A refugee, defined by the United Nations, is a person who is unable to return to their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, caste, religion, nationality, or political opinion.

Magazine - Refugees


Do the Preparation task first. Then go to Text and read the article (you can also listen to the audio while you read). Next go to Task and do the activity.

Audio icon Download audio 1.8MB (right click & save)


by Claire Powell and Dave Collett 


What is a Refugee?

A refugee, defined by the United Nations, is a person who is unable or unwilling to return to their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or because they belong to a particular social group.

Why Do They Come?

Most refugees flee their country to escape armed conflict. They often leave with their families and apply for asylum in another country. Many of them do not want to leave their own country, but have no choice. The journeys they undertake to reach a safe place may be almost as risky as staying in their own country. They would do anything to escape their suffering: crossing deserts, mountains, seas and rivers, sometimes using dangerous means of transport. They also hide in parts of ships that are too cramped, too hot and too smelly for anyone to check. Many never arrive.

World Refugee Day

On the 20th of June each year people celebrate World Refugee Day. An important part of this celebration is the award given to a person or group who excels in helping refugee causes.

To Help or Not To Help?

There are an estimated 14 million refugees and asylum seekers in the world. Some countries in the world, especially the rich, are adamant against allowing too many refugees coming into their country. One worry is that there may be too many of them seeking asylum therefore causing a great problem for these developed countries. Their next worry is resources. These refugees may fill their hospitals, their schools, take over their jobs as well as abusing their social welfare system. At the end of the day, some fear there could be no more resources left for the people of these developed nations. Another worry is the thought that the refugees might not be genuine. Also, the fact that the country they flee to is culturally different from their own makes the citizens of these developed nations feel that their culture is being stolen from them.

Criminal activity seems to be a growing concern. People worry that asylum seekers who arrive penniless and without any documents might be criminals or involved in acts of terrorism. In many countries, new anti-terrorism laws have made migration legislation much stricter. Increasingly, governments are locking asylum seekers in detention centres regardless of their status. Unfortunately, this causes further criminalisation as genuine asylum seekers resist what they see as injustice. However, protests and riots lead to criminal charges and prison sentences.

These negative assumptions are not true. First of all, numbers indicate that Asia and Africa have the world’s highest influx of refugees. Secondly, most rich or developed countries’ economies rely on these refugees as they are the ones who are often more than willing to do the kind of work that no one else would even think of. Furthermore, the migrants tend to be very hardworking and highly motivated at their jobs and are the backbone of agricultural labour. Thirdly, governments like to play with words such as ‘crime’ and 'immigration' to gain popularity with their citizens during elections. Moreover, after all the problems a refugee has faced fleeing his own country, the last thing he wants is to be mistrusted. Finally, it is absurd for the rich nations to claim that their culture is being swamped by refugees, considering that the refugees are in a minority there.

Perhaps politicians should remind themselves of the fact that, whether they are dealing with genuine asylum seekers or economic migrants, they are dealing with human beings, not numbers, and the people should be treated humanely.


absurd (adj.): ridiculous or unreasonable.

adamant (adj.): impossible to persuade, or unwilling to change an opinion or decision.

armed conflict (n.): an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles where weapons are used in the disagreement.

assumption (n.): something that you accept as true without question or proof.

asylum (n.): protection or safety, especially that given by a government to foreigners who have been forced to leave their own countries for political reasons.

asylum seeker (n.): someone who leaves their own country for their safety, often for political reasons or because of war, and who travels to another country hoping that the government will protect them and allow them to live there.

backbone (n.): the part of something that provides strength and support.

cramped (adj.): not having enough space.

detention centre (n.): a place where people who have entered a country without the necessary documents can be kept for short periods of time.

influx (n.): the arrival of a large number of people or things at the same time.

legislation (n.): a law or set of laws suggested by a government and made official by a parliament.

minority (n.): a national or racial group living in a country or area which contains a larger group of people of a different race or nationality.

persecution (n.): from the verb

persecute (v.): to treat someone unfairly or cruelly over a long period of time because of their race, religion, or political beliefs or to annoy someone by refusing to leave them alone.

status (n.): an official position, especially in a social group.

swamped (adj.): If something swamps a person, system or place, they receive more of it than they can easily deal with.

well-founded (adj.): based on facts.





Hi! I had met a refugee here in Brazil last weekend. She come from Nigery. She is a teacher, but because the islamic terrorists of her country, she come to Brazil. Her story is very interesting and inspirational. Here in Brazil, she is a hair stylist, but she continues to talk with her people.

Excellent,brief and realist view!

I'm Kocsis Evelin Viktória. I'm country have lot of refugees. IN the Röszke have lot of.

great articl I think everybody should have agood life especialy whom hav to leave thier countries escaping from warfire presecution tortur.Ibelieve that no one likes to leave his country by his own choice

It is nice to read Mamila´s experience and the way the article tell us about a big problema that many men faced nowdays. I like how the article explain us how politics takes and turn fact the way will be usefull for their purpose.

Great and very human.
Congratulations and thanks a bunch to British Council for this article.
Biel from Majorca (A litle island of Spain)

Your texts

Marmila writes I completely agree with this article. It is encouraging to learn English when reading, listening to an article dealing with an issue everybody should know about, but may not have enough resources to learn about. I have been a refugee for twelve years, since August 1995, when I fled Croatia, the country where I was born and lived for twenty-one years. When I had left Croatia, the civil war there came to an end, and I arrived in Serbia only to face its air bombing. I sympathize with the refugees of the world. I will never, ever be able to understand what happened to me that summer of 1991, when I was seventeen and when I was just a high-school student, in a country where civil war broke out, and what happened that August of 1995, when I was twenty one, when anyone might have deceptively considered me a young person with a power to influence her own life, when I left my home, never knowing that I, maybe, had left it for ever. Thank you for allowing us to learn English by presenting this sort of informative, useful and helpful article.