Glossary of Terms
Glossary of Terms

Asylum seeker

In the UK, an asylum seeker is someone who has asked the government for refugee status and is waiting to hear the outcome of their application.

Climate change

According to the Met Office: ‘Climate change is a large-scale, long-term shift in the planet’s weather patterns or average temperatures.’ Examples of climate change include rising temperatures; changes in rainfall patterns; changes in the timing of the seasons, resulting, for example, in birds migrating or flowers blooming at different times of the year; rising sea levels; retreating glaciers; shrinking sea ice and ice sheets.

Climate justice

According to Friends of the Earth, climate change and the global energy crisis threaten billions of people. The main cause of these challenges is ‘our unsustainable level of consumption, which uses large quantities of energy for production and transportation. Fossil fuels like oil and coal take millions of years to form and are being used far faster than they are being replaced. The burning of fossil fuels also releases billions of tons of carbon dioxide in to the atmosphere, creating climate change. Oil is now running out, but the world is not ready to make the shift to sustainable renewable energy production and consumption. At the same time, over a billion impoverished people in the world have no access to energy. They are also the ones who will be hit the hardest by climate change impacts.’


A person who lives outside their native country. (Oxford Dictionary)

Human trafficking

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) defines trafficking in persons as ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’. Typically people are trafficked to be used as forced labour or sex workers or for the removal of organs.


A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.

Internally displaced person (IDP)

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): ‘Two elements are decisive in identifying who is an IDP: (1) the coercive or otherwise involuntary character of movement – that is, movement caused by armed conflict, violence, disasters, and the like; and (2) the fact that such movement takes place within national borders.’


A simple definition of a migrant might be someone who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere. Sometimes this is called ‘economic migration’. However, it should be noted that there is no consensus on a single definition of a ‘migrant’. According to The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford: ‘Migrants might be defined by foreign birth, by foreign citizenship, or by their movement into a new country to stay temporarily (sometimes for as little as a year) or to settle for the long-term.’

Migrant domestic workers (MDWs)

Under UK law, MDWs can only remain in the country if they stay with the
employer who brought them here. With MDWs ‘tied’ in this way, many
employers have felt able to abuse their employees and effectively treat them as slave labour. Human rights groups are lobbying the UK government to change the law so MDWs can leave abusive employers yet keep their visas and remain in the country with new employers.


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 to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…’ (Definition quoted from the 1951 Refugee Convention).