What are refugee rights?

Various rights that asylum-seekers and refugees have because they are seeking asylum or have been granted refugee protection, and for which their host country is responsible to guarantee. These rights are written down in the Refugee Convention and in human rights treaties. These rights deal with the possibility of staying in the host country and not being returned to the country of origin (e.g. non-refoulement), education, health care, housing, employment and family among other issues.

What is refugee law?

The body of customary international law and international instruments establishing standards for refugee protection. The cornerstone of refugee law is the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. International refugee law, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law complement each other.

What is non-refoulement?

An important right refugees, asylum-seekers and others who fear for their lives or freedoms have. These people have a right not to be removed, in any manner whatsoever, by their host country to their country of origin, or any other country, where they are at risk of being seriously harmed. This right, called the principle of non-refoulement, is written down in the Refugee Convention and in other human rights treaties. It is also part of so-called customary international law, and must therefore be guaranteed by all countries.

What is refugee protection?

Refugee protection includes all activities aimed at achieving full respect for the rights of refugees. Protection involves creating an environment conducive to respect for human beings, preventing and/or alleviating the immediate effects of a specific pattern of abuse, and restoring dignified conditions of life through reparation, restitution and rehabilitation.

Do refugees have human rights?

Yes, refugees have human rights. Human rights are commonly understood as the inalienable rights to which a person is entitled merely for being human. They are built on underlying principles of universality, equality and non-discrimination, and are enshrined in treaties, rules of customary international law, national laws and other standards that define them and help to guarantee their full enjoyment. Human rights apply to all individuals, including all persons falling within UNHCR’s mandate.

Can refugees travel?

As a refugee or a stateless person in a State that has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention or 1954 Statelessness Convention, you have the right to a Convention Travel Document (CTD) which is issued to replace your national passport.

As a refugee, it is normally safer to travel with a CTD than with a national passport, as you are protected from forced return to your country of origin.

In practice, not all States issue CTDs, in spite of their obligation to do so. Some States issue other travel documents to refugees and stateless persons, such as foreigners passports or certificates of identity for travel.

In some States, UNHCR may help you obtain an ICRC Emergency Travel Document where no other options are available to you. This document is valid for one journey only.

Contact your UNHCR office in country for more information.

See also