By Lissalina Marwig -
Persecution on the basis of race is one of the primary criteria for the definition of a refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention.
It was included in response to the racial atrocities of the Second World War, particularly Axis power war crimes against Jews, Roma, and people of colour.
The stipulation that refugee status should be extended to those fleeing persecution from race still exists in international law today, but sadly so does racial discrimination itself, often in circumstances which are less high-profile than Nazi war crimes. Asylos offers the opportunity to those fleeing racial discrimination anywhere in the world to substantiate their claim with quality information.
Asylum-seekers from ethnic minorities are often affected by a lack of sufficient information. Minority racial groups rarely appear in the spotlight of media attention.
As an Asylos research coordinator, I work with lawyers to understand their clients’ needs and how information can help their case. I’ve learned very quickly that asylum-seekers from ethnic minorities are often affected by a lack of sufficient information. Generalised country information often refers to country’s whole populations, but ethnic or racial minorities frequently don’t have equal access to civil rights in their countries of origin. Minority racial groups can also be severely underrepresented on the global stage, and rarely appear in the spotlight of media attention. Their situation is often neglected and not well-known or understood. Information gaps in the media narrative can lead to harsh immigration decisions which put individuals directly at risk.
When our Russia/Caucasus team was asked a few months ago to investigate the situation of a returned asylum-seeker of Korean descent in Uzbekistan, they therefore had to dig deep to find relevant information. Finding that this issue had not received any international media coverage, they used a diversity of skills and knowledge to search through local media reports about people in similar circumstances.
I can’t stop racism from happening, but I can help those who experience it find a safe home away from persecution.
People from ethnic or racial minorities often find themselves in the most dangerous contexts: so dangerous that they flee their homes in order to save their lives and request asylum in another part of the world, where they need to provide evidence about their case. Sometimes when I’m reading a request from a lawyer or caseworker, it seems obvious to me that their client needs protection. But to prove their case before an immigration court or to an asylum agency, they need me and my researchers to help them produce the evidence.
As a remote network of researchers, it is times like these in which asylum lawyers are struggling as much as others to continue daily business that we are here for support.
When days like International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination come around, I’m reminded of the ways in which volunteering for Asylos means I’m helping contribute to the UN’s goals for global peace and prosperity. I can’t stop racism from happening, but I can help those who experience it find a safe home away from persecution on the basis of their race. And I can do that in partnership with other volunteers, dedicated to the same goal, from the comfort of our own safe homes. As a remote network of researchers, it is times like these in which asylum lawyers are struggling as much as others to continue daily business that we are here for support.
In 2019, Asylos conducted research on those ethnic minority groups displayed in the graphic. On International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we ask you to stand in solidarity with those who are persecuted on the basis of race. Head to our Research Report Database to download our research reports and offer the best possible support to your client.