Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Marc Champion

Who Counts as a Refugee?

One Syrian's story shows why it's hard to tell.
Refugees or economic migrants?

Refugees or economic migrants?

Photographer: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images

What's the difference between a refugee and an economic migrant? 

It's an important question, because the distinction has become central to an asylum system that developed nations use to control immigration flows. Yet in many ways it makes no sense.