1. definition
  2. examples and/or illustrations
  3. other useful sources
  4. bibliography


  1. any secure retreat;
  2. International Law: (a)  a refuge granted an alien by a sovereign state on its own territory; (b) a temporary refuge granted criminal offenders, especially in a foreign embassy.

Synonyms: haven; shelter; retreat

dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/asylum (Accessed November 11, 2011)

  1. refuge and safety; a place of refuge;
  2.  political asylum – protection given by a State to a person who has fled from political persecution in another country.

 The Oxford Paperback Dictionary. 1994, Oxford University Press, p. 46.

  1. (n.) A sanctuary or place of refuge and protection, where criminals and debtors found shelter, and from which they could not be forcibly taken without sacrilege.
  2. (n.) Any place of retreat and security.
  3. (n.) An institution for the protection or relief of some class of destitute, unfortunate, or afflicted persons; as, an asylum for the aged, for the blind, or for the insane; a lunatic asylum; an orphan asylum.

Thinkexist.com http://thinkexist.com/dictionary/meaning/asylum/ (Accessed November 11, 2011)

Asylum is a term which, in the context of this study, signifies refuge offered by a country. In the past, particular places served that function, such as an altar, a temple or church, a city or a ship. Today asylum generally indicates a nation where a refugee may find temporary or permanent shelter.
The word is younger than its concept and practice. It has its origin in the Greek language and culture and is derived from the verb asylao, meaning to violate or lay waste. The adjective asylos/asylon represents the opposite, namely, inviolable.
Yet the concept was already known in earlier days and probably in prehistoric times as well. It is attested to in many lands and continents, from the Hebrews and pre-Islamic Arabs of the ancient Middle East to the Aztecs of the New World. The Hebrew word miqlat describes special cities set aside for asylum or refuge; Oedipus and Theseus of Greek tradition sought and were granted asylum; the New Testament tells of Jesus and his family as refugees who were accepted in Egypt; and Mohammed fled to Asyssinia and, later, to Medina for refuge.
Hospitality is a variant of asylum. But while asylum is today circumscribed and regulated by international and national laws, hospitality remains an expression of character, attitude and tradition rather than of law….
In general usage, ‘asylum’ (like miqlat) once denoted temporary refuge, but that has changed. For countries adjacent to refugee-producing areas (such as Thailand and Pakistan), ‘asylum’ has in effect come to mean the permanent hosting of refugees.

W. Gunther Plaut, Asylum: A Moral Dilemma. (Toronto: York Lanes Press, 1995), pp. 11-12.


Examples and/or Illustrations

 The term used in a sentence:

“The number of people who sought asylum in industrialised countries fell last year.”

“Asylum-Seekers Figures

Refugees are people who have fled their homes and crossed an international border to escape persecution or conflict. Asylum-seekers are people who have made a claim to be recognized as refugees and are waiting for that claim to be accepted or rejected.

At the beginning of 2011, there were some 983,000 asylum-seekers of concern to the UN refugee agency. They are found around the globe. UNHCR advocates for governments to adopt fair and efficient procedures to determine if an individual asylum-seeker is a refugee, recognizing how difficult it is in many cases to document persecution.”

UNHCR website, “Asylum-Seekers Figures,” http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c20.html (Accessed November 11, 2011)


Other Useful Sources

“Fewer Asylum Claims in Australia,”  http://unhcr.org.au/unhcr/. (Accessed November 11, 2011)

“Refugee claims in Canada – Who can apply?” www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/inside/apply-who.asp (Accessed November 11, 2011)

Refugee Education Initiative (REI): Linking the World, www.refugeeeducation.com/. (November 11, 2011)



Betts, Alexander, Forced Migration and Global Politics. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2009.

Bohmer, Carol and Shuman, Amy. Rejecting Refugees: Political Asylum in the 21st Century. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Gibney, Matthew J. The Ethics and Politics of Asylum: Liberal Democracy and the Response to Refugees. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Loescher, Gil and Scanlan, John A. Calculated Kindness: Refugees and Americas Half-Open Door, 1945-Present. New York: The Free Press, 1986.

Plaut, W. Gunther. Asylum: A Moral Dilemma. Toronto: York Lanes Press, 1995.

Price, Matthew E. Rethinking Asylum: History, Purpose and Limits. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.


Other related words (may be concepts)

  • asylum seeker
  • asylum State