Select Page

Part of RAIN’s core training program involves taking a close look at what the existing narrative is out there around immigration and then defining the terms appropriately.  Language is important.  This week we have been following several online discussions about the terms “refugee” vs “migrant” vs “asylum seeker” – and of course the political punch behind using such words. So we are going to take one or two terms per day and break them down.


A person who is outside their country of nationality and is unwilling or unable to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.  (1967 United Nations Protocol).

The current narrative

The current narrative about a refugee is that anyone fleeing their country can call themselves a refugee and then enter another country and be allowed to stay.  But this is not true. You cannot be allowed into a country as a refugee and certainly cannot be allowed to stay unless you have been given a legal status as a refugee.

So how do you get refugee status?

To be given protected refugee status in most countries – including the United States, Australia and most European countries – one must first be processed within a refugee processing center or camp operated by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). This happens in countries typically neighboring those countries of conflict where people are fleeing. Jordan, Thailand, Pakistan and Kenya are examples of countries with some of the highest numbers of people living and processed as refugees.

Once refugee status has been determined and immediate protection needs are addressed, refugees may need support to find a long-term, durable solution.

UNHCR promotes three durable solutions for refugees:  voluntary repatriation; local integration; and resettlement.

Pop Quiz:  how many refugees around the world are approved for resettlement to a third country? 

Answer: less than 1% of all refugees are resettled in countries such as the United States and countries within Europe.

Pop Quiz #2: is a refugee different than a migrant?

Answer: Tune in tomorrow to find out.


For more on refugee processing, vetting and some awesome information and stats, visit these sites: