Definition Debate

Here are the key definitions for the terms migrant and refugee and other useful terms.

Some argue that the conflation of the terms migrant and refugee undermines the status of refugees and increases their problems in host countries. See for example: UNHCR viewpoint: ‘Refugee’ or ‘migrant’ – Which is right?

The problem with making  a clear distinction between migrants who ‘choose’ to leave their home countries for economic reasons and refugees ‘forced’ to flee because of fear of persecution or war, is that it ignores the complex mixture of reasons that force children to flee difficulties and/or poverty at home, the complete lack of normal standards of protection for many children living in countries which are not at war, and the lack of free choice. The International Organisation for Migration recently noted that more than 18 million people were internally displaced in 2017 because of natural disasters. As climate change continues to endanger and impoverish many parts of the world many more will be forced to cross borders. As the stories on this site make clear, both migrant and refugee children are  fleeing to survive, and are equally deserving of our concern and protection.

For more discussion on this topic see:

IQ2 Debate: The Refugee Convention is out of date

Explainer: the difference between asylum seekers, refugees and economic migrants

Migrant vs. refugee: what the terms mean, and why they matter