What is Refugee Status and Humanitarian Protection?


When people across the world are displaced by war, famine, and other disasters, they might find themselves coming to the UK in search of shelter. Here, they’re able to benefit from two distinct kinds of support: they might be granted refugee status, or humanitarian protection.

These two things might seem synonymous on first glance, but the truth is that there is quite a bit of daylight running between them. If you’re unsure of your status, then it might be worth getting in touch with a qualified immigration lawyer to guide you through the process.

Let’s look at some of the differences.

The Differences

Among the more major difference between the two statuses is the type of travel document you’ll be granted, and the degree of difficulty in getting hold of it.

Refugees are allowed to apply for a travel document known as a ‘Convention’ travel document, which looks a little bit like a blue passport. This ensures that the refugee does not need to deal any longer with their home country, where they might be at risk. A beneficiary of Humanitarian Protection is not protected by the 1951 Refugee Convention, and thus they’ll continue to use their passport from their home country, or a special black travel document known as a Certificate of Travel. This is a hard document to obtain, because the Home Office sets out stringent requirements for getting one. Moreover, it doesn’t allow travel to very many countries.

If you’ve been granted refugee status, then you’ll benefit from article 31 of the refugee convention, which is designed to ensure that refugees are not punished for gaining entry into a country illegally. This is part of UK law, and can be found mirrored in section 31 of the Asylum Act 1999. This means that refugees enjoy a protection under law that those seeking humanitarian protection do not.

If the Home Office should seek to revoke a person’s status as a refugee, then they’re required to tell the UNHCR, and give the High Commissioner for Refugees a chance to offer their views. This means a level of international supervision.

If you’re a refugee, or you’re a beneficiary of humanitarian protection, then you can bring your partner into the country in the same way as a British native person can. But partners who’ve suffered from domestic violence aren’t able to make a claim to reside in the country. It’s only relatively recently that the law has been amended in the case of partners of refugees, but no protection exists for partners of those with humanitarian protection.

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