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Right of asylum

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Asylum seekers by country of origin in 2009.

40,000 asylum seekers
30,000 asylum seekers
20,000 asylum seekers
10,000 asylum seekers
<10,000 asylum seekers (or no data)

Remains of one of four medieval stone boundary markers for the sanctuary of Saint
John of Beverley in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sanctuary ring on a door of Notre-Dame de Paris (France).

Medieval boundary marker at St. Georgenberg, Tyrol.

Plaque at St. Mary Magdalene Chapel, Dingli, Malta, indicating that the chapel did not
enjoy ecclesiastical immunity
The right of asylum (sometimes called right of political asylum, from the ancient
Greek word [1][2]) is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted
by their own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, a foreign
country, or church sanctuaries (as in medieval times). This right was already recognized
by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Hebrews, from where it was adopted into Western
tradition; Descartes went to the Netherlands, Voltaire to England, Hobbes to France, and
each state offered protection to persecuted foreigners.
The Egyptians, Greeks, and Hebrews recognized a religious "right of asylum,"
protecting criminals (or those accused of crime) from legal action to some extent.[3][4]
This principle was later adopted by the established Christian church, and various rules
were developed that detailed how to qualify for protection and what degree of
protection one would qualify for.[5]
According to the Council of Orleans in 511, in the presence of Clovis I, asylum was
granted to anyone who took refuge in a church, in its dependences, or in the house of a

bishop. This protection was given to murderers and thieves as well as people accused of


1 Medieval England

2 Modern political asylum

o 2.1 Right of asylum by country of refuge

2.1.1 European Union France United Kingdom

2.1.2 United States

3 See also

4 References

5 External links

Medieval England[edit]
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In England, King thelberht of Kent made the first laws regulating sanctuary in about
600 CE, though Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136) says
that the legendary pre-Saxon king Dunvallo Molmutius (4th/5th century BCE) enacted
sanctuary laws in the Molmutine Laws as recorded by Gildas (c. 500570).[6] In the laws
of king Ethelred, the term grith is used. By the Norman era after 1066, there had
evolved two kinds of sanctuary: all churches had the lower-level kind (sanctuary within
the church proper), but only churches licensed by the king had a broader version
(sanctuary in a zone surrounding the church). There were at least twenty-two churches
with charters for a broader kind of sanctuary, including Battle Abbey, Beverley (see
image, right), Colchester, Durham, Hexham, Norwich, Ripon, Wells, Winchester
Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and York Minster.
Sometimes the criminal had to get to the chapel itself to be protected, and might have to
ring a certain bell there, or hold a certain ring or door-knocker, or sit on a certain chair

("frith-stool"), and some of these items survive at various churches. In other places,
there was an area around the church or abbey, sometimes extending as much as a mile
and a half, and there would be stone "sanctuary crosses" marking the boundary of the
area; some of those still exist as well. Thus it could become a race between the felon
and medieval law officers to the nearest sanctuary boundary, and could make the
serving of justice upon the fleet of foot a difficult proposition.
Church sanctuaries were regulated by common law. An asylum seeker was to confess
sins, surrender weapons, and be placed under the supervision of the head of the church
or abbey where they had fled. They then had forty days to make one of two choices:
surrender to secular authorities and stand trial for the alleged crimes, or confess their
guilt and be sent into exile (abjure the realm), by the shortest route and never return
without the king's permission. Anyone who did come back could be executed by the law
and/or excommunicated by the Church.
If the suspect chose to confess their guilt and abjure, they would do so in a public
ceremony, usually at the gate of the church grounds. They would surrender their
possessions to the church, and any landed property to the crown. The coroner, a
medieval official, would then choose a port city from which the fugitive should leave
England (though the fugitive sometimes had this privilege). The fugitive would set out
barefooted and bareheaded, carrying a wooden cross-staff as a symbol of protection
under the church. Theoretically they would stay to the main highway, reach the port and
take the first ship out of England. In practice, however, the fugitive could get a safe
distance away, abandon the cross-staff and take off and start a new life. However, one
can safely assume the friends and relatives of the victim knew of this ploy and would do
everything in their power to make sure this did not happen; or indeed that the fugitive
never reached their intended port of call, becoming a victim of vigilante justice under
the pretense of a fugitive who wandered too far off the main highway while trying to
Knowing the grim options, some fugitives rejected both choices and opted for an escape
from the asylum before the forty days were up. Others simply made no choice and did
nothing. Since it was illegal for the victim's friends to break into an asylum, the church
would deprive the fugitive of food and water until a decision was made.
Henry VIII changed the rules of asylum, reducing to a short list the types of crimes
which were allowed to claim asylum. The medieval system of asylum was finally
abolished entirely by James I in 1623.
During the Wars of the Roses, when the Yorkists or Lancastrians would suddenly get the
upper hand by winning a battle, some adherents of the losing side might find themselves
surrounded by adherents of the other side and not able to get back to their own side.
Upon realizing this situation they would rush to sanctuary at the nearest church until it
was safe to come out. A prime example is Queen Elizabeth Woodville, consort of
Edward IV of England.
In 1470, when the Lancastrians briefly restored Henry VI to the throne, queen Elizabeth
was living in London with several young daughters. She moved with them into
Westminster for sanctuary, living there in royal comfort until Edward IV was restored to
the throne in 1471 and giving birth to their first son Edward V during that time. When

