Who is a refugee? The answer to this question may seem quite straightforward. When you hear the word refugee, a mental image forms immediately in your mind. Intuitively then, we may all think that we understand what a refugee is. But is the mental image of a refugee that formed in your mind the same for all of us? It may not be. If you are asked to explain the term refugee to a child, how easy would that be? Well, let's see. Try and write down in one sentence or two a brief definition of who is a refugee. Go on. Pause this video and have a go. Okay. Now I'd like you to compare your definition of who's a refugee to the dictionary definition for refugee. You can find this among the readings for this session. How similar is yours? Don't worry if there are differences. The point is simply that there may be different answers to the question of who is a refugee depending who you ask and why you asked that question. An English dictionary definition, for instance, tries to tell us how this word is used in everyday parlance in English, and that's a good starting point. Why is it important that there is broad agreement about who is a refugee? Well, if we want to study refugees or even just talk about refugees, then obviously it's desirable that we are all more or less on the same page. In other words, when we use the word refugee, that we're talking broadly about the same thing. If not, then we risk talking at cross purposes or speaking about different things at the same time, which can lead to considerable confusion. Indeed, this can sometimes happen in practice. Consider the widely reported increase of Syrian arrivals into European countries in the mid-2010s, which you looked at last week. During that period, different European news sources described them in very different terms. For some, the Syrians were refugees. For others, they were migrants. Indeed, the confusion about terminology reached such a pitch that some media sources called for guidance on the issue. The resulting guidance took the form of an intervention by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR called Refugee or Migrant, Which is Right? This document can be found among the readings for this week, and I'd encourage you to have a look. It sets out one workable common sense approach, although by no means the only one possible, for understanding the difference between refugees and migrants in everyday use. That document is clearly geared towards a non-specialist audience. Having done these first readings, I'd like to ask you to reflect on why some news media might have been keen to call the Syrian arrivals into Europe refugees whilst others wanted to use the term migrants. Our value judgements perhaps implicit in those terms. In other words, does the label of refugee somehow suggests that a person is more deserving of assistance by the host society than migrants, or is perhaps the reverse true? If so, then why might that be? Perhaps that's the point you'd like to take up in the discussion forum for this week. As the reading from UNHCR suggests, alongside understandings of who is a refugee that are based in everyday usage of the term refugee and which may thus vary between languages and countries, that term can also be used in a technical way with a precise legal meaning. The main legal definition of the term refugee can be found in a legal agreement between the United Nations member states called the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Over three-quarters of UN member states have signed up to this legal agreement called a treaty in technical terms, and those countries are bound by international law to abide by its terms. The Refugee Convention requires those states to provide refugees with special assistance. The form of that protection is something that we're going to look at in more detail next week. However, the crucial point for this week is that the special Refugee Convention guarantees and protections accrue only to persons who meet the legal definition of a refugee set out in the Refugee Convention. That legal definition of who is a refugee for the purposes of protection under the Refugee Convention is set out in its amended Article 1A2. The provision is included among your readings for this week. Make sure you read it carefully, since it's not identical to the dictionary definition of the term refugee. As you see, the definition may at first look quite wordy. However, it's comprised of three main elements. Firstly, that the person is outside their own country. Secondly, that the person fears persecution on one of five stipulated grounds; these being race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. Thirdly, that they are unable to receive the protection of their own country. This week's quiz asks you to consider this definition more closely. You must decide whether the people caught up in a number of hypothetical situations meet the Article 1A2 definition and thus qualify for legal protection as refugees under the Refugee Convention. On the discussion forum, you may wish to debate the main ways in which this technical, legal definition of the term refugee in the Refugee Convention varies from its use in everyday speech. Finally, although you may often hear the term asylum seeker used, it has no technical legal significance at the global level. Rather, the phrase is usually a shorthand way of referring to a person who's seeking refugee status but whose refugee status has not yet been determined by the pertinent host government. In legal terms then, asylum seekers may be refugees or they may not. It's just at this point in time we're still waiting to find out. As a result, unless and until they're found not to meet the legal definition of a refugee following a proper inquiry by the government receiving their claim for refugee status, such people must presumptively be treated as refugees. Of course, asylum seekers who have found ultimately not to meet the legal definition of a refugee will not benefit from the special protections for refugees under the Refugee Convention. But even so, it is absolutely clear that as migrants, as human beings, they still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. The key point here is that in the refugee field, definitions matter. By the time you finish this session, you should understand that the term refugee is used not only in broad ways as part of everyday speech or in empirical studies, but also by those involved in refugee protection in a precise technical way that grants access to special assistance under the main global agreement for legal protection of refugees.