An Immigrant is an individual who leaves one’s country to settle in another, whereas refugees are defined as persons, who move out of one’s country due to restriction or danger to their lives.

Immigration is considered a natural phenomenon in population ecology, whereas the refugee movement occurs only under some kind of coercion or pressure.

Comparison chart

Immigrant versus Refugee comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartImmigrantRefugee
Definition An immigrant is someone from a foreign country who relocates to live in another country. They may or may not be citizens. Refugees move out of fear or necessity. e.g. to flee persecution; or because their homes were destroyed in a natural disaster; or due to war, violence, political opinion, human rights violations; or due to their religion, beliefs or political opinion
Legal Status Immigrants are subject to the laws of their adopted country. They may only come if they have work or a place to live. Defined by United Nations
Reason of relocation Immigrants are usually driven by economic factors, or they want to be close to family. Refugees are forced to relocate for reasons such as natural disasters, fear of persecution or suffered persecution due to at least one of the following: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
Resettlement Immigrants can usually find a home in their new country. From refugee camp to a third country. Usually cannot return to ones own country.

Reason for Move

Immigrants move by choice and due to promise of a better life. The main reasons include better economic conditions, education and family reasons. However, they still have a choice to return to their own country at any time.

Refugees, on the other hand, move out due to fear of persecution caused by war, violence, political instability, aggression or due to their religion, beliefs, caste, or political opinion. In most cases, it is not possible for them to go back to their country.

History of refuge and immigration

Although the concept of taking refuge in another region has been long known and understood, the term "refugee" was completely defined after the 1951 Geneva Convention. Now the term refugee is a well-defined term and distinct from an internally or nationally displaced persons. The people who fled from Europe after World war II were termed refugees, along with those from Africa, following the civil wars, from the middle east, Bangladesh and many other nations. The greatest source countries for refugees are Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan, and the Palestinian territories.

The first wave of immigrants took place when people from Western Europe moved to Americas, and settled there. Now stricter government laws are imposed on immigration, and people can immigrate to a country only after laborious paperwork and documentation. Each country has its set rules regarding allowing new immigrants into the country. In 2005, Europe hosted the largest number of immigrants, mostly from Asia.

Legal Status of immigrants vs refugees

The protection of refugees is governed by the refugee law and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Before resettlement refugees stay in camps where they are provided basic amenities and healthcare till they can return to their homeland or resettle in a third country.

Immigrants can move to a country after due Government or embassy paperwork and have to abide by the laws of that country.


Refugee camps are set up to provide aid to these individuals till they can return to their country. In the event that they cannot, resettlement options are provided in a third country. A total of 17 Countries like Australia, Canada, Denmark, Chile and others have refugee quotas and provide resettlement options in their countries to individuals from refugee camps.

Immigrants however move out of their own volition, and have to explore their own settlement options in the new country.


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