Successful collaboration begins with a shared language, hence the need for a glossary. This joint effort of contributors from several teams ensures, on the one hand, terminological and conceptual coherence across not only our theoretical approaches, but also the qualitative case studies and quantitative research conducted in OPPORTUNITIES. On the other hand, our glossary facilitates communication between the academic side of the project and the fieldwork conducted by NGOs, uniting our teams working from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ghana, Italy, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Senegal.

For more information about the Structure and Objectives of the Glossary, click here...)

According to the legal definition provided in the European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary, a migrant is a person who establishes their residence “outside the territory of the State of which they are nationals or citizens and who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate.” As such, the legal term migrant may thus refer to various types of individuals who exert various forms of mobility such as family reunification, economic migration, studying abroad, etc. (Goubin et al. 2022, 9).

Legal definitions leave no room for personal experience or individual attitudes, beliefs, and values. For this reason, they often stand in stark contrast to humanitarian explications. Amnesty International, for instance, explicitly refrains from giving a clear-cut definition of the term migrant, to account for the fact that it covers a very heterogeneous group of people, all of whom may have left their home country for different reasons. This variety is reflected in research in the humanities, where broad concepts like “figures of mobility” (Salazar 2017) include the homeless and stateless, as well as nomads, vagrants, immigrants, emigrants, refugees, and undocumented people (Nail 2015, 11).

⇢ see also Asylum; Asylum seeker, Expatriate, Migration, Migration and identity, Mobility, RefugeeRural-urban migrant

References and further reading:

Amnesty International. 2021. “Refugees, Asylum-Seekers and Migrants.” Amnesty International. URL:

European Commission. 2020. European Migration Network (EMN) Glossary. URL:

Goubin, Silke, Anna Ruelens, and Ides Nicaise. 2022. “Trends in Attitudes towards Migration in Europe: A Comparative Analysis.” KU Leuven, HIVA – Research Institute for Work and Society. [Working paper of the OPPORTUNITIES project 101004945 – H2020].

Nail, Thomas. 2015. The Figure of the Migrant. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Salazar, Noel B. 2017. “Key Figures of Mobility: An Introduction.” Social Anthropology 25.1: 5–12.

Category: B, D, E

Work Package: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

[CG / SG]