Refugees, by common understanding, are people who have been displaced from their homes, and the country they live in, due to reasons of discrimination, political or civil strife, or other unforeseen reasons beyond their control.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a refugee is someone who:
- Has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.
- A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
- Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.
- War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
The etymology of the word refugee traces its roots back to the Latin fugere (to flee) and the French refuge (hiding place; shelter or protection from danger or distress). In medieval history, the term refuge was applied to the Huguenots (a religious group in France), who were forced to migrate from France after the Edict of Nantes (which granted Protestants certain religious and civil rights in a predominantly Catholic France) was struck down by King Louis XIV. The word meant “one seeking asylum”, until around 1914, when it evolved to mean “one fleeing home”, applied in this instance to civilians in Flanders heading west to escape conscripted fighting in WW I.
Catalysts leading to refugee crises:
There are many reasons why a refugee crisis may eventually develop. It is like a chain reaction, where one bad incident leads to another, and before we know it, things get out of hand. The reasons include socio-economic strife, political unrest, war and tyranny, discrimination, natural or man-made disasters etc. Furthermore, it is necessary to note that a person is not called a refugee only when he/she crosses the border of his/her own country. There are instances where people are displaced within the geographical and political delineations of their homeland. Such people are called internally displaced people or IDPs. However, unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid because they are legally under the protection of their own government.
One of the biggest causes of people becoming refugees, and being forced to leave their homes, is war, and what better example could there be, than the Syrian Refugee Crisis, which has wreaked utter havoc and anarchy in the country and the Middle Eastern region.
Since the Syrian civil war officially began March 15, 2011, families suffered under a brutal conflict that claimed countless lives, torn the nation apart, and set back the standard of living by decades. Nearly 12 million people in the country need humanitarian aid and their numbers keep increasing. It is 2019, and the situation has only marginally improved. Refugees face new challenges and difficulties every day.
Other reasons for refugee crises include:
- Human rights violations,
- Environment and climate – such people are called environmental refugees – when the environment is unfavorable and people migrate from their usual habitat in search of better locales. However, it should be noted that the UN Convention’s definition does not cover such environmental refugees.
- Economic hardship,
- Political unrest,
- Cultural hostilities, etc.
Following the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the term refugee was sometimes used to describe people displaced by the storm and the aftereffects. There was disapproval that the term should not be used to describe Americans displaced within their own national boundaries, and the term evacuee was substituted in place of refugee. The UNHCR similarly opposed the use of the term refugee in reference to environmental migrants, as the term had, and still has, a strict legal definition, to be used in other contexts.
What is “statelessness”?
People automatically at birth acquire a nationality, either through their parents or the country in which they were born. Sometimes, however, people must apply to become a citizen or national of a country.
The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”. In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless.
Statelessness can occur for several reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender; the emergence of new States and transfers of territory between existing States; and gaps in nationality laws.
Human rights and refugee law:
Human rights are rights a person is guaranteed on the basis only that they were born as a human being. The following are universal human rights that are most relevant to refugees:
- the right to freedom from torture or degrading treatment,
- the right to freedom of opinion and expression,
- the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,
- the right to life, liberty, and security,
- freedom from discrimination.
Refugee law and international human rights law are closely connected in content but differ in their function. The main difference of their function is the way in which international refugee law considers state sovereignty while international human rights law does not. One of the main aspects of international refugee law is non-refoulement which is the basic idea that a country cannot send back a person to their country of origin if they will face endangerment upon return.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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