The distinction between Refugee and Migrant as per UN Convention

The distinction between a migrant and refugee is important in the sense that unlike migrants, Refugees are entitled to special protection and asylum in the host country under the International Law.
Generally, migrants who flee from their homeland due to violence, civil war, war with other nations etc are considered to Refugees under the international law. An asylum seeker is defined as a person fleeing persecution or conflict and therefore, seeking International protection under the Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951. A refugee is an asylum seeker whose claims have been approved by the host country under the international law. The reasons for persecution must be because of one of the five grounds listed in article 1 A(2) of the Refugee Convention: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. Persecution based on any other ground will not be considered. However, the UN considers migrants fleeing war or persecution to be refugees, even before they officially receive asylum. For example, the UN has granted refugee status to Syrian and Eritrean nationals even before they are granted asylum.

Whereas, Migrants are those whose primary motivation for leaving his home country and moving to another country is economic gains or better prospects. They are not entitled to be protected or granted any protection or asylum under the international laws in that country. Technically speaking, we can say that all refugees are migrants, but all migrants are not refugees.

Rights of Refugees:

The refugees enjoy certain rights and obligation under 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees. The most important one which ensures the asylum to refugees in the host country is under the article 31: The cornerstone of the 1951 Convention is the principle of non-refoulment which states that refugees are not forced to their country where he or she still faces threat to his or her life or freedom. This protection is not entitled to the offender or the person who posses the serious threat to the security of the host country. The other rights specified under 1951 Refugees UN Convention is as follow:

  • Article 4: Right to freedom of religion
  • Article 16: Right to access the court and justice
  • Article 17 to 19: Right to work
  • Article 21: Right to housing
  • Article 22: Right to Education
  • Article 23: Right to public relief and assistance
  • Article 26: Right to freedom of movement within the territory
  • Article 27 and 28: Right to be issued identity and travel document
  • Article 31: Right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting state
  • Article 32: Right not to be explled expect under certain defined conditions

 On the other hand, the refugees are obliged to obey rules and regulations of their host country and maintain law and order. Refugees are entitled to basic rights in the host country to live. As long as refugees stay in the host country for more time, they entitled to more rights and protection. On the citizenship of that country, they are entitled to get all rights and access to various things as other citizens of that host country.

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