Refugee: Crisis and International Laws

Refugee: Crisis and International Laws

Author: Lakshita Mahajan (Student)

College: Institute of Law, Nirma University


With the ongoing war like situation around the world, the worst hit from both the sides have always been the commoner. These are the people who have nothing to do with the war, nothing to benefit from it, but are the ones who loses the most in it. It is these people, who no longer feel safe in their own country, and are left with no option but to leave their country, who become refugees. One of the most recent examples of this crisis in the Ukraine refugee crisis where around 11.3 million people have been displaced, making it the second largest refuge crisis in the world. The condition of these people is very critical, and more than physical, they have been emotionally exhausted. Leaving the place, the country, which was once the place of happiness, comfort, good memories, have all been demolished under the greed of few people. Apart from Ukraine, there have been several other huge refugee crisis across the world which have been discussed in this article. Analysing all these raises the question, whether or not there exist some international laws to solve these problems, to which the answer is yes. The article thus covers the definition of refugee and the problems faced by them. It then analyses the refugee crisis situation at Ukraine more closely, along with discussing other huge scale refugee crisis. It next discusses some of the important and significant international laws regarding refugees and also mentions the rights that the refugees have. The article then concludes with the general aid that common people can make to help these refugees. 


One has spent his entire life at one place, and over the span of one night, he is forced to leave that place. For him, it is almost like the end of the world. The place where one has spent the happy memories with his loved ones, when that place becomes the pit of death, embodied with cries and screams, for him, his life has already ended. These are not some imaginary lines, but the actual feelings experienced by those who have observed the destruction of their homes, their cities, and their country from the closest. It is the thoughts of those who have lost their loved ones, and now live a life which they have never imagined. These are those people, who had nothing to do with the war, but yet are the ones who had lost the most. These are refugees. Refugees, these are those people who are forced to leave their homes, as they no feel safe in their own country or when their own country fails to protect them. These people are forced to leave their country in order to save themselves from the ongoing war, persecution or natural disaster. All of these are the situation which leave these people with nothing, except horrific memories, and lifelong terror. The refugees are displaced off to a completely new country, exposed with new people, new language, new culture etc. which often result in exhaustion by them in trying to adjust in this new situation. Moreover, many countries do not even welcome these refugees, in some they are treated inappropriately, not like how they should be treated and in yet many other countries they are not provided with the basic amenities that they would need to survive. Even after all these problems, and difficulties these people survive, with the hope to unite with their families again, to go back to their country again, to be happy again and to live peaceful again. 

Ukraine Refugee Crisis-

It all started with the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with intense bombing on 24th February 2022, which made it turn into an armed conflict, tilting towards the war-like situation. When in 1991, the Soviet Union disintegrated, many new countries were formed, one of which was Ukraine. Though it continued to share good relation with Russia initially, later on it started having close ties which the European Union and NATO, which gave rise to its tension with Russia. Thus, in 2014, Russia illegally captured Crimean Peninsula, and since then have also started backing the pro-Russian bloc in the Ukraine. All of these had resulted into the ongoing armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. These continuous conflicts had severely affected the people in both the countries but especially in Ukraine. Millions of people have been forced to leave their country and seek humanitarian aid at other countries, thus becoming largest and the fastest up hailing refugee crisis in Europe after World War II. People have been forced to leave Ukraine, due to increased violence, destruction of houses, buildings and bridges as well as due to lack of resources. These refugees have received help from several international organisations, along with many countries to get asylum in their country and have also provided them with the employment opportunities which had ensured that these refugees can try to get incorporated into the new life. The first in the list is Poland, which had helped the Ukrainians a lot by providing them shelter in their country as well as providing them with employment opportunity, where around 65% of able-bodied Ukrainians have got the work which give the opportunity to live a stable life with their family in a new country. Other countries like UK have provided 61% and Sweden have provided 56% employment to the able-bodied Ukrainians. There are several other countries like Lithuania, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Estonia, France etc. that helped Ukrainian refugees in providing them shelter and jobs in their country. Thus, even though this refugee crisis still persists even today, many countries have helped Ukrainian refugee to get shelter, and also get several basic amenities for them to survive, and embark on a new journey. 

Others large-scale refugee crisis over the history-

The displacement caused in Syria is one of the largest displacements in the history of refugee crisis, with around 12.1 million people have displaced. The conflict in Syria dates back to 2011 when during the Arab springs in Tunisia and Egypt made the people of Syria aware and realized that they too have been wronged, thus leading them to protest against their country’s high corruption and unemployment rate. Their government thus responded with further unrest and intense violence and killing of many people, thus forcing many to leave their country. This gave rise to the long-term civil conflict in the country which continues even now. 6.8 million people were internally displaced, while 5.3 million people have been forced to leave their country and seek shelter in countries like Turkey, Jordan Lebanon etc. These people have very few to no resources left with them, all of them live in a very small and crowded areas in temporary houses, most of these people are poverty and hunger-stricken, while all of them just hope to return to their normal life which now appear to seem very difficult to achieve by them. 

