What is the difference between refugees and asylum seekers? It’s a question that has Australians confused. Some lay bame for the confusion at the feet of the media, who often use the terms in conjunction with each other.
The two are similar in many ways. Both are people fleeing persecution in their country and both have the legal right to do so.
An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees.
This application is made on the grounds that if the person is returned to their country of origin, they have a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership of a particular social group.
Refugees are asylum seekers whose claims for protection have been successful.
The spread of refugees and asylum seekers is vastly different across the globe. Pakistan has the largest population of refugees but is number four on the list when it comes to asylum seekers. South Africa receives the most asylum seekers but is way down the list at 37 when it comes to its refugee population.
Despite claims from the Federal Government that Australia has been inundated with refugees and asylum seekers by boat over the last decade, Australia’s population of refugees and asylum seekers is very low in comparison with the rest of the world.