Governments are supposed to guarantee the basic human rights and physical security of their citizens, but as we've discussed, people often become refugees because the government is not able or willing to do this. Refugees fleeing war or persecution can be very vulnerable. They have no protection from their own state, and it is often their own government that is persecuting them. If other countries do not let them in and protect them, they may be forced to suffer in a situation where their basic rights, security, and even lives are in danger. Refugee protection involves upholding the fundamental human rights of refugees, which includes minimizing the threat of violence and making sure that their basic needs are provided for. But the most fundamental responsibility in refugee protection is to ensure that the refugees are not forcibly returned to the place from which they fled. UNHCR or the United Nations Refugee Agency was established in 1950, in the aftermath of World War II. UNHCR was created to protect the millions of Europeans who were forced to flee their homes during World War II. While the creators envisioned the UNHCR would only exist until the post-World War II refugee crisis was resolved. UNHCR still coordinates the global refugee response to this day. Major areas of assistance provided by UNHCR and partner agencies include shelter, food, clean water, education, and medical care. UNHCR also works to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and other harm and helps refugees and other uprooted people become self-sufficient through vocational training and income-generating projects. It's important to emphasize that UNHCR doesn't do this work alone. On the bottom of the slide showing Domiz refugee camp, you'll see part of a list of local and international partners the UNHCR is working with on the ground to provide assistance and protection to Syrian refugees in a number of different sectors such as education and public health. These partners include other UN agencies, host government agencies, and many private non-governmental organizations. While UNHCR's assistance role has expanded through the decades, ensuring the protection of refugees remains its core responsibility. In 1951, the convention relating to the status of refugees was adopted. This convention is generally known as the 1951 Refugee Convention. Just like UNHCR, the 1951 Convention was a response to the events of World War II and its original purpose was to help the millions of Europeans uprooted from their homes during the war. The Refugee Convention applied only to people who became refugees before 1951, but since new refugee situations were continuing to happen around the world, a new document, the 1967 Protocol, essentially expanded the scope of the convention to refugees who were displaced after that date. UNHCR's role as the guardian of the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol is outlined in the documents, which means that UNHCR is responsible not only for ensuring the legal rights of refugees, but also for providing many forms of lifesaving assistance either directly or through partner agencies. Since 1951, around 145 countries have become parties to the Refugee Convention and/or to its 1967 Protocol. That brings us to the question of what exactly this convention says. The first thing, and certainly one of the most important things that the Refugee Convention does, is to define who exactly a refugee is. We already spoke about the definition in the introduction, but it's important to take a more detailed look into what being a refugee really means. As mentioned earlier, a refugee is someone who, first of all, is outside of his or her home country. In other words, a refugee has crossed an international border and is in another country. Second, the definition tells us that a refugee can't or won't go back to his or her home country because of a reasonable fear of persecution. The convention doesn't define persecution, but it is generally considered to mean threats to life, limb, or freedom, including imprisonment, torture, or even death. The third thing that the refugee definition establishes is a scope of the reasons for persecution. To be considered a refugee, the person must fear persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, which includes ethnic background, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. The consideration for membership in social groups has proven pretty flexible, as it was intended. It essentially means something that's fundamental to a person's identity and that they shouldn't be forced to change. Examples of social group have included people who have fled conscription into militias or gangs, family members of political dissidents, individuals persecuted for their sexual orientation, and in certain situations, women. One other thing to note is the principle that refugees are clearly in need of and entitled to international protection because they're not getting the protection they need in their home country, because their government is either unwilling or unable to protect them. Remember that this definition was adopted soon after World War II. So in laying out these five grounds of persecution, the drafters of the convention were saying that if people are persecuted or forced to flee their homes for these reasons, that's particularly abhorrent, and these victims are in need of special protection. Article 33 of the Refugee Convention contains what is widely regarded to be the most essential principle of international refugee law: the prohibition against forced return, which is known formally as non-refoulement. The obligation of non-refoulement therefore means that a country can't forcibly return a refugee to a country where he or she could face persecution on account of one of the five grounds discussed earlier. This is the fundamental obligation that governments owe to refugees. And in fact, it's so important that it's generally considered to be customary international law, which means it's binding on countries even if they didn't sign the Refugee Convention. This is important because countries often violate this obligation, and when they do, they shouldn't have the excuse of saying they haven't signed the convention. The convention lays out a lot of other obligations that are owed to refugees by the countries who are parties to the convention. However, the Refugee Convention doesn't explain how to determine whether someone is in fact a refugee. Since countries are not allowed to forcibly return a refugee, it's clear that a process is necessary to know who is a refugee and who is not. Determining who is a refugee usually involves some sort of interview to determine if the person fears persecution. Many countries have adopted their own refugee laws that implement the international obligations, and in such cases, they conduct these interviews themselves. If a government isn't in a position to process refugee claims, they often allow UNHCR to do so, and UNHCR calls this process Refugee Status Determination. Now in cases of mass influx where large numbers of refugees, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands or even millions of refugees from a particular country, cross into neighboring countries, individual interviews aren't practical or even necessary. In such cases, the persons who have fled are given a blanket refugee status known as prima facie refugee status because it's clear on the face of things that these people are refugees unless proven otherwise. In situations where individuals are seeking refugee status, particularly in industrialized countries or in urban locations, individual determinations are usually required. Sometimes these are highly legalized procedures that include interviews, appeals, and even full-scale hearings before judges or tribunals.