Refugee is a term usually used interchangeably to refer to any of internally displaced persons (IDPs), asylum-seekers, and refugees. However, it is important to make the distinction between the terms as each has a different definition under international law. For clarity purposes, the word “refugee” across the HireChance content refers to the three categories of forcibly displaced persons aforementioned.

 

 


Refugee

Definition

“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.” (UNHCR USA)

Number of Refugees Worldwide

26 million

Top Refugee Hosting Countries (UNHCR, 2020)

  • Turkey (3.6 million)
  • Colombia (1.8 million)
  • Pakistan (1.4 million)
  • Uganda (1.4 million)
  • Germany (1.1 million)

Special Protections Under International Law

Refugees have the protection of non-refoulement, which means that they cannot be forced to go back home by the country in which they are seeking asylum.

International and Regional Refugee Protection Regime

  • 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol
  • 1966 Bangkok Principles on the Status and Treatment of Refugees
  • 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa
  • 1984 Cartagena Declaration
  • EU Qualification Directive

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

Definition

“Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.” (UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement)

Number of IPDs Worldwide

50.8 million (Internal Displacement Monitoring Center IDMC, 2020)

  • 45.7 million as a result of conflict an violence.
  • 5.1 million as a result of natural disasters.

Countries with Highest IDP Population as a Result of Conflict and Violence (IDMC, 2020)

  • Syria (6,495,000)
  • Colombia (5,576,000)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (5,512,000)
  • Yemen (3,635,000)
  • Afghanistan (2,993,000)
  • Somalia (2,648,000)
  • Nigeria (2,583,000)
  • Iraq (1,555,000)

Countries with Highest IDP Population as a Result of Natural Disasters (IDMC, 2020)

  • Afghanistan (1,198,000)
  • India (590,000)
  • Ethiopia (390,000)
  • Philippines (364,000)
  • China (220,000)

International and Regional IDP Protection Regime

No international law instrument exists to specifically protect IDPs. Since their displacement is within their country’s borders, the national government is responsible to provide protections. However, the 1998 adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement by the UN Commission on Human Rights laid the foundation for regional and national legal frameworks for their protections, notably including the 2009 African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention).


Asylum Seekers

Number of Asylum-Seekers Worldwide

4.2 million.

Definition

“An asylum seeker is someone who is also seeking international protection from dangers in his or her home country, but whose claim for refugee status hasn’t been determined legally. Asylum seekers must apply for protection in the country of destination—meaning they must arrive at or cross a border in order to apply.

Then, they must be able to prove to authorities there that they meet the criteria to be covered by refugee protections. Not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee.” (International Rescue Committee)

International and Regional Legal Instruments Concerning the Right to Asylum

  • 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 14
  • 1954 Organization of American States (OAS) Convention on Territorial Asylum
  • 1966 Bangkok Principles on the Status and Treatment of Refugees – Article II
  • 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Article 12
  • 1967 UN Declaration on Territorial Asylum
  • 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa – Article II
  • 1969 American Convention on Human Rights – Article 22
  • 1977 Council of Europe Declaration on Territorial Asylum