Refugee | refugee rights

Refugee rights

Refugee rights encompass both customary law, peremptory norms, and international legal instruments. If the entity granting refugee status is a state that has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention then the refugee has the right to employment. Further rights include the following rights and obligations for refugees:

Right of return

Even in a supposedly "post-conflict" environment, it is not a simple process for refugees to return home.[67] The UN Pinheiro Principles are guided by the idea that people not only have the right to return home, but also the right to the same property.[67] It seeks to return to the pre-conflict status quo and ensure that no one profits from violence. Yet this is a very complex issue and every situation is different; conflict is a highly transformative force and the pre-war status-quo can never be reestablished completely, even if that were desirable (it may have caused the conflict in the first place).[67] Therefore, the following are of particular importance to the right to return:[67]

  • May never have had property (e.g., in Afghanistan)
  • Cannot access what property they have (Colombia, Guatemala, South Africa and Sudan)
  • Ownership is unclear as families have expanded or split and division of the land becomes an issue
  • Death of owner may leave dependents without clear claim to the land
  • People settled on the land know it is not theirs but have nowhere else to go (as in Colombia, Rwanda and Timor-Leste)
  • Have competing claims with others, including the state and its foreign or local business partners (as in Aceh, Angola, Colombia, Liberia and Sudan).

Refugees who were resettled to a third country will likely lose the indefinite leave to remain in this country if they return to their country of origin or the country of first asylum.

Right to non-refoulement

Non-refoulement is the right not to be returned to a place of persecution and is the foundation for international refugee law, as outlined in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.[68] The right to non-refoulement is distinct from the right to asylum. To respect the right to asylum, states must not deport genuine refugees. In contrast, the right to non-refoulement allows states to transfer genuine refugees to third party countries with respectable human rights records. The portable procedural model, proposed by political philosopher Andy Lamey, emphasizes the right to non-refoulement by guaranteeing refugees three procedural rights (to a verbal hearing, to legal counsel, and to judicial review of detention decisions) and ensuring those rights in the constitution.[69] This proposal attempts to strike a balance between the interest of national governments and the interests of refugees.

Right to family reunification

Family reunification (which can also be a form of resettlement) is a recognized reason for immigration in many countries. Divided families have the right to be reunited if a family member with permanent right of residency applies for the reunification and can prove the people on the application were a family unit before arrival and wish to live as a family unit since separation. If application is successful this enables the rest of the family to immigrate to that country as well.

Right to travel

Those states that signed the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees are obliged to issue travel documents (i.e. "Convention Travel Document") to refugees lawfully residing in their territory.[D] It is a valid travel document in place of a passport, however, it cannot be used to travel to the country of origin, i.e. from where the refugee fled.

Restriction of onward movement

Once refugees or asylum seekers have found a safe place and protection of a state or territory outside their territory of origin they are discouraged from leaving again and seeking protection in another country. If they do move onward into a second country of asylum this movement is also called "irregular movement" by the UNHCR (see also asylum shopping). UNHCR support in the second country may be less than in the first country and they can even be returned to the first country.[70]