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  • In the two years since Edward Snowden leaked the US's surveillance secrets, he has applied for asylum in 27 countries.

  • Thus far, only Russia has agreed to grant him year-to-year asylum.

  • So, what exactly is asylum, and who can get it?

  • Well, people have been seeking refuge from persecution for a long time.

  • Historically, those accused of crimes would hide in churches, where one could not be harmed without facing the wrath of God.

  • In 511 AD, this "right to asylum" for murderers, adulterers, and thieves was codified in French law.

  • This is one of the reasons that churches are referred to as "sanctuaries".

  • However, the modern form of asylum came about in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

  • Following World War II, a large number of refugees swarmed through Europe, and a criteria for asylum seekers had to be established.

  • Thus, a person can seek asylum if they are quote "unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear

  • of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion."

  • As in Snowden's case, most asylum is granted within the borders of a host country.

  • However, any territory owned by a host country can be used as well.

  • Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, is another famous asylum seeker. He is currently being housed in Ecuador's embassy in London.

  • If he leaves the embassy he risks extradition to Sweden.

  • If you are granted asylum, you are able to live as a legal immigrant in that country.

  • You cannot be extradited back to your country of origin, as long as you have asylum status.

  • In the US, after a year, you can apply for a green card, and later, citizenship.

  • So, how do you get it? Well, essentially you have to prove to an asylum country that you fit the profile of a refugee.  

  • Also, that the government of your home country is intent on persecuting you, or is unable to stop your persecution by others.

  • However, the United States for example,

  • is only willing to accept a certain number of refugees from each part of the world,

  • with different ceilings per region.

  • In July of 2013, Russia granted Snowden asylum.

  • This allowed him not only to live and work in Moscow, but also to avoid answering the charges against him.

  • However, the move caused even more tension in the already tumultuous relationship between the United States and Russia.

  • The Obama administration described the move as "extremely disappointing",

  • and even threatened to scale back diplomatic relations.

  • In many cases, asylum can cause significant controversy between countries.

  • When one country harbors people who may have committed political or social crimes in another,

  • it highlights the ideological differences between those countries.

  • Luckily, the UN Refugee Convention has made it clear that protecting the defenseless from persecution is more important than political stability.

  • Although asylum can be granted in many cases, there are also times when countries assist one another to arrest fugitives.

  • To learn about how this works, check out our video here.

  • There is no inherent obligation to cooperate when it comes to criminal deportation.

  • As a result, a special process, know as extradition,

  • is an agreement between countries to transfer suspects to wherever they are intended to be prosecuted.

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In the two years since Edward Snowden leaked the US's surveillance secrets, he has applied for asylum in 27 countries.

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What Is Asylum And How Does It Work?

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    劉宜佳 posted on 2016/03/27
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