Suppose a person seeks asylum in a new country, like the US or in Europe. But after they get there they find that the people who were threatening them in their home country, for example as part of a gang, have members working in their asylum country. If they find out where this person is and start threatening them there too, I assume they would work with domestic law enforcement. But what if that law enforcement is known to be unfriendly to immigrants (perhaps for frequency of these kinds of situations) or if they are just as helpless in managing these people as the country they left? At that point is the precedent that they just make do, saying "at least this country doesn't let civilians own guns" (that can be moved across the border)? Or is there international law guiding the handling of asylum seekers and refugees that dictates they be transferred to a 3rd country?

2 Answers 2


A person threatened by a “gang” is not presumably a refugee

A refugee is “someone who is 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.

A person who is fleeing a “gang” may genuinely be in danger, but they are not a refugee unless the threat is from one of the reasons above. Owing $50k to your crack dealer that you can’t pay back does not grant refugee status. Your asylum application will be denied and you will be returned to your home country. Or, if you refuse to go, be held indefinitely in immigration detention: there are many people around the world who have spent decades like this.

However, that just begs the question.

There is no law that requires a country to pass on asylum seekers to a 3rd country. Indeed the UN convention requires that the country where asylum is sought processes the applicant. This doesn’t always happen and there are countries that tacitly or actively “encourage” refugees to move along.

Of course, a very unfortunate person could be a refugee from country A be granted asylum in country B and then become a refugee from that country and seek asylum in country C.

  • This answer is slipping towards wrong. The drug lords are winning against the Mexican government; the situation may overturn where the government holding power in parts of Mexico is the drug lords and thus fleeing them is fleeing the government. And the drug lords have no concept of rule of law.
    – Joshua
    Feb 22 at 4:09

A person threatened or harmed by a gang without discriminatory motive may still be a refugee

Only adding to Dale M's answer that even in the case of persecution by a gang not on the basis of the concept of "race", religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group (e.g. of sex, gender, ethnicity, disability, occupation just to name a few), but if either branches omits to prosecute discriminatorily on any such one or more basis entertaining further harm or threatened harm or a well-founded fear, the government's inaction (omission) will account for persecution on such bases.

There are some better-known examples of persecution of this kind on the international scene:

  • Hungary: The series of Romani murders in the 2000's spanning across the country with a few of the cases having been classified for 30 or 50 years for alleged omissions on the part of the Hungarian government (this example is not exactly on point as a racist motive was clearly present);
  • United States: "As such, the [International] Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights] has been rendered ineffective, with the bone of contention being United States officials' insistence upon preserving a vast web of sovereign, judicial, prosecutorial, and executive branch immunities that often deprives its citizens of the "effective remedy" under law the Covenant is intended to guarantee" (Wikipedia article on the ICCPR) as well as enforcement of the full scope of rights provided by the U.S. Constitution resulting in the omission of substantially identical prosecution of crimes against those subject to the above protections. In the case of the U.S., typically the high-profile cases are prosecuted to a considerable, if not to the fullest non-frivolous extent; however, the harm does not have to be such that would cause outrage or be horrid or particularly shocking per its own case law in the adjudication of foreign asylum seekers, for e.g. Pitcherskaia v. INS, 118 F.3d 641 (9th Cir. 1997) "finding that even if the abuser does not intend harm to the victim, if the victim experiences the abuse as harm, this can rise to the level of persecution". In fact, merely a single incident left unprosecuted may allow for an asylum applicant to "establish[] that he or she suffered past persecution [means that] the applicant has met his or her burden of proof that he or she is a refugee" (8 C.F.R. § 208.13(b)(1); Matter of Villalta, 20 I&N Dec. 142, 147 (BIA 1990). Although the laws of the U.S. do not necessarily reflect other countries asylum and refugee status related laws, but it is indicative of general considerations that countries may make in these regards.

As Dale M pointed out: International law does not provide rather, if anything, prohibits that a refugee be passed around by countries; yet one may have the ability to leave and submit an application for asylum in a third country in the case of persecution in a country where they filed for asylum previously.

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