Refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers

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Refugees arrive on the Greek island of Lesvos, June 2015. © Michael S Honegger

Who are refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers?

The terms “refugee”, “asylum-seeker” and “migrant” are used to describe people who are on the move, who have left their countries and have crossed borders.

There are many reasons why people around the globe seek to rebuild their lives in a different country. Some people leave home to get a job or an education. Others are forced to flee persecution or human rights violations such as torture. Millions flee from armed conflicts or other crises or violence. Some no longer feel safe and might have been targeted just because of who they are or what they do or believe.

These journeys, which all start with the hope for a better future, can also be full of danger and fear. Some people risk falling prey to human trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Some are detained by the authorities as soon as they arrive in a new country. Once they’re settling in and start building a new life, many face daily racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

The world refugee crisis in numbers


Percentage of all refugees who should be resettled every year


Percentage of all refugees hosted by low and middle income countries