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Migrants, Asylum Seekers, Refugees, Immigrants: What’s the Difference?

  • Every day, people around the world make the difficult decision to leave their countries in search of safety and better lives.
  • Currently there are 68.5 million men, women and children escaping war, persecution and political turbulence. These are refuges and asylum seekers.
  • There are others who are looking for jobs or an education – they are usually called migrants – and the people who want to live permanently in another country – immigrants.
  • There’s been confusion and debate over the use of these terms to describe the plight on those on the move. Here’s a closer look at the distinct differences between a refugee, asylum seeker, immigrant and migrant.

Who is the Refugee?

  • A refugee is someone who has been force to flee his or her home because war, violence or persecutions, often without warning. They are unable to return home unless and until conditions in their native lands are safe for them again.
  • An official entity such as government or the United Nations Refugee Agency determines whether a person seeking international protection meets the definition of a refugee, based on well-founder fear.
  • There are more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees who had fled to the neighboring Lebanon due to a brutal civil war.
  • Those who obtain refugee status are given protection under international laws and conventions and lifesaving support from aid agencies, including the International Rescue Committee. Refugees in the U.S also have the opportunity to became a lawful permanent residents and eventually residents.

Who is an Asylum Seekers?

  • A asylum seekers is someone who is also seeking international protection in dangers in his or in her home country, but whose claim for refugee status hasn’t been determined legally. Asylum seekers must apply for protection in the country of destination- meaning they must arrive at or cross a border in order to apply.
  • The, they must be able to prove authorities there that they meet the criteria to be covered by refugee protections. Not every asylum seekers not be recognized as a refugee.
  • Ten of thousands children and families from Central America have fled extreme danger – murder, kidnapping, violence against women and forced recruitment by gangs. Those arriving at the U.S border are being depicted as “illegal immigrants” but in reality, crossing in international border for asylum is not illegal as an asylum seeker’s case must be heard according to US and international laws.

Who as an Immigrant?

  • An Immigrant is someone who make an conscious decision to leave to his or her home and move to a foreign country with the intention of settling there. Immigrants often to go through lengthy vetting process to immigrate to a new country. Many became lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens.
  • Immigrants research their destination, explore employment opportunities and study the language of the country where they plan to live. Most importantly, they are free to return home whenever they choose.

Who is a Migrant?

A migrant is someone who is moving from place to place ( within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work. Similar to immigrants where they are not forced to leave their native countries because of persecutions or violence, but rather are seeking better opportunities.

Many of those crossing the U.S border from Central America countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras  – are in fact asylum seekers, not migrants. They have a well-founded fear of persecution if they were to return home.

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