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Migrant. Refugee. Asylum Seeker. What’s the difference?

A migrant is…

someone who chooses to leave their country to seek a better life. They choose where they migrate to and they are able to return whenever they like.

A refugee is…

any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is forced outside their country of nationality and is unable to seek its protection.

An asylum seeker is…

a person who is seeking protection as a refugee and is still waiting to have his/her claim assessed. Between 70–90% of asylum seekers who have reached Australia by boat are typically found to be genuine refugees.

An illegal migrant is…

someone who is residing in a country without legal permission. In Australia, most illegal immigrants have entered the country legally (usually by plane) but have then overstayed their visas. The majority of these are from Western countries.

Asylum seekers are not illegal migrants, nor are they breaking any laws.

Under Australian law a person is entitled to apply for asylum in our country if they are escaping persecution. This right is protected by international law as set out in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

“Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

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