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What are refugees’ rights under international law?

All refugees have the same human rights afforded to any other person.  In addition, there are specific human rights applicable due to the circumstances refugees face.

Human rights particularly relevant to refugees include:

  • the right to life, liberty and security of person;
  • the right to freedom from torture or cruel or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state;
  • the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion;
  • the right to freedom of opinion and expression;
  • the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of the person and their family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services;
  • the right to education
  • freedom from discrimination; and
  • respect for the unity of the family.
These rights are set out in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other treaties to which the Australian Government is a party.

The Refugees’ Convention gives refugees additional specific rights, including:
  • the right not to be returned to their country of origin if their safety cannot be assured (principle of non-refoulement);
  • the right to be accorded in many respects the same treatment as the citizens of the country in which they are given refuge; and the right not to be penalised for illegally entering a country if they request asylum.