Note: This page is frequently updated. It is by no means complete.

This page provides definitions of commonly used terms and acronyms. Sources are cited.

Note. These definitions are used by different individuals, organizations, and countries in different ways, often with consequences, intended or not. The article Migrant or Refugee? The Limits of Definitions makes one argument.

Click on the letter of the alphabet to scroll down to the term or acronym you are seeking.

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Asylum, asylee

"The terms asylum-seeker and refugee are often confused: an asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated. On average, about 1 million people seek asylum on an individual basis every year. In mid-2014, there were more than 1.2 million asylum-seekers.

National asylum systems are there to decide which asylum-seekers actually qualify for international protection. Those judged through proper procedures not to be refugees, nor to be in need of any other form of international protection, can be sent back to their home countries.

The efficiency of the asylum system is key. If the asylum system is both fast and fair, then people who know they are not refugees have little incentive to make a claim in the first place, thereby benefitting both the host country and the refugees for whom the system is intended.

During mass movements of refugees (usually as a result of conflicts or generalized violence as opposed to individual persecution), there is not - and never will be - a capacity to conduct individual asylum interviews for everyone who has crossed the border. Nor is it usually necessary, since in such circumstances it is generally evident why they have fled. As a result, such groups are often declared "prima facie" refugees." (See the UNHCR's definition of asylum-seeker.)


Border control (in Europe)

"The Schengen Borders Code provides Member States with the capability of temporarily reintroducing border control at the internal borders in the event that a serious threat to public policy or internal security has been established.The reintroduction of border control at the internal borders must remain an exception and must respect the principle of proportionality. The scope and duration of such a temporary reintroduction of border control at the internal borders is limited in time and should be restricted to the bare minimum needed to respond to the threat in question. Reintroducing border control at the internal border should only ever be used as a measure of last resort.

"The reintroduction of border control is a prerogative of the Member States. The Commission may issue an opinion with regard to the necessity of the measure and its proportionality but cannot veto such a decision if it is taken by a Member State." (Source: the European Commission's Migration and Home Affairs website, Temporary Reintroduction of Border Control.)


Dublin Regulation

"The recast Dublin Regulation establishes a hierarchy of criteria for identifying the Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum claim in Europe. This is predominantly on the basis of family links followed by responsibility assigned on the basis of the State through which the asylum seeker first entered, or the State responsible for their entry into the territory of the EU Member States, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland." (Source: European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) Dublin Regulation.)


Forced migration

"FMO has adopted the definition of ‘forced migration’ promoted by the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration (IASFM) which describes it as ‘a general term that refers to the movements of refugees and internally displaced people (those displaced by conflicts) as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects.’ FMO views forced migration as a complex, wide-ranging and pervasive set of phenomena. The study of forced migration is multidisciplinary, international, and multisectoral, incorporating academic, practitioner, agency and local perspectives. FMO focuses on three separate, although sometimes simultaneous and inter-related, types of forced migration. These three types are categorized according to their causal factors: conflict, development policies and projects, and disasters." (Source: Forced Migration Online (FMO) What is forced migration?)


Frontex promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter applying the concept of Integrated Border Management.

Frontex helps border authorities from different EU countries work together. Frontex’s full title is the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union. The agency was set up in 2004 to reinforce and streamline cooperation between national border authorities.

FYROM -- The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

"The Macedonia naming dispute is a political dispute regarding the use of the name Macedonia between the Balkan countries of Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, formerly a federal unit of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Pertinent to its background is an early 20th century multifaceted dispute and armed conflict that formed part of the background to theBalkan Wars. The specific naming dispute, although an existing issue in Yugoslav-Greek relations since World War II, was reignited after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the newly gained independence of the former Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1991. Since then, it has been an ongoing issue in bilateral and international relations. (Source: Wikipedia Macedonia naming dispute.)


Human trafficking
"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. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs." (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons."


Internally displaced person (IDP)

"Internally displaced persons, or IDPs, are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Unlike refugees, IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight. As citizens, they retain all of their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law." (Source: the UNHCR's definition of an Internally Displaced Person (IDP).)



"The term MENA is an acronym referring to the Middle East and North Africa region. The term MENA covers an extensive region, extending from Morocco to Iran, including all Middle Eastern and Maghreb countries. The term is roughly synonymous with the term the Greater Middle East.

"The MENA acronym is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, and business writing.

"Due to the geographic ambiguity and Eurocentric nature of the term "Middle East", many people prefer use of the term WANA (West Asia and North Africa)or the less common NAWA (North Africa-West Asia)." (Source: Wikipedia MENA.)


"Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such impediment to return. If they choose to return home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government." (Source: UNHCR viewpoint: 'Refugee' or 'migrant' - Which is right?)

Migrant smuggling

"[The smuggling of migrants is the] "procurement, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit, of the illegal  entry of a person into a State Party of which the person is not a national or a permanent resident." (Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Smuggling of Migrants Protocol.")



"The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is someone 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." (Source: the UNHCR's Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees; also see The 1951 Refugee Convention.)


Shengen Area

The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens. It entitles every EU citizen to travel, work and live in any EU country without special formalities. Schengen cooperation enhances this freedom by enabling citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to border checks. The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, as well as to many non-EU nationals, businessmen, tourists or other persons legally present on the EU territory. (Source: the European Commission's Migration and Home Affairs website.)


People from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. As contrasted with Non-SIA, people from other countries, e.g., Iran, Morocco, and Pakistan.


UNHCR documents
Legal considerations on the return of asylum-seekers and refugees from Greece to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey Cooperation in Tackling the Migration Crisis under the safe third country and first country of asylum concept, March 23, 2016.

Last updated April 6, 2016

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