The Difference Between a Refugee and a Migrant

The terms “refugee” and “migrant” are often used interchangeably in the international setting. The two, however, are distinct and “confusing them leads to problems for both populations,” UNHCR says.

Who are refugees?

Like migrants, refugees leave their home country, but unlike migrants, they are forced to do so because they are at risk of or have experienced persecution or armed conflict.

Refugees flee from their home country to seek safety in the nearby country. When they are internationally recognized as “refugees,” they can have access to assistance from States, UNHCR, and other organizations.

The international law lays down a fundamental principle according to which refugees should not be expelled or returned to a situation which can endanger their life or freedom.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS),  a person is a refugee if he or she is outside of his or her homeland, and has been persecuted or has a well-founded fear of persecution there “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion”.

One should distinguish between asylum and refugee status under U.S. Immigration law. The difference is that if you are outside the U.S., you must apply for refugee status. People who have already made it to the U.S. can apply for asylum status.

If you are granted asylum or refugee status, you can stay in the United States indefinitely.

Who are migrants?

Unlike refugees, who are forced to flee from their home country, a migrant consciously chooses to leave his or her country with a hope for a better life.

A migrant, naturally, is in a much better situation than a refugee. Migrants can seek information about their new home, study the language and even arrange jobs.

However, just like refugees, migrants are facing a lot of hardships in the new countries. In the past, presence in the country was enough to guarantee access to public benefits. In 1996, new legislation was enacted under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act and some other documents which posed new conditions under which unauthorized immigrants face exclusion. Similarly, their rights to social welfare benefits were largely restricted.

Depending on the categories of admission and classification into different legal statuses, immigrants face serious consequences for their lives and the rights they are granted.

We have experienced immigration law attorneys at the Margarian Law Firm who have been in the business for a pretty long time. If you have issues with your status or other legal matters, you can apply to Margarian Law Firm for immediate assistance.

For more detail see the Immigration Law section of Margarian Law Firm.


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