You might have good reasons
to think you are a refugee. But be aware of the high risk that your
country of asylum disagrees with you. Even amongst states of the same
region, there is little consensus on who should be regarded as a refugee.
The official definition of a refugee given by the Geneva Convention
is only a starting point for a large range of questions. According
to the Geneva Convention, a refugee is defined as a person who
"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
as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is
unwilling to return to it".
This definition gives the impression that the fear of the applicant
is decisive for determining a refugee. But most of the asylum states
apply objective criteria: the applicant has to be in danger
in the case of return if he wants to qualify for the refugee
There is consensus amongst the asylum states that a danger
for life, physical and psychical integrity, or the danger of unlawful
imprisonment can amount to persecution. But what about other
dangers? Let’s have a look at some examples:
- Religious freedom: Some states say that a violation of this right
qualifies the applicant for asylum. Others like Germany tend to say
that this is only the case when religious activity at home is forbidden.
The prohibition of public religious gatherings is not sufficient
to get asylum.
- The right to assemble: In some states the violation of this right
as such is not sufficient.
- The right to express one’s opinion: In some states the violation
of this right as such is not sufficient.
- The right to marry and to have children: In some states the violation
of this right as such is not sufficient.
- The right to live one’s (homo-) sexuality: More and more
asylum states protect people who cannot live their (homo-) sexuality
- Property rights: Some states say that the violation of property
rights is not sufficient unless somebody loses its means for survival.
- The right to object the military service for reasons of personal
consciousness: Only a few asylum states protect people who object
the military service.
Another question is: Is the asylum seeker in danger because he belongs
to a certain social, religious, national, ethnical or political
group or because he has a certain political, religious or
philosophical belief? Again, the case law of asylum states varies very
much. For example there is no common view on the question: Are women
a "social group"?
The next divergence can be noted regarding the degree of likelihood of
the danger requested for refugee recognition. Some countries say that
the danger has to be "concrete" in order to qualify the applicant
as refugee without explaining what this means. Others try to describe
the requested likelihood in a different way: Whereas in some countries
the mere possibility of a violation is sufficient, others request that
it is "quite likely." As some asylum officers never recognise
an applicant, they are certainly even more severe in practice.
Some states request that the applicant must have been targeted. So,
people who became civil war victims by accident cannot get refugee
status in some asylum states. But there seems to be consensus that
if one of the conflicting civil war parties tries to persecute the
whole opposite ethnical group, this is persecution.
Persecution by non-state agents is recognised in some asylum states,
in some others only under certain restrictive conditions. The same
thing is true for areas where there is no state any more.
Not all but more and more asylum states say that an internal flight
alternative hinders the recognition as refugee. An internal flight
alternative is assumed when the refugee could safely live in another
part of his country. India is a country inviting for the assumption
of a internal flight alternative: It is so big and so diverse with
respect to its authorities that one might assume that Indians could
settle down in another part of the huge country to avoid local persecution.
Most of the asylum states say that no asylum can be given when the applicant
was safe in a third country. But what does this mean? Does he need a residence
permit to be safe there? Is it sufficient to be tolerated? Does the transit
through a certain country indicate that somebody was safe there? There is no
consensus, but the utmost variety of interpretations.
Many asylum countries have procedural exclusion clauses. The variety
is so big that we can only give some examples: Missed application delays
may set an end to the procedure at its very beginning. A hidden identity
or the use of falsified documents hinder sometimes the recognition
as refugee. The same might be the case if somebody does not co-operate
in indicating the way he took before getting into the asylum country.