24 Oct 2016, 44 mins ago

The terms ‘refugee’, ‘migrant’ and ‘asylum seeker’ have been used interchangeably in recent months. There are however, some important distinctions between the terms, meaning they carry different legal obligations.


Put simply, a Refugee is a person “fleeing armed conflict or persecution” due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group. A refugee claim is made on the basis of fear of persecution.

An example would be those recently seen crossing the Mediterranean from Libya and Sudan, which are repressive and war-torn states forcing people to leave their countries.


The difference between a refugee and a Migrant is that a Migrant chooses to move in order to seek a better life, – for example, by finding work, studying or being closer to family etc, in a country outside of their country of origin.

In accordance to International Law, the state has a duty to offer protection to a refugee, but there is no such duty owed to the Migrant. The distinction is important because when we refer to a ‘refugee’ as a ‘migrant’ we wrongly assume that they are merely seeking economic advantage, rather than being forced to leave to flee conflict or persecution.

Asylum seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who has asked the government for refugee status and is waiting to hear the outcome of his or her application.

Under the rules of the European Union, a refugee’s application for asylum must be made in the country where they first arrive. If a refugee tries to make an application elsewhere, they can immediately be sent back to the original country of arrival.

An individual cannot make an asylum application from their country of origin. To make an asylum application in the UK for example, a person must be on UK territory.

In the event that an asylum application is unsuccessful, a person may either voluntarily return to their country of origin or be forcibly returned. Should the application be successful, a person will officially be granted refugee status.

If you have any queries in regards to the above or any asylum matters please contact Gherson who have several specialists who will be able to assist.