Despite the fact that the principle of non-refoulement stands as a central principle in the Geneva Convention as well as in international conventions regarding civil and political rights, it is systematically violated. Procedures for determination of refugee status may not be carried out in good faith, thereby greatly increasing the likelihood that genuine refugees are refouled in violation of the recognized principle of non-refoulement. In addition, where forcible repatriation would subject an individual to substantial risk of human rights abuse, the repatriating country breaches its own international obligations.
Vietnamese boat people were extremely reluctant to return to their country after the end of the war in their country, choosing to stay for year in unsatisfactory camp conditions in other Southeast Asian countries in the hope of repatriation in the West. Many refused, point blank, to return and some were forcibly repatriated. In December 1989, Hong Kong deported 51 Vietnamese boat people, men, women and children, apparently forcibly, and aroused such condemnation in Europe and America that it did not try this method again.
Asylum-seekers must be treated as refugees - even the "economic migrants" - if they have a well-founded fear of persecution upon return. No person should be sent back to a country where he or she fears discriminatory action or serious life-threatening situations. In cases where the competent government authorities decide not to accept asylum seekers, arguing that they are not true refugees, these authorities are duty-bound to make sure that such people will be guaranteed a secure and free existence elsewhere.
International treaties provide for the repatriation of illegal immigrants to their country of origin.