Migrant vs Refugee vs Asylum Seeker

The UK has suffered a refugee crisis in recent years. Millions of people all over the world are ejected forcibly from their homes all the time. Thousands of these refugees are wandering the world even as we speak, filtering their way ever closer to safe places. Common locations to be uprooted from your home include Afghanistan, Syria and Kosovo.

With migrants attempting to enter the UK and the EU from all sides, the European Refugee Crisis has seen some countries close their borders entirely. However, that same crisis goes by many names, including the European Migrant Crisis – so what’s the difference?

Asylum Seekers, Refugees, and Migrants Explained

There are differences between these three groups of people although they do all share a common theme. All three are ways of describing citizens who are displaced from their native country. Here are the three descriptions in greater detail.

What is an Asylum Seeker?

If you think about these three terms as stages of displacement from an origin country, it really does help. If you lost your home suddenly and you found yourself the victim of persecution, your home country might not be safe for you. As a result, you flee that country looking for refuge somewhere else. While you are fleeing, this is the initial stage of displacement. You are an Asylum Seeker because you are seeking a country which will grant you asylum. Asylum means a haven, a protected place where you won’t suffer that persecution.

When you come to the UK as an asylum seeker, you must apply in accordance with the 1951 Refugee Convention. This means filling in paperwork to declare that you cannot return to your home country for fear of retribution or punishment for your beliefs. You can view the full set of eligibility criteria for this on the UK government website, but an immigration lawyer can help you get through the process faster and increase your chance of success.

What is a Refugee?

Once you have found a safe place to stay and that country has granted you permission to remain, you become a refugee. The refugee stage is the next step in the process. Refugees will integrate into a country over time.

Once you have been a refugee for five years, you can apply for indefinite leave to remain. This is a type of visa status which allows you to stay in the UK full time as a citizen.

What is a Migrant?

A migrant is the simplest to understand because it is the stage after all of this. Anyone who leaves their native country to travel abroad and live there is a migrant. You emigrate from your origin country, and you immigrate into your new country. You do not need to be a refugee or an asylum seeker to be a migrant, though all refugees and asylum seekers are migrants by default. Think of migration in the same way that birds migrate. They travel to warmer climates in winter. Migration is the way of describing moving from one country to another which usually applies in cases where no threat is involved.

How to Apply for Citizenship

To apply for citizenship in the UK you need to complete forms. Alternatively, hire the services of a trusted migration solicitor to help you with your application to remain in the UK and optimise your chance of success.

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