Afghanistan have been surrounded by years and years of armed conflict, violence and suppression. When in 2021, international troops withdrew, this has caused a severe impact on the lives of the Afghan families who now face immense uncertainty and are hunger-stricken. More than 6 million people have been forced to displace from their homes, out of which 3.5 million displaced with the country, and 2.3 million in other countries. These refugees majorly seek asylum in Pakistan and Iran. These people are majorly exposed to acute hunger, shortage of resources, very few aids from other countries etc. 

 Another dreadful example is of Venezuela where around 7.1 million people have been displaced. This started in 2014 with the country going through a sudden economic collapse. Thus, many refugees were forced to flee from their country due to hyperinflation, increasing unrest and violence in the country, acute food and other resources’ shortage etc. Around 2.3 million people face severe hunger while yet many people suffers from cholera and malaria. Many children died due to hunger and malnutrition. With all these, covid-19 had even worsened the situation. There were many who had lost their jobs, and now have no means of income. Many who left their country to work abroad, have lost their jobs there, and have returned to the country with some hope of finding job here, but to no avail. There is also an acute shortage of fuel, electricity and clean water all of which have resulted into increased unrest and people protesting, thus leaving the people with no apparent choice but to leave their country. 

These examples portray how horrific and difficult the lives of the refugees would have been, who had to go through all of these on a daily basis, who do not know whether or not they will be getting anything to eat tomorrow, will there be any future for them, will the things get better? They do not know any of these, but just have hope that their situation gets better. These instances also showcase the problems that these refugees had to face, and thus, below are some international laws, conventions and treaties which had been made to help the refugees and provide them with basic amenities, thus easing off some of their problems. 

International Laws, Conventions and Treaties-

In the matter relating to refugees, which is an international matter, there are several laws, convention and treaties which have been made to provide protection and assistance to the refugee, and also give them certain rights. As refugee rights are no less than the human rights, many humanitarian laws also have certain clauses and articles dedicated to safeguarding the rights of the refugees. Provided there are also some specific areas which have this refugee crisis at higher levels, for which that have made regional refugee laws as well. Hence, given below are some of the most important refugee rights, which safeguards the rights of the refugee and protect them from atrocities, thus trying to lower some burden off their shoulders. 

a) Article 14 of Universal Declaration of Human rights

This article explicitly states that every person will enjoy the right to seek shelter in other countries and protect themselves from the non-political act of the country, from other country etc. Thus, this article gives refugee the right to take asylum in other country to protect themselves. 

b) The 1951 Refugee convention and the 1967 Protocol 

These two are the major legal documents which form the basis of the UNHCR that is United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They provide internationally recognised and accepted definition of refugee as well as also give out the legal rights that these refugees hold. The 1951 refugee convention asserts that a refugee who had fled from their country of origin, cannot be forced to return to that country if they still face fear and apprehension of death there. Moreover, they also set the bare minimum standards of how the refugee should be treated, and are also provided with certain rights, like right to housing, education and work, thus attempting to maintain the dignity and self-respect of the displaced people. The later that is the 1967 protocol extended the applicability of 1951 UN refugee convention, while dropping the time and geographical limits that were initially the part of the 1951 convention. In this limit, only those people who became refugees before 1st January 1951 and that too in Europe, were included. Thus, the 1967 protocol this limitation was dropped thus opening up the door for all the people across the globe and extending the scope of 1951 convention. 

c) The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa which is also known as 1969 Refugee Convention, is the regional legal document to protect the refugee in Africa. This convention has made significant advancements in the already existing refugee laws and have also impacted the conventions and treaties that were conducted after this. It had expanded the definition of refugee by also including the accidental situations meaning thereby that those situations of danger where the cause of it is not state. It has included those people who seek asylum in other countries because of natural calamities taking place in their country. Thus, even due to the dangers of the natural calamities if the people displace, and seek shelter in other country, according to this convention they would be treated as refugees. They have also introduced ‘absolute’ prohibition of refoulement. 

d) Cartagena Declaration on Refugees 1984

This is another regional legal instrument and one of the most accomplished one in the area of refugees in Latin American region. It had too extended the definition of refugee by including geographical as well as temporal situation like poverty, economic decline, hunger, malnourishment, increased violence etc. This declaration was first applied by Brazil to accept the petition case by 174 Venezuelans and this action of Brazil was appreciated by the UNHRC. 


Therefore, after discussing all these, it can be said that there are several international laws and conventions to safeguard the rights of the refugees, however it is for no doubt that many a times these appear to just exist on paper and may or may not be so effectively applicable in real life. Various attempts have been made by several international organisations, many countries and even at times some private firms to make sure that refugees get what they deserve as they are the victims here. We as an individual can also make some significance by donating to these organisations (however to official and verified sites only) and also encouraging others to do the same. Moreover, we should try to know more about the problems that we faced by the refugee and try to make other people aware of it. There are many kids, women and old people who are the worst hit in this kind of situations, and we must make their unheard voices heard. Being a refugee is no ones dream nor a choice, it is the situations that forces these people to become one. All of them live only with one hope in their eyes, that one day they will be free from fear, free from anxiety and uncertainty, and will again experience those happy moments that they cherish the most in their memories.


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