Refugee: “A 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 outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his/her former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the Government.
Person seeking asylum: A person who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.
Person seeking asylum who has been refused: A person whose asylum application has been unsuccessful and who has no other claim for protection awaiting a decision. Some people who have been refused asylum return home (for instance using the ‘Assisted Voluntary Return’ scheme) and a small minority are forcibly returned. The majority remain to appeal their decision or to make a fresh asylum claim, however this process can be very complex and lengthy, and often requires legal assistance (for more on this, see the question ‘What is meant by ‘destitution’?)
Migrant: Any person who has moved to another country. The term ‘migrant’ is often used in reference to people who move for work (as opposed to people who, once in the UK, apply for asylum). However there can be lots of different reasons for moving to another country.
Visit the Refugee Council’s website for further information and facts about the asylum system.