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Resources for ages 15-18 in Human Rights and Refugees

Teaching and training materials

Resources for ages 15-18 in Human Rights and Refugees

15 May 2007

Imagine that you are a UNHCR Protection Officer. The following individuals appear in front of you asking for protection. You have to decide whether or not they are refugees. Your decision will determine whether they are granted asylum or sent back to their country of origin. Explain your decisions in terms of Article 1, section A and F, of the 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. It is also worth considering Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (see below)

1) Mr. H

Mr. H, a farmer with no political opinions, belonged to an ethnic minority in Magnolia. Many members of this ethnic group wanted their own independent state. In support of their ideas, certain members of the minority engaged in guerrilla activities. Due to his ethnic origin, Mr. H was threatened by some of his neighbours belonging to the ethnic majority. The local police simply turned a blind eye to these incidents. In addition, Mr. H. received threats from extremist members of his own ethnic group who blamed him for not taking their side. Eventually, Mr. H. obtained a passport and left his country of origin. He is now requesting asylum in Ruritania.

2) Ms. Q

For the past two years, Zania has been ruled by a military regime. The country's parliament has been dismissed and all laws are made by decree. As part of an ambitious plan to employ all able-bodied working men, the government orders all women to leave their jobs and remain in their homes. Women who disobey this decree will be severely punished. Ms. Q, a doctor, had to abandon her profession. Thanks to a missionary, Ms. Q. obtained a false passport and escaped the country. She is now requesting asylum in Ruritania.

3) Mr. C

Mr. C, a soldier in Magnolia, executed twenty prisoners of war. He claims that he was following his superior officer's orders. He did so fearing that he might be punished if he had not complied with the order. A common punishment in this case would be demotion and even detention. He is now wracked by remorse. Mr. C expects to receive a very long prison term if he returns to Magnolia. He left Magnolia without permission and is now seeking asylum in Ruritania.

4) Mr. R

As a member of a group opposed to the governing regime of his country, Mr. R. secretly distributed pamphlets in the factory where he worked. The pamphlets called for an uprising of the people against the regime. He was discovered, arrested and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. In prison, he was repeatedly tortured by government agents. After two years, he managed to escape, however, during his escape he wounded one of the prison guards. As a result, the guard was left permanently paralyzed. After a long and complicated journey, Mr. R. managed to leave his country and request asylum in Ruritania.

5) Ms. F

Ms. F. is a citizen of Magnolia. She has been suffering from a serious disease for the past three months. Her doctor believes that she only has a few more months left to live. Her only hope is a new, but very expensive, medical treatment. Unfortunately, Ms. F is very poor. In addition, the Magnolian government has suspended all free health care services. All citizens are now required to pay the full cost of their medical care. Ms. F. will never be able to afford the treatment that she needs to survive. However, in neighbouring Ruritania , health care is still subsidized by the government. If Ms. F. is allowed into Ruritania, she is guaranteed free health care. With the help of a friend, Ms. F. travels to the Ruritanian border and applies for refugee status. She claims that she will not survive if she remains in Magnolia.

1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees

Article 1: Definition of the term refugee

A. (2) ...owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, 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; or 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.

F. The provisions of this Convention shall not apply to a person with respect to whom there are serious reasons for considering that:

(a) he has committed a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity, as defined in the international instruments drawn up to make provision in respect of such crimes

(b) he has committed a serious non-political crime outside the country of refuge prior to his admission to that country as a refugee

(c) he has been guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.