Who is a refugee?

 

   

Crimean Tartars deported in 1944 and now refugees in UkraineA 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 their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such a fear, is unwilling to, avail themselves of the protection of that country [...]" (The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees). Persons who have participated in war crimes and violations of humanitarian and human rights law including the crime of terrorism are specifically excluded from the protection accorded to refugees.

Very often there is confusion between refugees, economic migrants and illegal migrants, which leads to wrong conclusions and xenophobic reactions. Refugees flee because of the threat of persecution and cannot return safely to their homes in the prevailing circumstances. An economic migrant normally leaves a country voluntarily to seek a better life. Should they elect to return home, they would continue to receive the protection of their government. 

Many illegal migrants try to cross the region of Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine to get to Western Europe. They are not necessarily refugees - only a few of them have well-founded reasons to seek asylum from persecution, and these people should get international protection.