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I. Introduction

This report describes the law and policy on refugees and other asylum seekers in twenty-two geographically dispersed countries and, at the supranational level, in the European Union (EU). The individual surveys cover such topics as participation in relevant international conventions; laws and regulations governing the admission of refugees and handling refugee claims; processes for handling refugees arriving at the border; procedures for evaluating whether an applicant is entitled to refugee status; the accommodations and assistance provided to refugees in the jurisdiction; requirements for naturalization; and whether asylum policy has been affected by international emergencies, such as the current refugee crisis in Europe. A bibliography of selected relevant English-language materials from recent years is included.

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II. Refugee Convention

All of the countries surveyed here, other than Jordan and Lebanon, are states parties to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The  EU’s Common European Asylum System is also based on the principles in the Convention. States parties to the Convention are required to protect refugees that are in their territory and to adhere to the principle of non-refoulement—that is, to not return refugees to places where their life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. In practice, the states parties to the Convention vary significantly in their receptivity to asylum seekers and the extent to which conflicting national policies affect adherence to norms prescribed in the Convention.

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III. Application and Evaluation

Asylum seekers are required to submit an asylum application to the country’s competent authority. Different procedures apply to different categories of applicants—for example, those applying for asylum upon arriving at the border versus those applying from outside the country through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), or those applying for refugee status versus those applying for humanitarian protection. The Convention permits divergent practices in the processing of applications. Screening requirements that involve collecting personal details, fingerprints, and photographs of the applicant are common. The determining authority typically examines submitted documentation and interviews the applicant. Denied applicants commonly have the opportunity to appeal an adverse determination.

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IV. Assistance to Asylum Seekers

The surveys describe the varying types of assistance provided to asylum seekers in the jurisdictions. Assistance includes housing, food, access to medical care, education, employment, travel documentation, and information about their legal rights.

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V. Family Members

Most surveyed countries include immediate family members of applicants among those entitled to asylum protection. Some countries also have provisions for family reunification, allowing those granted international protection to apply for such protection for family members outside the country.

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VI. Path to Citizenship

The surveys also show diversity with respect to whether a person’s refugee status affects the requirements needed to obtain naturalization. In some countries, the requirements for naturalization are no different for refugees and ordinary immigrants, while in others certain criteria, such as the required length of residency, vary between refugees and other migrants.

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VII. Monitoring of Applicants and Restrictions on Travel

The surveys describe the monitoring of asylum applicants and the travel restrictions placed on  them  in  the  countries.   Countries   usually   impose   residence   requirements, obligations to report to governmental authorities at specified intervals, and the  like. Practices vary dramatically with respect to permission to travel within and outside the jurisdiction and the type of documentation required for allowed travel.

Prepared by Luis Acosta
Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and
International Law Division II
March 2016

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Last Updated: 06/08/2016