Following God One Step at a Time

Who are refugees?

on November 2, 2014

We hear about refugees all the time in Africa,
and recently in Syria.
We usually think of refugees leaving a war zone in their own country,
and looking for a safer place to live in a nearby country.

Who are refugees?
What protections do they have?

I did a little checking and there are laws protecting them,
and defining who is a refugee.
The following is an excerpt of an article explaining this.
To read the entire article, go to —

International refugee law is a set of rules that aim to protect persons seeking protection from persecution, and those recognized as refugees. It provides a set of guarantees, and this legal protection overlaps to some extent with international human rights law. The main refugee laws are, the 1951 Convention relating to the status of refugees (1951 Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol, and customary international law. A further set of protections are the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention(for Africa) and, although it is not formally legally binding, the 1984 Cartagena Declaration(for Latin America).

Refugees are defined by three basic characteristics:
they are outside their country of origin or their former habitual residence;
they are unable or unwilling to return to their country due to a real fear of being persecuted; and
the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

The obligation therefore exists under Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention not to return a refugee to a country of territory where he/she would be at risk of persecution:“No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

So how does this affect the United States?
We have refugees fleeing to our country from Latin american countries,
such as Mexico, Columbia, Guatemala, and Honduras.
Many of these refugees are children, some alone, some with their mother.
These children and mothers have left their country, due to violence, and risk of death.
According to International law, we cannot return them to their country,
when it is too dangerous to do so.

Many people in the United States want to label these children as illegal immigrants,
and send them back over the Mexican border,
but many of these women and children are actually refugees.
They are not just looking for more money or more food.
They are looking for a safe place to live,
where they are not constantly in danger of violence.

This makes them refugees.

We need to make places for these refugees to live here in the United States.
We need to honor International laws for protection of these refugees.
We need to do what we have expected many other countries to do —
Provide a safe place for refugees to live.

The U.S. government accepts refugees from Cuba, Iraq, and Africa.
The government helps these refugees get settled in the United States, through the
Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS/ORR)
Right now; however, our government is sending back many of the women and children
who have come here from Central and South America, looking for a safe place to live.
It is largely the Republicans in the House of Representatives that do not want to help these children.
They want to send them back, without determining if it is dangerous for them to go back.
We need to determine which of them are refugees.
If they are refugees, we need to provide them a safe place to live.

If the government is not doing enough to help these children,
shouldn’t Christians be helping them?
There are some religious groups stepping up to help these refugees.
If you want to help these women and children,
contact any of these charities —
Catholic Charities (provides refugees a place to live), Kids in Need of Defense (provides legal help),
and the International Rescue Committee (resettlement of refugees in some U.S.cities, and around the world).

(If you know of any other charities helping refugees in the U.S., please comment below.)


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