Difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee Expand Is there a difference between an international protection applicant and a refugee? Yes. An asylum seeker is a person who has made an application to be a refugee. An ‘international protection applicant’ is a different term but refers to the same situation. The Irish Refugee Council generally uses the phrase ‘person seeking protection’ or ‘international protection applicant’ when speaking to a wider audience that may not be familiar with these terms we use the phrase asylum seeker. An applicant can only become a refugee after the authorities have given a positive decision on their application. People in this process are to stay in the state until their application for protection is decided.