World Refugee Day 2019: What is a refugee?

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Today, people around the world are marking World Refugee Day.

Every year, millions of people are forced to flee from their homes in order to keep safe from war, persecution or natural disaster.

Those who have to leave their country are called refugees and the international World Refugee Day aims to raise awareness of this issue, which affects millions of people across the world.

The latest figures from the United Nations (UN) suggest that every minute, around 25 people have to leave everything behind in search of a safer life.

The latest figures from the British Red Cross suggest there are almost 120,000 refugees living in the UK, with the UN suggesting that, in 2018, the UK offered protection to 15,891 people. Of these, more than two in five were children.

However, a recent survey by the charity The British Red Cross suggests that almost a quarter of British children do not know the meaning of the word "refugee".

Read on to find out more.

What is a refugee?
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A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution or natural disaster.

Every year, millions of people across the world are forced to leave their homes and lives behind in the search of a new life somewhere safe and many of these people are children.

According to the UNRA, there are over 170,000 unaccompanied children worldwide - that's children travelling without any parents.

It says: "Thousands of children become separated from their parents or lose them to violence. They are left with no choice but to endure long journeys to safety on their own."

The charity Refugee Action claims that, at the end of 2017, the country hosting the most refugees was Turkey - home to 3.5 million refugees. Other significant host countries for refugees were Pakistan (1.4 million), Uganda (1.2 million) and Lebanon (998,850).

What happens to refugees?
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Refugees leaving their countries often take long journeys by car, lorry, boat or even on foot to get to safety.

Many times these journeys are dangerous, and some people don't make it to their final destination.

They can sometimes struggle to find shelter, food and water.

Often they gather in places called refugee camps, which are giant camps with many thousands of people living there, often in poor conditions.

What are refugee camps like?
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Refugee camps are usually managed by charities and can be as big as cities.

They aim to offer some form of safety to people who have had to leave their homes behind.

But the living conditions in these camps can be very poor, and they are often cramped and overcrowded.

Some camps have hospitals and even schools where children can continue with their education.

Other camps have nothing at all, though.

What is an asylum seeker?
Migrant child in Lybia.Getty Images

Once many of the refugees reach somewhere safe, they can remain a refugee or decide to ask for special permission to stay in that country called asylum.

Doing this makes them an asylum seeker.

An asylum seeker is a person who flees their home country, enters another country and applies for the right to international protection and to stay in that country. People are meant to ask for asylum in the first safe country where they arrive.

In the UK, asylum seekers do not have the same rights as a refugee or a British citizen. For example, asylum seekers aren't allowed to work. They must rely on state support. Housing is provided, but asylum seekers can't choose where it is.

In 2018, 29,380 people applied to the UK for asylum.

What is being done to help refugees?
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UK and international charities have set up camps where migrants and refugees can get help in different ways, from food and shelter, to education for young refugees.

Different countries, including the UK, have offered thousands of families a new life where they can start over, away from conflicts and issues in their home countries.

Many countries have offered food, money and help to those countries that are at war.

Migrant-family-in-a-refugee-camp-in-Indonesia.Getty Images

However, when the number of refugees increases - for example, when there is a big conflict like the fighting in Syria - some governments say they are struggling to cope with the large number of new arrivals.

In some cases, the issue of where refugees end up living can be become a controversial political issue.