Who is a refugee?

A refugee is someone who is in danger because he/she has suffered or fears suffering persecution or serious threats in his/her country or in his/her country of habitual residence, due to his/her:

1) race
2) being a member of an ethnic or social group,
3) religion
4) nationality
5) political opinion.
He/she is a person who left his/her country because it was too dangerous to stay there or, due to fear of severe reprisals, he/she did not want to seek the protection of his/her country.
////// Updated 2019

The definition of a refugee in the Geneva Convention [1951] : “The term “refugee” shall apply to any person 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.”

Am I a refugee ?

The definition of refugee in the Geneva Convention is used to grant the status of refugee.
If you meet the three conditions described in the definition of a refugee, you are considered a refugee.
Which means :
– If you are persecuted or you fear being persecuted for one of the 5 reasons described in the definition of the Convention [Race, Membership in an ethnic or social group, religion, nationality, political opinion]
– If you cannot or do not want to seek the protection of your country.
– If you are outside of your country or the country of your habitual residence. 

If you do not meet these three conditions, you will not be considered  a refugee.
If you have doubts, you can get advice from an association.
La Cimade, for example, has free “help centers” in many cities of France
->Refugees Help Centers of Cimade

The person asking for asylum cannot choose the kind of protection he/she is applying for. It is the French Office for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA  in French) and the National Court of Asylum (CNDA) that examine the asylum application, first under the criteria of the Geneva Convention, then the constitutional asylum and finally under the criteria for subsidiary protection.

Refugee status

Refugee status is granted to a person who fears persecution in his/her country and who cannot or will not avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.

If the reason for the persecution is based on his or her:
2- religion
3- nationality
4- membership in a particular social group
5- political opinion
This is called conventional asylum.

If the reason for the persecution is based on his or her actions in favor of freedom (he/she may be, for example, a political activist or unionist, artist, journalist or intellectual; threatened for their commitment to democracy and freedom in his/her country), it is called constitutional asylum.

Subsidiary protection

By a 2003 law, a new form of protection was put in place in France called  ‘Subsidiary protection’.

The benefit of subsidiary protection is granted to anyone who does not meet the conditions to be granted the refugee status but for whom there are substantial grounds for believing that he/she would have in his/her country a real risk because of one of the following reasons:

– Death penalty or execution (in a specific political context or in the event of a disproportionate sentence);
– Torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
– Being a civilian, a serious and individual threat against his/her life or person because of violence which may extend to people, irrespective of their personal situation resulting from internal or international armed conflict.

As an asylum seeker, you can be provided access to social rights during the time of the examination of your asylum application. This means that you have right to health insurance, an accomodation and an allowance for asylum seekers.  You can have a bank account open and get reduction on the cost of bus and metro tickets.

If you think you meet the conditions to be granted the refugee status, you can find more informations about the asylum process in France and the first steps of the application, by reading the following section “I have not yet started my asylum process”.

There are a number of other opportunities to seek a residence permit in France other than the refugee card. This website aims to provide only the information regarding the asylum process and the rights of the asylum seekers and refugees in France. However, you can find some general information about the possibilities of regularization in this section. For more information adapted to your situation, we advise you to go to a ‘help center’ of the Cimade, present in many cities of France.
> Refugees Help Centers of Cimade 

124 thoughts on “Who is a refugee?

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