Rohingya refugees cross the border from Myanmar near Anzuman Para village. Bangladesh, in October 2017.  © UNHCR/Roger Arnold


The institution of international protection was introduced in the European regulations through European Directive 2004/83/EC and adopted in Italy with Legislative Decree n. 251 of 19 November 2007 (“decreto qualifiche” – “status decree”). International protection includes the statuses of refugee and of subsidiary protection.

The status of refugee is defined according to the Geneva Convention signed on 28 July 1951 which was ratified in Italy with law n. 722 of 24 July 1954 and amended by the New York Protocol on 31 January 1967 which in turn was ratified with law n. 95 of 14 February 1970. Pursuant to article 1 of the Geneva Convention, the definition of refugee is a person who “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Subsidiary protection is defined by the same Directive 2004/83/EC and is recognised to third country nationals or stateless persons who do not qualify as refugees but who have well-founded reasons to believe that, if returning to their countries of origin, or in case of stateless persons, if returning to the country of habitual residence, they would run the actual risk of undergoing serious damage and are thus unable or unwilling, owing to such risk, to avail themselves of the protection of that country. Serious damage means: death sentence or execution, torture or other forms of sentence, inhuman or demeaning treatment, serious and personal death threat or threat for a civil deriving from indiscriminate violence in a situation of domestic or international armed conflict.