Difference between Refugee and Asylee

Key Difference: A refugee refers to a person who seeks shelter in a country outside the country of his origin due to fear of persecution on the basis of religion, race, nationality, etc. An asylee is a person who seeks shelter in another country due to being persecuted politically or for some crime.

The words Refugee and Asylee are similar in nature as they both include people who leave the comfort of their country and move to another country to seek shelter. However, the similarity of the terms ends there; both the terms have distinct differences. A refugee refers to a person who seeks shelter in a country outside the country of his origin due to fear of persecution on the basis of religion, race, nationality, etc. An asylee is a person who seeks shelter in another country due to being persecuted politically or for some crime.

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, a refugee is defined as, “one that flees; especially: a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” A refugee is a person that is forced to leave the country of his origin for reasons such as religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, beliefs, etc. Another term that is used for a refugee is an ‘asylum seeker’, as they are seeking a safe haven from their own country. Other reasons that may cause a person to relocate include instability in their native country, war, political violence and natural disaster.

According to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, a refugee is further defined as 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 nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” In order for refugee relocation system to work, other countries, most commonly bordering countries, should be willing to accept refugees and provide necessary provisions for the refugees.

An ‘asylee’ is term used for a person who is unable to or is unwilling to return to his own country due to fear of persecution. This term is derived from the word “asylum”, which was a place that used to offer protection to criminals or individuals that are being politically persecuted.  Asylums in the olden times were churches or places of worship, whose monks used to offer a safe haven to asylees.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services define the word as ,”An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. For persons with no nationality, the country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the alien last habitually resided.”

Image Courtesy: rcusa.org, acf.hhs.gov

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