A refugee is said to be any person who is forced to leave his country out of a fear or persecution. The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defines refugee as a person 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 or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country. The OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, 1969, extended the definition in the 1951 Refugee Convention to include in the term ‘refugee’ also every person who, owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination, or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality, is compelled to leave his place of habitual residence in order to seek refuge in another place outside his country of origin or nationality. The Cartagena Declaration on Refugees of November, 1984 laid down that the definition of refugee could not only incorporate the elements contained in 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol, but also cover persons who have fled their country because their lives, their safety or their liberty were threatened by a massive violation of human rights.
Therefore, refugees are civilians who no longer receive protection from their government. They are people who have been displaced from their Home states. The concept of refugees has been cause of concern for International Humanitarian law since time immemorial.
Most countries have their own laws with respect to the process of status granted to refugees. Refugees are generally not automatically admitted in a country and placed at an equal footing with the citizens of that country.
Since a refugee is an alien entity, countries have to fulfill a number of criteria before admitting a refugee.
What further complicates the matter is the changing scenario of the world in recent times. With the advent of globalization, the free movement of people has also led to an increased movement of refugees. The concern in case of a refugee is not just limited to the individual refugees but also the matter of relation between the two states between whom the movement takes place. For example, if the two states are not on good terms then the refugee entering the country may be viewed as an enemy of the nation.
Since a refugee flees his country out of fear for his life and liberty, there is a need to understand the human rights aspect of refugee laws. This could help restructure refugee laws in countries.
It is essential to protect and respect the human rights of refugees where they re-settle. States can attempt to provide some level of protection in order to ensure minimal right to life and liberty is now upheld in the country in which they seek refuge.
In the past, the refugee problem was only seen as a humanitarian problem and not a human rights problem. However, there is an urgent need to introduce human rights law into humanitarian refugee law in order to ensure welfare and safety of all.
There is an increased role of the United Nations, essentially the United Nation Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in ensuring protection to the refugees and making the world laws towards refugees more inclusive and humane.