Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is a person seeking to be recognised as a refugee under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Ireland is a signatory. If someone is granted this recognition, they are granted refugee status and are no longer considered to be an asylum seeker. (See also Refugee).


Citizenship can be a problematic concept, particularly in relation to migrants who may not have legal citizenship of the country they are living in. It is often seen as a legal status with associated rights (for example voting) and responsibilities (for example paying taxes); however broader definitions of citizenship recognise it as civil, political and social in nature.

Foreign National/Non-Irish National/Non-National

The term ‘non national’ should be avoided altogether as it is both inaccurate (most people have a nationality from their country of origin) and has negative connotations. ‘Foreign national’ has most recently been used in draft immigration legislation to refer only to people who are not EU citizens and so using the term to refer to all migrants to Ireland may also cause confusion. ‘Non-Irish national’ may be the least problematic.


Migrants who do not have a valid work permit or visa in Ireland are sometimes described as ‘illegal’. There are a number of reasons why someone could find themselves in such a situation, sometimes through no fault of their own, for example people who have been trafficked or workers whose employer did not renew their work permit. In this context, an alternative to the use of the term ‘illegal’ is ‘undocumented’. In Ireland, while undocumented is the adjective use for the Irish migrants in the USA, in Ireland media will use ‘illegal’ for undocumented migrants in Ireland.

Irish Born Child

‘Irish born child’, sometimes referred to as IBC, usually refers to a child born in Ireland whose parents are not Irish or EEA citizens. Prior to January 2005, Irish born children were entitled to Irish citizenship. Following the Citizenship Referendum in 2004, legislation was passed so that it was no longer possible for persons born in Ireland to obtain automatic Irish citizenship.

Leave To Remain

Also known as ‘permission to remain’. This is a statement of the conditions and duration on which a non-EEA citizen is permitted to remain in Ireland. It is given on behalf of the Minister for Justice in the form of a stamp in the person’s passport. The main grounds upon which further permission to remain can be obtained are: for the purposes of employment, to study, to operate a business or as a dependant family member of an Irish or EEA citizen residing in the State.

Another type of leave to remain is humanitarian leave to remain, typically granted to an asylum seeker who does not succeed in being recognised as a refugee through the asylum process but who is recognised as having humanitarian grounds on which to stay in Ireland.


A refugee is a person who has left his/her country and cannot return due to a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

In Ireland, membership of a social group includes “…membership of a trade union… membership of a group of persons whose defining characteristic is their belonging to the female or male sex or having a particular sexual orientation.” (See also Asylum Seeker, Leave to Remain and Subsidiary Protection).


Fear or hatred of foreigners or people perceived to be from a different ethnic or cultural background.

Recommendations and Links


  • Fair reporting needs fair language. It is very important for journalists to be aware of as many dimension of meaning of the words that they are using as possible. That is especially important when talking with and about any type of minority group, but should be applied as a general rule as well.
  • Avoid using a dehumanising language that evokes images of invasions or natural disasters ("flooding", "avalanche"), since they create distorted images of reality.
  • Differentiate between "asylum seekers", "refugees" and "migrants" where it is reasonable and feasible to do so. Avoid making radical assumptions about the intentions of migrants.
  • Do not use the adjective "illegal" to describe migrants. Avoid terminology that is appropriate only when referring to objects, such as the verb "intercept


  • When covering issues dealing with the asylum process in the country, media reporting should include reference to the legal right to asylum, explain the process and the causes behind migration.
  • Contextualise the content of the story. One should not concentrate only on immediate events and consequences, but should also investigate the root causes, which usually have nothing to do with a person's ethnicity or religious affiliation.
  • Emphasise the diversity of within minority/ethnic/religious communities in society. We must bear in mind that these communities are heterogeneous groups with different beliefs and practices. And, while doing so, challenge stereotypes associated to them (for example, there is not a Muslim community, but many communities -Shi’ah, Sunni, Sufi…)


