between refugees and locals.
Thirdly, for the sake of social cohesion and to avoid social dislocation, refugee claims should be promptly accelerated and avoid backlog of cases. It has been acknowledge globally that refugees awaiting their claim status have been found to engage in illicit and illegal activities vis a vis drug trafficking, prostitution and being used by organized crime syndicates to carry out nefarious activities.
It is hope that the united nations will be able to use it’s clout and influence to help genuine refugees around the world and help fight irregular migration and human trafficking.