What is a refugee?

by | 12th Jul 2019

What is the definition of a “refugee”?

A refugee is someone who, due to a well-founded fear of persecution, war or violence, has been forced to flee their home country.

The legal definition of the term refugee was set out in the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees.

It was a few years after the Second World War. Nazi Germany had killed nine million people in the Holocaust, including six million Jews, and displaced millions more.

The world’s leaders wanted to ensure that protection for those displaced by war and persecution in internation law.

The convention set out the definition of the term ‘refugee’ as follows:

Owing to 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 or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it.

– The 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees