Asylum vs Refuge: What are their differences?

What is asylum?

Asylum is a fundamental human right that every person has to be temporarily received in another country due to a well-founded fear of persecution. At the international level, the protection of refugees is regulated by the United Nations (UN) Statute for the Protection of Refugees and other conventional establishments. Recognition as a refugee by the authorities of one country does not automatically imply that the person may migrate to another. For refugees who are in a country neighboring their country of origin, the Statute recognizes the right to move freely within the Community territory for a maximum period of three months.

What is refuge?

Refuge is the protection offered to persons who, being in need of it, are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of refugee status.

State protection against forced return (refuge) Article 25 of the American Convention on Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to simple and prompt recourse, or any other effective recourse, to a competent court or tribunal for protection against acts that violate his fundamental rights recognized by the constitution or laws of the state concerned or by this Convention, even though such violation may have been committed by persons acting in the course of their official duties.”

The American Declaration on the Right and Duty of States to Promote International Standards Designed to Ensure Universal and Effective Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms proclaims: Article XXIII: “Every person has the right to have his personal integrity respected and to be treated with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. Article XXIV. “Every State has the duty to promote, by all appropriate means and without delay, the observance of and respect for the rights recognized in the present Declaration. 

asylum vs refuge diferences
asylum refuge

What is the difference between asylum vs refuge?

Since they are two distinct issues, they have fundamental differences.

For asylum, the fundamental human right is protection against forcible return to a territory where one is in danger. Therefore, to grant it, one must be part of the territory of a country (whether nation or federation) and the act by which it is granted is unilateral and intrasystemic; that is, it does not necessarily imply automatically neither receiving the asylum seeker nor granting him or her a residence or work permit in the territory of the host country.

Refuge, on the other hand, refers to protection based on a call from outside (someone from outside asks the State to receive him or her) and is extra-regional, i.e., it implies both receiving the applicant and granting him or her a residence and/or work permit.

Political asylum is understood as the protection afforded to those fleeing from the government or authorities of their country.

Refuge is understood as the protection afforded to those fleeing persecution, reprisals or imminent physical harm to their persons.

Asylum and Refuge: A final comparison

One could define asylum as a request for admission of an alien (whether a national of another country or not) into the territory of the State, whereas refugee status is the decision taken by the State to admit the alien into its territory. A fundamental difference is that asylum can be denied, while refugee status has no formal denial mechanism.

Asylum is a unilateral and intrasystemic act and has a residual character, therefore in every country there are places available in asylum camps to receive those fleeing from the government or authorities of their own country, while refugee protection is transregional.

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