King Edward IV died in 1483, Elizabeth (who was highly unpopular with even the
Yorkists and probably did need protection) took her five daughters and youngest son
(Richard, Duke of York) and again moved into sanctuary at Westminster. To be sure she
had all the comforts of home, she brought so much furniture and so many chests that the
workmen had to knock holes in some of the walls to get everything in fast enough to
suit her.[7]

Modern political asylum[edit]

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Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the
right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution." The United
Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol
Relating to the Status of Refugees guides national legislation concerning political
asylum. Under these agreements, a refugee (or for cases where repressing base means
has been applied directly or environmentally to the defoul refugee) is a person who is
outside their own country's territory (or place of habitual residence if stateless) owing to
fear of persecution on protected grounds. Protected grounds include race, caste,
nationality, religion, political opinions and membership and/or participation in any
particular social group or social activities. Rendering true victims of persecution to their
persecutor is a particularly odious violation of a principle called non-refoulement, part
of the customary and trucial Law of Nations.
These are the accepted terms and criteria as principles and a fundamental part in the
1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees non-refoulement
Since the 1990s, victims of sexual persecution (which may include domestic violence,
or systematic oppression of a gender or sexual minority) have come to be accepted in
some countries as a legitimate category for asylum claims, when claimants can prove
that the state is unable or unwilling to provide protection.

Right of asylum by country of refuge[edit]

Play media
The Dutch government grants asylum to a couple of hundred elderly from Yugoslavia,
Poland, Hungary and the Baltic states. Since the end of World War II the people stayed
in camps in Austria and West Germany. (Newsreel ((Dutch))
European Union[edit]
See also: Asylum in the European Union
Asylum in European Union Member States formed over a half-century by application of
the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 on the Status of Refugees. Common policies

appeared in the 1990s in connection with the Schengen Agreement (which suppressed
internal borders) so that asylum seekers unsuccessful in one Member State would not
reapply in another. The common policy began with the Dublin Convention in 1990. It
continued with the implementation of Eurodac and the Dublin Regulation in 2003, and
the October 2009 adoption of two proposals by the European Commission.[9]

France was the first country to recognize the constitutional right to asylum, this being
enshrined in article 120 of the Constitution of 1793.[10] The modern French right of
asylum is recognized by the 1958 Constitution, vis--vis the paragraph 4 of the
preamble to the Constitution of 1946, to which the Preamble of the 1958 Constitution
directly refers. The Constitution of 1946 incorporated of parts of the 1793 constitution
which had guaranteed the right of asylum to "anyone persecuted because of his action
for freedom" who are unable to seek protection in their home countries.
In addition to the constitutional right to asylum, the modern French right to asylum
(droit d'asile) is enshrined on a legal and regulatory basis in the Code de l'Entree et du
Sejour des Etrangers et du Droit d'Asile[11] (CESEDA).
France also adheres to international agreements which provide for application
modalities for the right of asylum, such as the 1951 United Nations (UN) Convention
Relating to the Status of Refugees (ratified in 1952), the additional 1967 protocol;
articles K1 and K2 of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty as well as the 1985 Schengen
Agreement, which defined EU immigration policy. Finally, the right of asylum is
defined by article 18 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Some of the criteria for which an asylum application can be rejected include: i) Passage
via safe" third country, ii) Safe Country of Origin (An asylum seeker can be a prior
refused asylum if he or she is a national of a country considered to be "safe" by the
French asylum authority OFPRA),[12] iii) Safety Threat (serious threat to the public
order), or iv) Fraudulent Application (abuse of the asylum procedure for other reasons).
The December 10, 2003, law limited political asylum through two main restrictions:

The notion of "internal asylum": the request may be rejected if the foreigner may
benefit from political asylum on a portion of the territory of their home country.

