As a reader, you’ve seen the terms migrants, immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers being used frequently in news reports published by national, international, or local newspapers, or online media. You would have noted that such terms are usually used in stories covering the US immigrant crisis, or Europe’s migrant crisis.
Similarly, there are about 45 million immigrants in the US, which serve as a hot topic of discussion everywhere in America. So, you must also have seen Americans throwing around these terms – migrant, immigrant, refugee, asylum seekers – as though they are synonyms, having no difference between their meanings.
That’s, however, not true. There is a subtle difference between them, which we’re going to dig out in the upcoming paragraphs.
Who is a Migrant?
In simple words, a migrant is a person who decides to move somewhere else after leaving their country of origin for a limited time. The motive behind this decision is usually economic; they want to better their quality of life. Migrants have the option of returning to their home country if they so want.
There is no legal definition of migrant, and legal experts take a migrant as a person who changes their country of origin, regardless of the reasons for migration or their legal status.
A migrant to the United States can apply for one of more than 20 different visas. They may want to work, or they may be traveling for medical treatment or to get higher education.
It’s not strange to find immigrants referred to as migrants. This isn’t always the case, though. But the term migrant can sometimes include refugees who relocate often for economic reasons.
Who is an Immigrant?
An immigrant is a person who decides to leave their home country and relocates to another country to live and settle there. So, migrants, and immigrants both leave their countries, but the former to return to their home, while the latter has no intention to return but to settle down in the foreign country.
However, the word immigrant has a legal meaning in the US. Someone with a so-called green card, or who is a legal permanent resident, is considered to be an immigrant. The word immigrant is sometimes used after attaching some adjectives as illegal, unauthorized, or undocumented to it.
Illegal immigrants are those who entered the US illegally as well as those migrants who got legal entry to the US but decided not to return to their home country even after the expiration of their visas.
Who is a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who has been left with no other option except to flee their home country because of violence, war, or threat of persecution. Refugees aren’t even protected by authorities at home, and they can’t return to their country until the conditions in their home country are safe for them.
Who is an asylum seeker?
Asylum seekers are those who are seeking refuge from threats in their home country, but their claim for refugee status has not been decided legally. Asylum seekers must apply for protection in the country where they want to live, which means they must travel to or cross a border to do so.