The world where human-being has lived for centuries has faced wars, disasters, invasions, and other troubles so far. Hence, many innocent people who were affected by these challenging events have had to flee their homes, villages, cities and countries to secure their lives, hopes and freedom like that Afghan people do today because these events deprive humans to live as a human. People who have to leave their homes, villages, cities and countries due to the relevant troubles are named refugees in today’s world. Moreover, some developments took the refugee rights a step further through international treaties such as the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Therefore, refugees have guaranteed rights in today’s world.
What are these rights and where do the rights come from? Firstly, we ought to know the sources of Refugee Rights in order to understand the birth of refugee rights in today’s world. In the contemporary world, the source of refugee law is the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees as I mentioned in the first paragraph. This convention is very significant because I think this convention protects human dignity and guarantee to live as a human for refugees in the anarchical international system. However, provisions of this Convention do not guarantee the rights of all refugees because article 1 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees states that the refugee statute is valid for people who are affected by an event that took place in Europe before 1951. (1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees) That’s why, we can say that there are limitations in terms of geography and date. (Zimmermann, 2011) That is, if Afghan people had left their countries as a refugee before the year of 1967, they could have not been named as a refugee according to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
However, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees has removed these limitations, so every human who has to leave his/her country due to the trouble that does not enable the person to survive his/her human dignity in his/her country can be named as a refugee according to the provisions of the 1967 Protocol (1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees), but these are valid for the contracting parties that did not raise any objection to the changed provisions of the 1951 Convention through the 1967 Protocol. That is, if a contracting state raised an objection to one of the changed provisions of the 1951 Convention, the changed provision or provisions are not binding for the state. For instance, if a state did not accept the changed on geography, this state would accept refugees only from Europe, so refugees coming from other continents are not accepted as refugee due to the reality of international system.
As for the rights of refugees coming from the 1951 Convention, I would like to explain through the example of Afghan Refugees. Afghanistan has faced challenging days after the Taliban take-over the Kabul as we observe nowadays. Many innocent people strive to flee from Afghanistan to any safe country to secure their lives, hopes and freedom because they think that the Taliban will deprive their freedom. These developments are enough to call Afghan people refugee. Afghan people have the right to take refuge in a country, but the refugee must meet some circumstances that are mentioned in article 1 of the 1951 Convention. That is, “the relevant person must not commit a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity; he/she must not commit a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee; he/she must not be guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.” (1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees) If Afghan refugees do not commit one of these crimes, they have the right to take refugees to any country through the 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol.
On the other hand, refugees have rights such as having property, performing religious duties freely accessing education and other rights that are mentioned between article 3 to article 34 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. (1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees) Hence, we can say that Afghan refugees have rights that protect their human dignity. For example, nobody can interfere with the lifestyle of Afghans in a different country and if someone interferes, it violates the provisions of the 1951 Conventions. We know that the Taliban interferes lifestyle of Afghan people, so this is one of the reasons that cause Afghan people to flee from their country to another country. Lastly, I want to mention a very important right of refugees. Article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees states that a contracting state cannot enforce a refugee or refugees to return to their home or another country. (1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees) Therefore, any Afghan refugee or any other Nation’s refugee cannot be forced to return to their country while danger which deprives people of their rights continues in their country.
In conclusion, refugees have rights that are guaranteed through the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees in the contemporary world. No state which is a contracting party of the Convention can deprive refugees of free life and no state can enforce refugees to return to their country. I think these refugee rights are very important guarantees for people in the anarchical international system because we still observe refugee influxes like the Afghan Refugee Influx after the Taliban take-over. Hence, I think the guaranteed rights are very significant to protect the human dignity of each human around the world in which people live for centuries.
1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The UN Refugee Agency: https://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10
Zimmermann, A. (2011). A. Zimmermann, The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and Its 1967 Protocol (s. 251-252). OXFORD.