* What is the difference between a refugee and an economic migrant?
A migrant usually leaves his/her country voluntarily, to seek a better life. To a refugee, the economic conditions of the country of asylum are less important than its safety. In practice, the distinction may be sometimes difficult to establish, but it is fundamental: a migrant enjoys the protection of his/her home government; a refugee does not.
Persons who have been determined, under an equitable procedure, not to be in need of international protection are in a situation similar to that of illegal aliens, and may be deported. However, UNHCR urges that protection also be granted to people who come from countries devastated by armed conflicts or generalised violence.
Every country has the right to call on its citizens to bear arms in periods of national emergency. However, citizens should have an equal right to conscientious objection. In cases where the option of conscientious objection is not observed, or where the conflict underway manifestly violates international norms, draft evaders who fear persecution (for example, on the basis of political opinions which authorities could impute to them) may be eligible for refugee status.
A criminal who has received a fair trial for a common-law offense and who flees his country to escape jail is not necessarily a refugee. However, a person accused of these or other non-political crimes-whether innocent or guilty-may also be persecuted for political or other reasons, and is thus not necessarily excluded from refugee status. Furthermore, people convicted of the "crime" of political activism may well be refugees.
A refugee is a civilian. A person who continues to pursue armed action against his/her country of origin from the country of asylum cannot be considered a refugee.
Can a woman who fears that she, or her infant daughter, will be genitally mutilated if she returns to her country claim refugee status?
In France, Canada and the United States, it has been officially recognised that genital mutilation represents a form of persecution and that women who fear genital mutilation in their countries do have a real claim to refugee status. In one case, a women who feared persecution in her country because of her refusal to inflict genital mutilation on her infant daughter was recognised as a refugee. (For a general discussion of gender-based persecution, see Female Asylum Seeker)
Governments are not always ready to adapt their quotas and criteria to rapidly changing needs, and often establish their quotas in response to domestic interest groups. Thus they may target specific nationalities among whom UNHCR has not detected any pressing need for resettlement. Resettlement countries may also turn down cases such as families with pressing medical problems or other acute needs, who may be more costly in terms of welfare payments, or who may have limited ability to integrate rapidly into the resettlement country. In general, although some countries do accept "difficult to place" hardship cases, most resettlement countries prefer educated refugees with strong family and cultural links, an intact family structure, and a high likelihood of rapid integration. Such families may not always correspond to the pressing protection cases that UNHCR attempts to resettle.
Ships' masters have a fundamental obligation under international law to rescue any persons in distress at sea. In some cases, such as the exodus of Vietnamese boat-people, such persons have been asylum seekers. Ships may also discover that they are carrying clandestine stowaways who may also be asylum seekers. The established international practice is that asylum seekers rescued at sea should be disembarked at the next port of call, where they should always be admitted, at least on a temporary basis, pending determination of their protection needs. Certain flag states of rescuing ships have provided guarantees of resettlement for persons rescued at sea.
There is no binding international convention relating to stowaway asylum seekers, and practice with respect to them varies widely. UNHCR advocates that, wherever possible, stowaways should be allowed to disembark at the first port of call, where their refugee status may be determined by the local authorities. If a port state does not allow a stowaway to disembark, and the ship's next port of call is in a state where the stowaway's life is threatened, then the action is tantamount to refoulement. In such cases, UNHCR officers are instructed to try to arrange for an interview on board. If the asylum seeker is found to be a refugee, he/she will be assisted in finding a durable solution-usually resettlement in a third country.
Stateless persons are entitled to enjoy basic human rights, such as protection against torture and arbitrary detention. While rights granted under the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons are particularly aimed at ensuring all stateless persons also have a legal status, generally they enjoy only those additional rights that States decide to grant them.