The OFPRA (Office franais de protection des rfugis et apatrides French

Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons)[13] now makes a list
of allegedly "safe countries" which respect political rights and principles of
liberty. If the demander of asylum comes from such a country, the request is
processed in 15 days, and receives no social assistance protection. They may
contest the decision, but this does not suspend any deportation order. The first
list, enacted in July 2005, included as "safe countries" Benin, Cape Verde,
Ghana, Mali, Mauritius Island, India, Senegal, Mongolia, Georgia, Ukraine,
Bosnia and Croatia. It had the effect of reducing in six months by about 80% the
number of applicants from these countries. The second list, passed in July 2006,
included Tanzania, Madagascar, Niger, Albania and Macedonia.[14]

While restricted, the right of political asylum has been conserved in France amid
various anti-immigration laws. Some people claim that, apart from the purely judicial
path, the bureaucratic process is used to slow down and ultimately reject what might be
considered as valid requests. According to Le Figaro, France granted 7,000 people the
status of political refugee in 2006, out of a total of 35,000 requests; in 2005, the OFPRA
in charge of examining the legitimacy of such requests granted less than 10,000 from a
total of 50,000 requests.[15]
Numerous exiles from South American dictatorships, particularly from Augusto
Pinochet's Chile and the Dirty War in Argentina, were received in the 1970s-80s. Since
the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, tens of homeless Afghan asylum seekers have been
sleeping in a park in Paris near the Gare de l'Est train station.[16] Although their demands
haven't been yet accepted, their presence has been tolerated. However, since the end of
2005, NGOs have been noting that the police separate Afghans from other migrants
during raids, and expel via charters those who have just arrived at Gare de l'Est by train
and haven't had time to demand asylum (a May 30, 2005, decree requires them to pay
for a translator to help with official formalities).[17]
United Kingdom[edit]

Further information: Asylum and Immigration Tribunal

In the 19th century, the United Kingdom accorded political asylum to various
persecuted people, among whom were many members of the socialist movement
(including Karl Marx).[18] With the 1845 attempted bombing of the Greenwich Royal
Observatory[citation needed] and the 1911 Siege of Sidney Street in the context of the
propaganda of the deed (anarchist) actions, political asylum was restricted.[19]
United States[edit]
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Main article: Asylum in the United States

The United States recognizes the right of asylum of individuals as specified by
international and federal law. A specified number of legally defined refugees, who apply
for refugee status overseas, as well as those applying for asylum after arriving in the
U.S., are admitted annually.
As noted in the article specifically about asylum and refugees in the United States, since
World War II, more refugees have found homes in the U.S. than any other nation and
more than two million refugees have arrived in the U.S. since 1980. During much of the
1990s, the United States accepted over 100,000 refugees per year, though this figure has
recently decreased to around 50,000 per year in the first decade of the 21st century, due
to greater security concerns. As for asylum seekers, the latest statistics show that 86,400
persons sought sanctuary in the United States in 2001.[20] Before the September 11
attacks individual asylum applicants were evaluated in private proceedings at the U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS).

Despite this, concerns have been raised with the U.S. asylum and refugee determination
processes. A recent empirical analysis by three legal scholars described the U.S. asylum
process as a game of refugee roulette; that is to say that the outcome of asylum
determinations depends in large part on the personality of the particular adjudicator to
whom an application is randomly assigned, rather than on the merits of the case. The
very low numbers of Iraqi refugees accepted between 2003 and 2007 exemplifies
concerns about the United States' refugee processes. The Foreign Policy Association
reported that "Perhaps the most perplexing component of the Iraq refugee crisis... has
been the inability for the U.S. to absorb more Iraqis following the 2003 invasion of the
country. To date, the U.S. has granted less than 800 Iraqis refugee status, just 133 in
2007. By contrast, the U.S. granted asylum to more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees
during the Vietnam War." [21]
The 2000 documentary film Well-Founded Fear, from filmmakers Shari Robertson and
Michael Camerini marked the first time[citation needed] that a film crew was privy to the (above
mentioned) private proceedings at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services
(INS), where individual asylum officers ponder the often life-or-death fate of the
majority of immigrants seeking asylum. It provided the first high-profile,[according to whom?]
behind-the-scenes[clarification needed] look at the process for seeking asylum in the United States.
[citation needed]
The film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival, documentary competition
and was broadcast in June, 2000 on PBS as part of POV.
Between 2004 and 2007, nearly 4,000 Venezuelans claimed political asylum in the
United States and almost 50% of them were granted. In contrast, in 1996, only 328
Venezuelans claimed asylum, and a mere 20% of them were granted.[22]
According to USA Today, the number of asylums being granted to Venezuelan claimants
has risen from 393 in 2009 to 969 in 2012.[23] Other references agree with the high
number of political asylum claimants from Venezuela, confirming that between 2000
and 2010, the United States have granted them with 4,500 political asylums.[24]