A refugee is someone who was forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee possesses a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, that individual or group of individuals cannot return home or are afraid to do so for fear of persecution. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are contributing causes for refugees to flee their countries.
International refugee law encompasses customary law, peremptory norms and international legal instruments. The United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was approved by the UN in 1951 and entered into force in 1954. It is a multilateral treaty that defines qualifications for refugee status and lays down the rights granted to those seeking asylum. The treaty also lays down a responsibility on host states to provide for refugees within their borders and prohibits host states from forcibly removing refugees to states where they would be harmed.
This treaty was originally created to provide a framework for all those identified as refugees before January 1,1951, but a subsequent protocol introduced in 1967, which extended the scope of the Convention beyond the original dateline. Other important treaties and conventions regarding refugees include the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949), the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons (1990), the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (1961), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990).