The Law

1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees
Pursuant to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees is the key legal document in defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligations of states. The 1967 Protocol removed geographical and temporal restrictions from the Convention.” These limits initially restricted the Convention to persons who became refugees due to events occurring in Europe before 1 January 1951.

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 nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." Herein, fear of persecution is the threat (stemming from the reasons of race, etc.) to life or freedom or even other human rights, while the “well-founded” factor is assessed on the basis of the objective element[1] of presence of actual threat coupled with the subjective element of a person’s own experiences.

The 1951 Convention contains a number of rights and also highlights the obligations of refugees towards their host country. The cornerstone of the 1951 Convention is the principle of non-refoulement contained in Article 33. According to this principle, a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This protection may not be extended topersons who are reasonably regarded as a danger to the national security, orare considered a danger to the community after having been convicted of a particularly serious crime. Other rights contained in the 1951 Convention include:
The right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions (Article 32);
The right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting State (Article 31);
The right to work (Articles 17 to 19);
The right to housing (Article 21);
The right to education (Article 22);
The right to public relief and assistance (Article 23);
The right to freedom of religion (Article 4);
The right to access the courts (Article 16);
The right to freedom of movement within the territory (Article 26); and
The right to be issued identity and travel documents (Articles 27 and 28).
Some basic rights, including the right to be protected from refoulement, apply to all refugees. A refugee becomes entitled to other rights the longer they remain in the host country, which is based on the recognition that the longer they remain as refugees, the more rights they need. Although refugees are afforded several rights, they are also required to abide by the laws and regulations of their country of asylum and respect measures taken for the maintenance of public order.

[1]R v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, Ex parte Sivakumaran and Conjoined Appeals (UN High Commissioner for Refugees Intervening) [1988]
AC 958, 16 December 1987 (UK House of Lords) available at