Last Updated 05/07/2024

According to the UN Refugee Agency, a refugee is a person forced to flee their country because of war, violence, or persecution. Persecution is founded in fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.

The 1951 Geneva Convention is the main international instrument of refugee law. The Convention defines who a refugee is and the types of legal protection and other assistance and social rights they should receive from the countries who have signed the document. The Convention was limited to protecting mainly European refugees in the aftermath of World War II, but a newer document, the 1967 Protocol, expanded the scope as the problem of displacement spread around the world.

Related terms: Internally displaced person, stateless person, asylum seeker

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