Refugee Background Information
Imagine the following scenario: You are a citizen in a nation where political factions have been at war with each other and where civil war has been standard over the past two years. The fighting has officially reached your city, and you know that you are a member of the faction that your townspeople have been sworn to fight. You are no longer safe in your city. With bullets buzzing by your head and soldiers moving in swarms around you, you pack what little you can assemble in twenty minutes and you leave your home. After a long and treacherous walk through your country, you arrive, exhausted, terrified, and hungry, at the border of the neighboring country. Will the other country turn you away? Will you be treated with respect, will you be treated poorly, or will you be sent back to your own country to face persecution or even death?
In this scenario, you would be considered an asylum seeker because your refugee claim has not been definitively evaluated by UNHCR or the host country. If your claim that you are a refugee is accepted, then you are granted refugee status and so are accorded the rights that refugees are guaranteed. A refugee is someone who “owing to a 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 to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself to the protection of that country” (from the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees). Refugees flee their home countries because their human rights are in jeopardy; it is often their own government that threatens to persecute them or the government is unable or unwilling to protect them. They often flee their own countries because of armed conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations.