We have provided definitions for particular terms that you may come across in our Refugee Toolkit

Large group of young people standing by a fence with their project worker


'A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.' - The 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees

In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.

Economic migrant

Someone who has moved to another country to work. Refugees are not economic migrants.

Asylum seeker

An asylum seeker is someone who is present in the UK and has requested international protection under the terms of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the status of refugees. An asylum seeker is defined as someone who has made a claim for asylum and has either:

  • yet to receive an initial decision on their claim or 
  • been refused asylum by the UK authorities but still has a legal avenue to appeal against the UK's decision to refuse asylum.

There is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker.

Refused asylum seeker

A refused asylum seeker is someone whose application for asylum has been refused by the UK authorities and has exhausted all rights of appeal. 

Young carer

A 'young carer' is defined in section 96 of the Children and Families Act 2014 as: ‘…a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (of any age, except where that care is provided for payment, pursuant to a contract or as voluntary work).’

For the purposes of this document, this relates to care for any family member who is physically or mentally ill, frail elderly, disabled or misuses alcohol or substances.

The key principle is that: ‘Children should not undertake inappropriate or excessive caring roles that may have an impact on their development. A young carer becomes vulnerable when their caring role risk impacting upon their emotional or physical wellbeing and their prospects in education and life.’ - Care and Support Statutory Guidance

Definition of disability

You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

What ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ mean

  • ‘Substantial’ is more than minor or trivial, eg it takes much longer than it usually would to complete a daily task like getting dressed
  • ‘long-term’ means 12 months or more, eg a breathing condition that develops as a result of a lung infection.

Progressive conditions

A progressive condition is one that gets worse over time. People with progressive conditions can be classed as disabled.

However, you automatically meet the disability definition under the Equality Act 2010 from the day you’re diagnosed with HIV infection, cancer or multiple sclerosis.

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