Asylum and Immigration Jargon Buster

Unheard Voices has teamed up with a number of leading asylum and migration organisations to find the answers to frequently asked questions about asylum, refugees and the immigration system in the UK and the world.


An asylum seeker is a person who has lodged a claim for protection under either the 1951 Refugee Convention or Article 3 (prohibiting torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees defines this 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 or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.’ Someone who has gone through the legal process and is refused asylum becomes a refused asylum seeker and can often be liable to detention prior to deportation to his/her country of origin. Someone who is granted asylum, ie recognised as a refugee, can stay (in the UK) for five years, after which s/he has to show, to retain refugee status, that there is still a risk of persecution in the home country.


Refugee – According to the UN Refugee Convention, a refugee is a person who is outside their own country and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationalist, membership of a particular social group, political group, sexual orientation.


Deportation – The forcible expulsion of someone from the country – usually for criminal offences or suspicion of terrorism, but also for breaching immigration laws (technically termed administrative removal). Those who have been deported are prohibited from returning.


Detention – The confining in prison-like conditions of those arriving in the UK to establish their identity or nationality or the validity of their asylum claim. Others can be detained for an indefinite period, following refusal of entry or of asylum, pending their removal or deportation.


Migrant – Someone who moves within or usually between countries, often to find work on a temporary basis.


Information from  Asylum Statistics, Institute of Race Relations

About The Author

Multimedia Web & Video Journalist

I am a Multimedia Web and Video Journalist, enthusiastic mountain biker and lover of nature. I am passionate about communication and its power to improve a person's life. My dream is to expose injustice and give a voice to those who are largely ignored. I am the senior video journalist and director at multimedia production company Humbledinger, which I run with my husband, filmmaker Joe Bream. Joe and I spend our 'free' time making short documentaries and films that will give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

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