• Sabiha Göksu Tezer

Pangea -1


The world is facing its biggest refugee problem ever. Even though the policies of the countries and the reactions of the people change, the pain in the background doesn’t change. In this article, I will try to expand awareness about these issues and explain some basic terms.

I want to start by explaining the terms refugee, asylum seekers, and immigrants who are being confused by both national and international sources. I want to mark that using these terms correctly is very important practically and theoretically.

So, what is a refugee?


We can find the meaning in the first article of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. When we look at the article, we see those characteristics:

a) well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion,

b) 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,

c) who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.

In other words, they are defenseless in their countries and runaway from armed conflict and oppression. They have the right to have international protection.


What is an asylum seeker?

Every refugee is an asylum seeker but not every asylum seeker is a refugee. This may sound complicated at first but in fact, it is very simple.


Asylum seekers aren’t in refugee status yet because their demand to have international protection hasn’t been responded yet because of the procedures changing from state to state.

Okay but, what is an immigrant?


Immigrants don’t face an oppression or death thread. Their reasons for leaving their countries are mostly economical. Or sometimes it can be family reunification or education. They can turn back to their countries whenever they want and don’t face any protection issues. Those people don’t favor international protection.

While talking about refugee problems I want to tell you about some special situations.

One of them is the refugees who are also stateless. But of course, before mentioning that I’d like to inform you about stateless people.


Who is a stateless person?

By the first article of the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, we see that they are not considered as a citizen by any state under the operation of its law. Therefore they don’t have any legal documents such as IDs, passports, etc. as a result they cant benefit from public services such as healthcare or education, or working opportunities.


There are a couple of reasons causing statelessness:

a) The main reason for that is the lacunae in the nationality law. Every country has its own nationality law regulating acquirement citizenship or loss of citizenship. And if they’re not regulated or enforced well, we face some consequences. As an example, in some countries where nationality is inherited from parents, we can see children without parents becoming stateless but we’re lucky that most countries have regulations accepting them as citizens.


b) Another reason is; if a child is born in a country where nationality is acquired by family ties (parents) and her/his parents are not that country’s citizens and their countries oblige to be born in that country the child becomes stateless. Also, regulations deciding who can or can not pass their citizenship can be discriminatory. We see the most common example of that in countries where women can not pass their citizenship to their children. And sometimes this can be based on race, ethnicity, etc.


c) Sometimes this problem can occur during the foundation of the states. As a result of the newly founded states and changing borders some specific groups, especially ethnic, racial, and religious groups can become stateless and have great difficulties proving their relations to the new state. And if the mentioned states oblige heritage for citizenship, this issue can pass down to generations.


d) In some situations people can lose their citizenship and those situations are regulated by law. For example, people not living in their country for a long time can lose their citizenship. Also, states can categorize some groups based on race, ethnicity, etc by legal arrangements.


Stateless people can be acknowledged as refugees and apply for asylum but they are much less protected compared to regular refugees and can benefit fewer rights.


Some of the problems of the stateless refugees are:

*Application for asylum can be harder because of the lack of legal documents and the mentioned state can be unwilling to take them into the country.

*They can face the risk of being sent back or being deforced because of the lack of legal documents

* They can be confined or have hardship accessing the needed help and support.

* They may not turn back to their countries after the fear of oppression ends because they’re not citizens of that country and have no right to get in.

Now, I want to touch briefly on the issues of woman and child refugees:

Refugee women and children need protection even more since they may face physical or sexual abuse; domestic violence; armed conflicts; crimp; sexual exploitation and white slavery before or during the escape or in the refugee area or after turning back to their countries.

Other problems child refugees face:

* Lack of access to quality education is one of the major problems which is mostly caused by limited economic resources, not being able to provide security for the schools, and the language barrier.

* Some children may have to flee unaccompanied. Despite the fact that immigration with a company is hard, it gets as twice as hard. Also, they face more violence, abuse, and harassment risk compared to the children accompanied.

* Also incidents happening during and after the immigration and destruction of the family structure and increased responsibility of the child causes trauma and mental breakdowns.



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