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Protection from arrest and extradition given to political refugees by a country or by an embassy that has diplomatic immunity. No one has a legal right to asylum, and the sheltering state, which has the legal right to grant asylum, is under no obligation to give it. It is thus a right of the state, not the individual. Its traditional use has been to protect those accused of political offenses such as treason, desertion, sedition, and espionage. Beginning in the 20th century, asylum also was granted to those who could demonstrate a significant risk of politically motivated persecution if they returned to their home countries.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on asylum, visit Britannica.com.