Refugee Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Refugee, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Refugee?

(n) Refugee is the person who has fled form his native country for reasons of political or natural unrest, war, starvation, threat of prosecution etc., to another sovereign with an intention to permanently settle there or getting citizenship or asylum.

History and Meaning of Refugee

The term "refugee" originated in the 17th century when it referred to French Protestants seeking asylum from religious persecution. Since then, it has been used to describe people fleeing from their home countries due to a variety of reasons such as war, persecution and natural disasters. In 1951, the United Nations established the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which defined 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."

Examples of Refugee

  1. A Syrian family seeking asylum in Canada after fleeing from their war-torn country.
  2. A group of Rohingya refugees escaping persecution and violence in Myanmar and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
  3. A Somali refugee resettling in Australia after fleeing from famine and political unrest in their home country.
  4. An Afghani refugee being granted asylum in the United States due to the risk of persecution they face in their home country.
  5. Palestinian refugees who fled from their homes during the 1948 Palestinian War seeking refuge in surrounding Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

Legal Terms Similar to Refugee

  1. Asylum: Similar to a refugee, granted to a person who has fled their home country due to fear of persecution, but usually claimed from within the country.
  2. Internally Displaced Person (IDP): Refers to people who have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, but have not crossed any international borders.
  3. Stateless Person: A person who is not recognized as a citizen by any country.
  4. Immigrant: A person who has moved from one country to another to live permanently. Unlike refugees, they may not have been forced to leave their country of origin.
  5. Migrant: A person who moves from one place to another, often for employment or economic opportunities. They may not be fleeing any danger in their home country.