According to Article 1 of the 1950 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees ("the 1950 Convention"), a refugee is defined as any person 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 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."

I know this from having to type it frequently during the day; the most pertinent parts for those seeking refuge are those relating to 'race, relgion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion'. For asylum purposes one does not necessarily have to belong to one of the former; if such an attribute is imputed (if, for example, the Sri Lankan authorities believe that you, as a Tamil, are a member of the LTTE), that is sufficient.

The most problematic element of the definition is 'membership of a particular social group'. This is most commonly used by homosexual people fleeing the kind of violent anti-gay prejudice common in Jamaica and Lithuania (for example), although it is vague enough to be a 'miscellaneous' catch-all.

In theory, a paedophile who had not had unlawful sexual relations with children (thus putting him in fear of prosecution, and not persecution) could claim asylum in Sweden, say, from anti-paedophile prejudice in the United Kingdom; or, to make a point, Ann Coulter (a Republican) could claim asylum from Bill Clinton - provided that the above could prove persecution by state or non-state agents in their country of origin, with the state being unwilling or unable to afford them protection.

Ref`u*gee" (r?f`?*j?"), n. [F. r'efugi'e, fr. se r'efugier to take refuge. See Refuge, n.]

1.

One who flees to a shelter, or place of safety.

2.

Especially, one who, in times of persecution or political commotion, flees to a foreign power or country for safety; as, the French refugees who left France after the revocation of the edict of Nantes.

 

© Webster 1913.

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