Who is a Refugee?
By signing the Refugee Convention, states undertake a mutual obligation to provide protection to those who have fled persecution in their home countries according to the conditions set out in the treaty. Under the treaty, a refugee is 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." The world community continues to uphold its promise to provide protection to refugees fleeing persecution.
The term "refugee" was developed in response to the Holocaust of World War II, which had prompted thousands of individuals to flee Europe in search of safety in other countries. The international community recognized a need for this group to receive international protection, because they were not safe in their own countries. There was a consensus among the world’s leaders that people fleeing events such as the Holocaust should be able to find refuge in other countries as long as they faced a risk of persecution at home. As a result, in 1951, the Refugee Convention was approved and has since been signed by over 140 countries. Although the Convention was originally focused on World War II’s victims, it has since broadened in scope to encompass the events causing refugees to flee today, such as the persecution of minorities in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nepal.
Some refugees come from countries caught up in prolonged armed conflict, or have specific humanitarian needs. In such cases, the international community - including the United States, partner states, and the United Nations - have determined that resettlement is the appropriate durable solution. Resettlement enables refugees without hope of returning to their own countries in safety and dignity to start their lives over in a third country. The United States, along with several other countries, receives refugees for resettlement so they have an opportunity to integrate in their new society. AMCS partners with the Department of State to help resettled refugees begin new lives in the U.S., achieve self-sufficiency, and maximize their potential to contribute fully to society.
Q&A about the 1951 Refugee Convention, UNHCR http://www.unhcr.org.au/pdfs/1951QA.pdf.
Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, art. 1.A(2), July 28, 1951, 189 U.N.T.S. 150 (Apr. 22, 1954), as amended by the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Oct. 4, 1967, 606 U.N.T.S. 267 http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf.
Office of Refugee Resettlement Website, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, History http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/.
Office of Refugee Resettlement Website, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Mission http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/orr/about/mission.htm.