July 28, 2021 marked the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention along with its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. The Protocol was adopted by the UNGA in resolution 2198 (XXI) of December 16, 1966, and entered into force on October 4, 1967.
It would be fascinating to learn how each of us defines the term “refugee.” When foreign nationals enter a country of refuge, it is sometimes considered that they “envy our lovely country… they want to take our employment… they are criminals… they want to take our women…” There are statements that are even more incomprehensible than these. Traveling to other countries is done for a variety of reasons. This is not in question. What is our objective definition of a refugee, is the question?
The Convention defines a 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; 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”.
The UK for UNHCR urged people to help develop a dictionary that will define a refugee to commemorate the Convention’s 70th anniversary. The goal of this project was to go beyond the legal definition of “refugee” and investigate what the phrase means to diverse individuals, as well as to highlight personal stories and impressions of people who have sought asylum or worked with and assisted forcibly displaced persons.
On July 21, the dictionary was unveiled, along with some fascinating human anecdotes of forced migration. In the Dictionary, the Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Zara Mohammed, defines a refugee as “someone who has braved hardship, endured struggle and champions what it means to make a difference despite the odds” There are several examples of forced migrants who wander between countries until they discover a friendly country where they can either contribute to the growth of that country or educate themselves against all odds till they are able to contribute to their home countries.
John, of Great Missenden, England, describes a refugee as “someone traveling away from danger and towards hope”. So, the perception that stateless people enter countries of refuge for the wrong reasons is, on more occasions, untrue. Someone fleeing persecution in their home country will seek refuge in another country if they believe their rights will be protected.
Enough about my interpretation of the term “refugee”. Please download the dictionary here for your own delight. If your organisation needs assistance with these issues, you can contact the GI ADVISORY and partners for their combined capabilities in planning and facilitating a capacity-building workshop.
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