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Guidelines on refugee status related to military service

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has issued guidelines on claims to refugee status related to military service. These Guidelines focus on individuals who seek international protection as refugees to avoid recruitment and service in State armed forces, including conscientious objectors, as well as forced recruitment by non-State armed groups. They provide guidance for governments, decision makers, lawyers and the judiciary as well as UNHCR staff.

As with all refugee claims, the Geneva Convention requires the well-founded fear of persecution to be ‘for reasons of’ race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The examples in the Guidelines include a refusal to perform military service based on religious convictions, the act of desertion or evasion as an expression of political views, and a situation where conscripts from a particular racial group face harsher conditions than other recruits. The Guidelines also note that ‘conscientious objectors’ are a particular social group for the purposes of the Geneva Convention.

You can download these guidelines here:

Source: Quaker United Nations Office, UNHCR issues ‘Guidelines on International Protection No. 10: Claims to Refugee Status related to Military Service’, December 2013.


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