Differences Between Refugees, Migrants & Asylum Seekers

Mohamed Malim

Refugees, Migrants & Asylum Seekers

Refugees, migrants and asylum seekers have unfortunately become common terms to hear in the world as the media or politicians speak regularly about various horrible humanitarian issues happening in our world. While it may be considered as a controversial topic when discussed within the political arena, there’s no dismissing the fact that there are many people in the world who are struggling to provide basic needs for their families because of surrounding violence, political conflict or famine.

The displaced persons crisis has continued to develop throughout the span of history - violent military actions, political persecution or natural/environmental catastrophes have all played a part in some, or all, of these types of situations. Consequently, these individuals, whether refugees, migrants or asylum seekers, have become victims of brutal violence, homelessness, poverty and even extreme hunger.

Although these situations are unfortunately all too common to hear about, many people are mistaken and confused between what exactly a refugee, migrant, or asylum seeker is. Do these terms mean the same thing, or are there categorical differences between these terms? Let’s learn a little bit about the differences between these individuals. 


What Is A Migrant?

The first thing many people think of when they hear the term “migrant” is a migration, or a moving of one place to another. While this sounds an awful lot like a refugee, there is a huge difference. 

A migrant is someone who chooses to move to another country for a better life. Whether that means they are seeking a job, further education, or in some cases for marriage, business, or other reasons, these individuals are moving in search of opportunity. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such obstacles to return home, even if they suffer from economic or educational problems in their country of origin. For instance, many youth from developing countries have migrated to the United States because it is seen as a land of opportunities.


What Is A Refugee?

While a migrant has the choice to return home, a refugee is someone seeking safety in another country due to the violence, war, persecution, or natural catastrophe which is occurring in their homeland. No matter where they go, they then establish the new country as their residency, whether legally or illegally. 

Since life in their home country is far too dangerous for them to return home, refugees look for protection elsewhere. They may suffer from persecution because of religion, skin color, ethnic, or gender. Thus, these instances cause a feeling of social exclusion, causing people to leave their home and move into another country which will give them a chance to thrive, or to simply survive. 

The dire situation refugees encounter forces them to seek asylum in another country since they will then be protected by international law. The Syrian Refugee Crisis is a real time example as many from this country have uprooted their lives in search of a better life in another country.

difference between migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

What Is An Asylum Seeker?

Both refugees and asylum seekers seek protection because they fear violence and persecution based on the large number of factors, whether political or social, that make them ask for protection. However, the process of seeking asylum differs between refugees and asylum seekers. While refugees must apply for asylum from their homeland and get approval before traveling to the targeted country, asylum seekers ask for the protection when they already have made the journey into the brand new country. 

To do this legally, asylum seekers have to apply for asylum within a year of arriving, but the unfortunate reality is that it sometimes takes several years to obtain legal approval. If indeed these individuals have to wait for several years, they often have no choice but to live in inhumane circumstances. Also, since the host country will not integrate the asylum seekers with their own citizens and cannot deport them due to safety issues, the asylum seekers are then stuck until their applications are approved.

 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

How To Help Migrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers

It’s quite evident that these three groups of people are needing both assistance and recognition. Here at Epimonia, we want to continue telling their stories in order to raise awareness and provide support where we can. 

If you’re looking for a way to assist migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, there are many different ways to help. At Epimonia, we donate 50% of our profits in order to support refugees in order to help allow them to live a normal life. Whether you purchase some of our bracelets, apparel, or accessories, read and share our blogs, or participate in other ways to raise support and awareness, you’re standing up for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers everywhere.

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