Who’s Who?

Migration Terminology

Q Who is an immigrant?
AThis term has been applied to all people coming into the country to work, but it is now often applied to people who intend to settle and integrate here, as opposed to being a more temporary ‘migrant worker’. It is important not to view people who are part of long-established ethnic communities and populations as ‘immigrants’.

Q Who is a migrant worker?
Someone who leaves their country with the intention of seeking work elsewhere. In practice the words are usually applied today to people who do not intend to remain permanently in the host country.

Q Who is an economic migrant?
Anyone who moves from their home country to improve their economic situation can be termed an ‘economic migrant’. This term is sometimes used in a derogatory way, to throw suspicion on people’s motives in seeking asylum. In fact, poverty and economic deprivation, as well as violence, are tools of those who persecute individuals and groups of people. Most economic migrants simply seek a better life for themselves and their families, as many people from Ireland have done for generations.

Q Who is an asylum seeker?
Someone who has a well-founded fear of persecution by reason of their race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion, in their own country, and seeks refuge in another country.

*The term ‘asylum seeker’ is now regarded by many people as a depersonalising term of abuse, often associated with the word ‘bogus’. We try to use the phrase, ‘person seeking asylum’. Similarly, the broad-brush term, ‘illegal immigrant’ is best replaced by the more objective words, ‘undocumented person’. How can a human being be illegal?

Q Who is a refugee?
A Someone who applies for asylum, and is successful in being granted refugee status, under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to Refugees. ‘Refugee’ is also the general term for all people who have been displaced from their own countries by persecution, war and civil unrest.

Q Who is a Trafficked Person?

A Someone who has moved or been moved away from their home, as a result of deception, coercion or violence, for the purposes of exploitation here (for example, in agricultural labour, the sex trade or cannabis growing). Read more on trafficking here.