Who are Urban Refugees?

The Definition of a Refugee

A refugee, by definition under international law, is someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his or her nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country.

To put this more clearly, you are a refugee if:

  1. You are outside of the country or countries where you have citizenship/nationality;
  2. You are afraid of something in your country of origin, and there is a good reason for you to be afraid (i.e. your fear is ‘well-­founded’);
  3. What you are afraid of amounts to persecution: persecution includes things like threats to your life and threats of serious human rights violations;
  4. You are being persecuted because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion; AND
  5. The government of your country of nationality will not or cannot protect you or, because of your fear, you are unwilling to get such protection from your country.

We understand that this definition has many complex parts, but it is important to evaluate how your situation fits this definition. To be a refugee, all five parts must apply to your situation, so try to identify exactly how you satisfy each element before you have your interview with UNHCR.

The Difference between a Refugee and an Urban Refugee

Urban refugees are refugees who live in urban settings as opposed to refugee camps. In Thailand, this distinction is used to distinguish refugees living in camps on the Thai-Burma border from other refugee communities. In Thailand, urban refugees include communities from many countries of origin such as, but not limited to, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Palestine, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, and Iran.

What does this actually mean for you?

First, this means that BASRAN and this website is designed for refugees who live in Bangkok and not for refugees who live in camps. Refugees in other Thai cities may find much of this information helpful as well, but we are focusing on the conditions and situations in Bangkok.

For more information regarding other types of migrants please visit:

Burmese Refugees in Thailand · Economic Migrants in Thailand


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Next (What is the Refugee Status Determination (RSD) process in Bangkok?)