What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant?

A refugee is a person who meets certain eligibility criteria set out by international law. At the global level, the 1951 Refugee Convention defines a refugee as a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. 

There is no single definition of migrant. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) policy on migration describes migrants as people who leave or flee their places of habitual residence to go to a new place, across international borders or within their own state, to seek better or safer prospects. Migration can be forced or voluntary, but most of the time a combination of choices and constraints are involved, as well as the intent to live abroad for an extended period of time. Therefore, the IFRC policy definition of migrant includes, among others, labour migrants, stateless migrants, and migrants deemed irregular by public authorities.

An asylum seeker is a person seeking protection from a country other than his or her own as a refugee but whose claim has not yet been adjudicated. Not every asylum-seeker will ultimately be recognized as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum-seeker.

Canadians can make a meaningful difference in the lives of refugees by supporting the The Refugee Crisis Fund.

Donations to the Refugee Crisis Fund aid those who have left Syria and are seeking refuge and protection in other countries. These include some four million refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq among other countries neighbouring Syria, as well as those who have recently arrived in Europe and elsewhere.