People become refugees because they must flee their homeland, whether it is a country, state or region, for reasons of safety or survival. Often the cause is a natural disaster, war, religious persecution or some other form of oppression. The Nazi Holocaust is a historical example of people being forced from their homes and fleeing to other countries to escape the violence and hardship inflicted upon them.
A United Nations document called the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was created after World War II, and it defines most refugee laws. As of today, 147 countries have signed the Convention, which means that they allow refugees to seek protection and asylum within their borders. Once an asylum seeker has been approved by a host country, they cannot be forced to leave by legal deportation to an area where their personal safety would be at risk. They must also be given civil rights and have access to social services.
The right of asylum, often referred to as political asylum, can be traced back to the Egyptians and is a time-honored Western tradition. Some refugees cross international borders, while others travel to other areas of their own country, in which case they are considered to be an internally displaced person.