Appraisal of the Rights of Refugees and Asylum Seekers



Who is A Refugee and Asylum Seeker?

Refugees and asylum seekers are phrases used to denote those who are on the move, and those who have left their countries and crossed international boundaries. A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution. “The risks to their safety and life were so great that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their country because their own government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers’’[1]. It is important to note that Refugees are entitled to international protection.

“An Asylum Seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who has not yet been legally recognized as a Refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim’’. Seeking asylum is a human right[2].

The issue of Refugees and Asylum seekers has become increasingly important in recent years, particularly in countries like Nigeria that have experienced conflict and other forms of violence.

The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, define Refugee “as a person who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail him or herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution’’[3].

From the definition given above, it can be inferred that a person must meet a number of requirements in order to be considered a Refugee under International law, which includes:

  1. Well-founded Fear: The person must have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The fear must be based on actual threats or past experiences of persecution.
  2. Outside of their Country of Nationality: The individual must be outside of their country of nationality or habitual residence. This means that they cannot seek refugee status while still living in their home country.
  3. Unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country: The individual seeking refugee or asylum must be unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to fear of persecution, and must not have access to protection or safety within their home country.
  4. Non-criminal: The individual must not have committed serious crimes or be considered a danger to the security of the host country.
  5. Convention Refugee: The individual must be recognized as a refugee under the 1951 United Nations Convention, relating to the status of refugees or the 1967 Protocol.

It is important to note that the requirements to attain the status of a refugee or an asylum seeker may differ, as some countries may have additional requirements or restrictions for granting refugee status.

Also, there are significant distinctions between the two statuses, even though the phrases “refugee” and “asylum seeker” are sometimes used interchangeably. The primary difference between refugees and asylum seekers is their legal status. Refugees have already been granted protection, while asylum seekers are still waiting for their status to be determined.


The rights of refugees and asylum seekers are protected by both International and State laws, regardless of how and why they arrive in a country. They have the same rights as everyone else. However, refugees and asylum seekers must abide by the laws and regulations of the country they are in, and respect every law made in their host country to maintain public order.

In Nigeria, The National Refugee Commission Act of 1989, made provision for the right of refugees and asylum seekers which includes;

  1. Right to be protected against the expulsion or return to a country where their life or freedom would be at risk.
  2. Right to be provided with basic assistance, including food, shelter, and medical care.
  3. Right to work and access education, subject to national laws and regulations.
  4. Right to freedom of movement within Nigeria.
  5. Right to access legal assistance and to have their asylum claims fairly and promptly assessed.
  6. Right to be treated without discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.


Refugees and Asylum seekers are human beings and have the same rights as everyone including the right to seek asylum, the right to freedom from persecution, and the right to basic needs such as food, shelter and healthcare. Protecting their rights upholds the basic principles of human dignity.

Key Terms: Refugee, Asylum seekers, National Refugee Commission

  2. ibid
  3. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol Article1A (2)

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