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Internal Flight Alternative (IFA)

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


Definition

“The question of whether an IFA [Internal Flight Alternative] exists is an integral part of the Convention refugee definition.1 It arises when a claimant who otherwise meets all the elements of the Convention refugee definition in his or her home area of the country never theless is not a Convention refugee because the person has an IFA elsewhere in that country. The key concepts concerning IFA come from two cases: Rasaratnam2 and Thirunavukkarasu.3 From these cases it is clear that the test to be applied in determining whether there is an IFA is two-pronged.

  1. “… the Board must be satisfied on a balance of probabilities that there is no serious possibility of the claimant being persecuted in the part of the country to which it finds an IFA exists.”4
  2. Moreover, conditions in the part of the country considered to be an IFA must be such that it would not be unreasonable, in all the circumstances, including those particular to the claimant, for him to seek refuge there.5

Both prongs must be satisfied for a finding that the claimant has an IFA.”

–      Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Interpretation of the Convention Refugee Definition in the Case Law, December 31, 2010, Chapter 8, Internal Flight Alternative (IFA), http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/Eng/BoaCom/references/LegJur/Pages/RefDef.aspx#table. [accessed 28 August 2013]

“A factual determination that an asylum-seeker could have avoided persecution in his country of origin by relocating to another part of the same country. This term is not favoured by UNHCR as it is often used to limit access to status determination procedures or to deny refugee status. UNHCR’s position is that the possibility of internal relocation is relevant to status determination only in certain limited cases. Even when it is relevant, its application will depend on a full consideration of all aspects of the refugee claim.”

-International Catholic Migration Commission, Appendices and Glossary. http://www.icmc.net/glossary/term/302. [Accessed 25 August 2013].

“International law does not require threatened individuals to exhaust all options within their own country first before seeking asylum; that is, it does not consider asylum to be the last resort. The concept of internal flight or relocation alternative should therefore not be invoked in a manner that would undermine important human rights tenets underlying the international protection regime, namely the right to leave one’s country, the right to seek asylum and protection against refoulement. Moreover, since the concept can only arise in the context of an assessment of the refugee claim on its merits, it cannot be used to deny access to refugee status determination procedures. A consideration of internal flight or relocation necessitates regard for the personal circumstances of the individual claimant and the conditions in the country for which the internal flight or relocation alternative is proposed.”

– UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on International Protection No. 4: “Internal Flight or Relocation Alternative” Within the Context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 23 July 2003, HCR/GIP/03/04, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f2791a44.html [accessed 26 August 2013], No. 4.

 

Examples and/or Illustrations

“But where an asylum-seeker is shown to have access to true internal protection inside his or her own country, refugee status need not be recognized. This is because international refugee law is designed only to provide a back-up source of protection to seriously at-risk persons. Its purpose is not to displace the primary rule that individuals should look to their state of nationality for protection, but simply to provide a safety net in the event a state fails to meet its basic protective responsibilities.”

– Hathaway, James C. and Michelle Foster. 2003. Internal Protection/Relocation/Flight Alternative as an Aspect of Refugee Status Determination, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/470a33b70.html [accessed 26 August 2013].

“Most jurisdictions view protection in the IFA as involving more than the absence of persecution there and employ a test of reasonableness: whether it is reasonable in all the circumstances to expect the asylum seeker to relocate in the proposed IFA. However, the absence of a common understanding of the test’s parameters leads to inconsistencies…Assessment utilizing a standard of reasonableness based on a human rights benchmark should yield a consistent jurisprudence in keeping with the protection function of the Convention and recognize the individual character of each asylum claim.”

– Kelley, Ninette. 2002. “Internal Flight/Relocation/Protection Alternative: Is it Reasonable?” International Journal of Refugee Law 14(1): 4-44.

 

Other Useful Sources

Hathaway, James C. 1999. “The Michigan Guidelines on the Internal Protection Alternative” 21(1) Michigan Journal of International Law 21(1) 131.

Hathaway, James C. and Michelle Foster. 2003. Internal Protection/Relocation/Flight Alternative as an Aspect of Refugee Status Determination, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/470a33b70.html [accessed 26 August 2013].

Refugee Law Reader. 2012. “Internal Protection Alternative.” http://www.en.refugeelawreader.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=141&Itemid=124. [Accessed 27 August 2013].

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, The Internal Flight Alternative Practices. A UNHCR Research Study in Central European Countries, June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ffaabdf2.html [accessed 26 August 2013].

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Guidelines on International Protection No. 4: “Internal Flight or Relocation Alternative” Within the Context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, 23 July 2003, HCR/GIP/03/04, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3f2791a44.html [accessed 26 August 2013].

UNHCR, Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status under the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees, UN Doc. HCR/IP/4/Eng/Rev.1, Geneva, 2nd edn., 1992, paras 90–1.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Position Paper on Relocating Internally as a Reasonable Alternative to Seeking Asylum (The So-Called “Internal Flight Alternative” or “Relocation Principle”), 9 February 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b336c.html [accessed 28 August 2013]

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Interpretation of the Convention Refugee Definition in the Case Law, December 31, 2010, Chapter 8, Internal Flight Alternative (IFA), http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/Eng/BoaCom/references/LegJur/Pages/RefDef.aspx#table. [accessed 28 August 2013]

 

Bibliography

Eaton, Jonah. 2012. “The Internal Protection Alternative under European Union Law: Examining the Recast Qualification Directive.” International Journal of Refugee Law 24(4): 765-792.

European Legal Network on Asylum (ELENA). 2000. “The Application of the Concept of Internal Protection Alternative.” London: European Council on Refugees and Exiles. www.ecre.org/component/downloads/downloads/143.html‎. [Accessed 27 August 2013].

Ferris, Elizabeth. 2008. “Internal Displacement and the Right to Seek Asylum.” Refugee Survey Quarterly 27(3): 76-92.

Frelick, Bill. 1999. “Down the Rabbit Hole: The Strange Logic of Internal Flight Alternative” in World Refugee Survey. Washington DC: US Committee for Refugees.

Keith, Kenneth. 2001. “The Difficulties of “Internal Flight” and “Internal Relocation” as Frameworks of Analysis.” Georgetown Immigration Law Journal 15(3): 433-446.

Kelley, Ninette. 2002. “Internal Flight/Relocation/Protection Alternative: Is it Reasonable?” International Journal of Refugee Law 14(1): 4-44.

Khalastchi, Ruth. “The Internal Flight Alternative: Additional Hurdle or Realistic Option? The United States’ Approach,” UNHCR Global Consultations on International Protection, 2000-2002, ICVA, International Council on Voluntary Agencies, https://icvanetwork.org/doc00000447.html. [accessed 28 August 2013]

LaViolette, Nicole. 2009. “Independent human rights documentation and sexual minorities: an ongoing challenge for the Canadian refugee determination process.” The International Journal of Human Rights 13(2-3): 437-476.

Marx, Reinhard. 2002. “The Criteria of Applying the “Internal Flight Alternative” Test in National Refugee Status Determination Procedures.” International Journal of Refugee Law 14(2/3): 179-218.

Storey, H. 1998. “The Internal Flight Alternative Test: The Jurisprudence Re-Examined.” International Journal of Refugee Law (10(3): 499-532.