What does it mean to be a Refugee?

There’s a lot of talk about refugees out there, some of it accurate, some of it not. Refugee? Migrant? Displaced person? What exactly is a refugee? Or, read this brief explanation from the UNHCR.


A refugee is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.

This definition is based on the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocols relating to the Status of Refugees, which the United States became a party to in 1968. Following the Vietnam War and the country’s experience resettling Indochinese refugees, Congress passed the Refugee Act of 1980, which incorporated the Convention’s definition into U.S. law and provides the legal basis for today’s U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP). (Source: American Immigration Council)