  • When reporting on migration issues, avoid focusing on deportation, the asylum system and human trafficking, as it creates a negative frame to the migrant/asylum seekers/refugees media construct.
  • Avoid victimisation, over-simplification and the framing of coverage that takes no account of the bigger picture.
  • Data should be presented in the context of the figures of general population. References to the supposed rise in crime rates, increases in racism and racial conflict as well as threats to national security are in evidence in media reporting, but with migrants/refugees/asylum seekers as responsible for the crime, even when the victim.
  • Always check, if the nationality or skin colour of the individual you are reporting about has any relevance to the story. When in doubt, leave it out. It is necessary to avoid describing migrants with a generalist approach. Care must be taken not to use the actions of an individual to tarnish the reputation of all members of a community or to cast suspicion on all migrants.
  • Do not fall into the trap of focusing only on the possible negative aspects of immigration. It is also important to highlight the positive contribution of migration and those of individual migrants. Economic achievements of migrants are another good topic for reports. They strengthen trust in the all-round positive outcomes of open societies. It is important though not to reduce migrants to economic factors in the process.
  • Positive identification should be made possible by including migrants in the contexts of attractive media products such as shows and films. They may help dispel myths much more effectively than moral appeals or political guidelines.


  • Use the voices of refugees/asylum seekers/migrant/Advocacy groups when reporting on migration and asylum issue. Stories are all about refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, but without their voices. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are often treatment by media as a silent minority, a homogenous, amorphous mass. This group is voiceless, not because they have nothing to say, but because their rights to speak and to be heard in the debate about themselves has been severely constrained by journalists’ choices of sources. However, their experience is essential when telling the story.
  • When migrants are used as sources of stories or interviews, these people should be treated with the same respect as any other source. However, journalists must be aware of certain particular sensitivities. There are asylum seekers who feel persecuted and may fear reprisals against them or against their families in their country of origin; they may also have the fear that acting as a source might harm their asylum application. The source should be clarified on what will be done with the information material that they have provided and respect the requests for anonymity.
  • Voices and opinions of migrants and ethnic/religious minorities shouldn’t be limited to news items specific to their specific communities, but should be included in general reporting.
  • Don’t Quote politicians or public figures without cross-checking if statements are factual. Go to the experts who can help to set the context, and make sure that wherever possible you check the details with a relevant source.


  • Be accurate, not biased. Reporting should aimed to be impartial, inclusive and fact based. Don’t reproduce narratives that stem from politics and emotion rather than facts. Provide real data and don’t sensationalised reporting. Using terms like ‘tide/wave’; ‘flood’ ‘swamp’ and ’influx’ are commonly used to create a sense of the country being ‘overrun’ by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. In addition to this we should avoid the use of a range of metaphors which serve to demonize those who are seeking asylum such as ‘Burden’, ‘Beggar’, ‘Freeloader’ or ‘Sponger’.
  • It is necessary to report on hate and / or racist comments issued by groups or individuals, contextualize these statements in defiance of these comments and expose any false premise. It is important to avoid simple reproductions of these comments to fan the controversy without considering the impact it may have on the group affected by them.
  • Stereotyped populist stories about migrants should not be trusted; instead, they have to be examined critically. Journalists must familiarize ourselves first-hand with the issue and speak directly with the people involved or affected. Visiting refugee camps and accommodation and offices dedicated to asylum can be an appropriate way, as well as asking the people specialised in the topic and civil society organizations about their points of view and experiences.
  • Stay away from sensationalism. When there are problems within the asylum system one must analyse its root in a critical way.
  • When it comes to video or photo, you have to try to balance the journalistic news with the right of migrants to privacy and avoid any possibility of retaliation against them. You also have to make sure that the subtitles of the videos are accurate.


  • Broadcasters have to adapt their staffing policies accordingly. This will open new paths for qualified migrants to take part in the societal discourse(s).
  • It is advisable to report possible hate speech in the media to the authorities, as well as to civil society groups that follow the trail of any hate speech.
  • Investigative journalism should be supported much more, particularly concerning the denunciation of extreme right wing groups or the exploitation of migrant communities.

Bibliography and links

Some of the definitions were extracted from the NCCRI booklet Improving Government Services to Minority Ethnic Groups. Useful Terminology for Service Providers.

Council of Europe report The image of asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees in the media

Public Exercises in Othering: Irish Print Media Coverage of Asylum Seekers and Refugees

National Union of Journalists reporting guidelines for UK and Ireland

Report on best practice for intercultural media (InclusionDes project)

Information on Asylum process in Ireland.

European Network Against Racism

Advocacy and Advise body for refugees and asylum seekers

Migrant’s Right Centre of Ireland

Immigrant council of Ireland

New Communities Partnership (migrant led)

MASI (refugee/asylum seeker led)

Migrant Women Network Akidwa

Ethnical Journalism Network

This content is also available in: Spanish German