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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: July 2014

5 - Nexus to civil or political status

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Summary

The text of the Refugee Convention requires that a person’s well-founded fear of being persecuted be “for reasons of” an enumerated ground: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Under the Convention, if the peril a claimant faces – however wrongful it may be – cannot somehow be linked to her civil and political status and resultant marginalization, the claim to refugee status must fail. Put succinctly, refugee law requires that there be a nexus between who the claimant is or what she believes and the risk of being persecuted in her home state.

In practice the corollary is that many involuntarily displaced persons do not fall within the ambit of the Refugee Convention. As recognized by the drafters,

[t]he text…obviously did not refer to refugees from natural disasters, for it was difficult to imagine that fires, flood, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, for instance, differentiated between their victims on the grounds of race, religion, or political opinion. Nor did the text cover all man-made events. There was no provision, for example, for refugees fleeing from hostilities unless they were otherwise covered by Article 1 of the Convention.

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