Policy Work 2018-04-23T07:13:17+00:00

HOLDS Foundation Definition of “Refugee”

‘A “refugee” is a person who:

(a) is outside the country of their nationality, or has been displaced from the property of their habitual residence,

(b) due to any of the following:

(i) an internationally recognised fear of being persecuted for reasons of: race; religion; nationality; membership of a particular social group or political opinion,

(ii) an internationally recognised threat to their lives, safety, freedom or livelihood by: national and/or international conflicts; conflict-based economic causes; generalized violence; or massive violation of human rights,

(c) and:

(i) is unable or unwilling, owing to causes outlined in (b), to avail themselves of the protection of the country of their nationality.


(ii) who, not having a nationality, and being outside the country or displaced from the property of their former habitual residence, as a result of causes outlined in (b), is unable or unwilling to return to it.

(d) In cases of uncertainty as to fulfilment of causes outlined in (b):

(i) all persons forming part of a large-scale influx are to be regarded as refugees on a prima facie basis through group determination.


(ii) if the denial of refugee status and subsequent deportation, detainment, detention or criminalisation would increase the threat to life or freedom, or prolong the uncertainty of outcome, the cause of displacement is to be accepted as legitimate.”


The definition uses the Convention definition as a foundation, while incorporating more recent regional treaties, human rights conventions, and acknowledging harmful practices in the current application of the “refugee” definition – removing any impact from politicisation and discrimination in asylum procedures, directly clarifying the principle of non-refoulement and undue restriction of freedoms for displaced persons [see proposed definition section (d)(ii)], and including updated “refugee” definitions from international agreements [see proposed definition section(b)(ii)] such as the 1984 Cartagena Declaration on Refugees.