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Three Things you Didn’t Know About Asylum

Did you know the terms "refugee" and "asylum seeker" mean different things?

Granting those who flee persecution and violence basic protections and the ability to seek asylum is a human right. But America’s recent asylum and refugee policies have changed things beyond recognition, tragically leaving many families in a state of limbo.

According to the UN, the definition of a refugee is a person granted protection due to “fears persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group who has been forced to leave their country because of persecution, war or violence.”

Here are three things you should know about asylum seekers.

1. “Asylum Seeker” and “Refugee” mean different things.

Because countries have individual procedures for processing asylees, the terms “asylum seeker” and “refugee” mean different things in different countries. In the U.S., a person who requests asylum within the United States is called an asylee. A person who requests protection while still overseas, and then is given permission to enter the U.S., is called a refugee.

2. Numbers are skyrocketing.

As of January 2020, 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Between 2000 and 2013 there were approximately one million people annually seeking asylum, by 2018 that number grew to three and a half million per year.

3. It's hard to seek asylum.


Since 2018, executive orders and judicial precedent have made it more difficult to obtain asylum for those escaping domestic violence, gang violence, or persecution based on threats against a family member. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced in 2018 that it would process recent applications before older ones, adding years of wait time for asylum seekers who applied prior to 2018.


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