A refugee is a person forced to flee from her home country because of persecution or because of a general conditions of violence.
The most widely used definition of a refugee is found in the Geneva Convention of 1951 (Art. 1 sec. 2) which says
A refugee is a person who, “owing to (a) well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of (sic) a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
The Geneva Convention has been signed by 147 countries.
There are also regional treaties that define the notion of the refugee, such as the Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa signed by 45 States, and the Cartagena Declaration on Refugees in Central America, Mexico and Panama signed by 35 States, and the Directive regarding Minimum Laws for Attributing to Citizens of Third Countries or Stateless Persons Recognition as Refugees or as Persons Otherwise in Need of International Protection, as well as the Directive on Minimum Standards on the Procedures in Member States for Granting and Withdrawing Refugee Status.
All of these treaties share a basic notion about the refugee: a person forced to leave his own country of origin and to ask for protection in a foreign land. It is this characteristic that distinguishes the refugee from the economic migrant. While the latter freely chooses to leave his country to seek a better future from an economic, social or cultural point of view, the refugee is forced to do so. He has no choice. Abandoning his country is the only way that he can save his life or liberty.
In Italy the right to asylum, and to ask for protection, is guaranteed by Article 10, sec. 3 of the Italian Constitution.
“The foreigner who is prevented in his own country from the effective exercise of the democratic liberties guaranteed by the Italian Constitution, has the right to asylum in the territory of the Republic, according to conditions established by law.”
In 65 years, this Constitutional Article has yet to be articulated into statutory law.
How many refugees are in Italy?
Italy has 58 thousand refugees. This is a very small number relative to other European Union countries, considering the 571,000 refugees who live in Germany or the 193,500 who live in the United Kingdom, and even more so when compared to the number living in countries of “first asylum.” In Pakistan there are 1,702,700 refugees, in Iran 886,500, and in Syria 755,400 refugees (source UNHCR).