1951 Refugee Convention
The 1951 Refugee Convention refers to the ‘United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees’. It defines who is to be considered a refugee, as well as setting out the rights and obligations of the 144 contracted states towards refugees. The core principle of the 1951 Convention is non-refoulement (non-return). This asserts that no one should be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. It is now considered a rule of customary international law.
Asylum seeker is a legal term to describe a person who has applied for legal recognition as a refugee and is waiting for a decision to be made on their application.
Immigration detention is a form of custody where migrants may be held awaiting a decision on their application to remain in the UK, or while they are in the process of being removed.
Most of those detained are held in Immigration Removal Centres, while others are held in prisons.
In the UK, thousands of asylum seekers are held in immigration removal centres each year. The UNHCR opposes the detention of people seeking asylum and calls for the use of alternatives wherever possible.
Discretionary leave is a form of permission to remain in the UK for a period of time, which is granted at the discretion of the Secretary of State.
The term ‘economic migrant’ is often used to describe someone who has chosen to migrate for work or study, rather than to flee persecution. However, these distinctions are often false. Economic hardship is often exacerbated by ethnic or religious persecution, spurring people to leave their homes and seek better opportunities abroad. In many cases, refugees may take up an opportunity to live or work in another country in order to escape persecution.
An ethnic group describes a category of people who identify with each other on the basis of common language or ancestry, or social, cultural, or national experiences.
Huguenots were members of a French Protestant denomination who faced persecution in France in the 16th and 17th Centuries. To escape persecution, an estimated 50,000 Huguenots fled to the UK. Upon arrival, many settled in London’s East End.
Internally Displaced Person
An Internally Displaced Person is someone who is forced to relocate from one part of a country to another, but remains within their country's borders. They face many of the same challenges as a refugee. However they are not legally recognised as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The Kindertransport (children’s transport) was the informal name given to the series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of Jewish refugee children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia between 1938 and 1940. Following the violent rioting directed at the Jewish population on November 9, 1938, known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), the British government eased immigration restrictions for certain categories of Jewish refugees, agreeing to allow an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 to enter the country. 10,000 refugee children entered the UK through the Kindertransport effort. Many have become leading public figures, including Lord Alf Dubs and Dame Stephanie Shirley.
Leave to remain
Leave to Remain refers to the legal condition of a person who has been granted permission to live in the UK for any period of time, subject to any restrictions placed upon them (such as permission to work or access certain benefits).
Persecution refers to severe hostility, oppression and ill-treatment, often involving violence. People may be persecuted because of their religion, ethnicity, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a social group. People may also be persecuted for other reasons, but they are not protected under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The term originally entered the English language to describe 19th- and 20th-century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire. The Russian word pogrom (погро́м) is a noun derived from the verb meaning "to destroy, to wreak havoc, to demolish violently". Its widespread international use began with the widespread anti-Semitic violence and rioting across the Russian Empire, which reached its peak in 1881–1883.
Resettlement refers to the official transfer of refugees to a country that is prepared to offer them legal recognition as refugees and remain in the country.
Statelessness refers to the condition where a person does not have any legally recognised nationality. While many stateless people are recognised as refugees, this may not always be the case.
Trafficking is defined by the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons (known as the Palermo Protocol) as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.”
The term undocumented or irregular migrant refers to a person who lacks legal status in the country in which they live. This may be due to their irregular entry into the country, the expiration of their visa, the rejection of their status application, or another reason. ‘Undocumented’ or ‘irregular’ is preferred to ‘illegal’, because it is legally correct, humane and discourages discriminatory and oppressive notions of those who lack legal status.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the United Nations (UN) agency set up to ‘protect and assist refugees everywhere’.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a global agreement of the fundamental rights of all humans.