Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants

Learn all about what it means to be a displaced person. 

Lately, there has been a lot of heated political discussion about refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, and you may be wondering what these words mean, or how they differ. All three terms are often used incorrectly, which causes a lot of confusion and, at times, stirs up emotive, discriminatory language. This is why it’s important to understand the differences between each term, and how everyone who is fleeing danger is entitled to their human rights.   

What Does It Mean To Be A Refugee? 

Put simply, a refugee is a person who has fled their home country because they are in fear for their life and has crossed into another country seeking safety. The word ‘refuge’ itself means ‘the state of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or difficulty’. Refugees are people, just like you and me, who have had their entire lives turned upside down and are desperately seeking a safe place to live, work and go to school without fear. In legal terms, a refugee has a right to international protection.  

What Causes People To Become Refugees? 

There are many reasons why a person may be forced to flee their home country. War, persecution, natural disasters, climate change and political unrest are all common causes. The EU estimates that there are 89.3 million displaced people across the world – that’s almost 90 million men, women and children who have been forced to flee their homes and leave everything behind to seek safety elsewhere, through no fault of their own.  

What Does It Mean To Be An Asylum Seeker? 

An asylum seeker is a person who has fled their country due to fears of persecution and is seeking protection in another country but hasn’t yet been legally recognised as a refugee. The right to seek asylum is a human right we all share.  

You may have heard a lot of talk about ‘small boats’ and illegal trafficking of people into the UK across the Channel. Sadly, many people lose their lives trying to reach the UK in unsuitable boats, as they seek refuge in our country. There has been a lot of confusion around what is, and isn’t, legal about these dangerous crossings. It is not illegal to seek asylum – it is illegal to be a human trafficker.   

What Does It Mean To Be A Migrant?  

A migrant is someone who has left their home country because they want to live, work or study in another country but are not seeking safety. It’s loosely defined, because some migrants do feel unsafe in their own countries, but don’t meet the legal requirements to be classed as an asylum seeker or refugee. Throughout the history of our world, people have migrated to other countries in search of opportunities and better lives for themselves and their families.  

An immigrant is someone who has moved to another country with the intention of settling there permanently. Depending on the country they wish to settle in, they will usually have to go through a long vetting process before becoming legal residents or citizens. The term ‘illegal immigrant’ is often used to describe someone who is living in another country without the legal right to do so. Again, this term causes a lot of confusion and heated debate because legally a person has the right to seek safety and begin the process of seeking refuge from the moment they step over a border into another country.  

Refugee Week, June 19-25: COMPASSION 

There’s a lot to unpack from the above, but we hope this helps you to better understand the ongoing conversations in the media/politics around displaced people. Heated debates rage on, both in our own country and across the world, and it’s easy to lose sight of the human cost in the noise. That’s why, this Refugee Week, it’s never been more important to focus on what lies at the centre of these issues: people.  

Refugees are simply people who are in fear for their lives and want to live in peace and harmony. Struck by tragedy, war, natural disasters or dangerous situations beyond their control, these people are simply seeking safety. Refugees have always been a target for dangerous rhetoric and hate speech and this is intensifying at a worrying rate. That’s why this year’s Refugee Week theme is COMPASSION – and we are all urged to stop, think, and remember that those at the centre of the refugee debates are humans, just like us. Kindness and compassion are tools we ALL have in our locker – let’s use them to make the world, our ONE, shared world, a better place.   

Read more about Refugee Week and their COMPASSION campaign here: https://bit.ly/3HymnrP 


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