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There is sometimes confusion about the difference between the terms ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘economic migrant.’ Here are some definitions:

  • Refugee: someone who is in need of protection and would be at risk of persecution if they returned home. Under international law the word “refugee” has a very precise meaning: someone who: “…owing to a 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…” (United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951)
  • Asylum seeker: someone who has asked to be recognised as a refugee and is waiting for the government to make a decision. They have made themselves known to the authorities and are part of an on-going legal process.
  • Refused asylum seeker: someone who has had their claim for asylum turned down because the Home Office has decided that they do not need protection in the UK
  • Economic migrant: a person who leaves their home country to work in another country. They can normally return home when they choose to.