If someone claimed asylum, did he necessarily receive it?

I'm asking this because the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives the following sense of "claim," among others:

to gain, win or achieve something

E.g. She has finally claimed a place on the team.

In context, it would be unsurprising to find confirmatory evidence that the person got a place on the team. But I'm wondering whether that justifies listing the "to gain, win or achieve something" sense for "claim." After all, it is equally likely to find texts where "John asked for something" coexists with "John received something," but we wouldn't say one of the senses of "ask for" is "receive."

I'd appreciate your help.

  • See also "claim a draw" in chess
    – user79952
    Dec 21 '19 at 9:46

From a Google search:

claim (noun)

a demand or request for something considered one's due.

"the court had denied their claims to asylum"

Generally speaking, you would hear of a person in this context as "seeking" asylum.

The word "claim" would be used (in the verb sense, corresponding to the noun form above), if the person believed, usually due to the laws of the country in which they are seeking asylum, that to be granted asylum is a right, or something they are owed. In that sense, they believe they have already been offered asylum, i.e. by the country's law. They are making a claim based on the promise of the law.

With regards to the "to gain, win or achieve something" definition, I don't believe that applies here (it's in a different section to the "demand legal right" section on the Oxford Learners Dictionaries site). That definition to me, is quite abstract, but could be viewed in a similar way:

Where above I have said, "claim based on the promise of the law", someone earning a place in a team could be seen as being "based on the promise of being part of the team". It refers more to opportunity than promise, which can be referred to as a "promise", but with the implicit understanding that it is abstract as opposed to literal, i.e. there are no guarantees.

It would be similar to saying something like:

He claimed his own version of the American Dream.

It's based on the promise of opportunity, and not a literal, concrete promise, but we can still use the word "claim" to describe the fulfilment of that.

  • Could you address the question of whether the "to gain, win or achieve something" sense is justified?
    – Apollyon
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:50
  • No problem - I've updated my answer.
    – Chris Mack
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:59
  • 1
    claim is used in legal contexts: to claim something in court, to claim x vis-à-vis y. You claim your right to asylum under some system of law.
    – Lambie
    Dec 20 '19 at 17:53

Black's Law Dictionary:

What is CLAIM? 1. A legal assertion; a legal demand; Taken by a person wanting compensation, payment, or reimbursement for a loss under a contract, or an injury due to negligence. 2. Amount a claimant demands.

To claim asylum means to make a legal assertion of it or a legal demand for it.

This is a legal term.

It is not related to the win or achieve something meaning of the word claim.

claim: in a legal sense

  • If someone "claimed" a lost watch, is it necessarily true that he took it?
    – Apollyon
    Dec 21 '19 at 6:01
  • 2
    @Apollyon It means that he demanded them to give it to him because he had a right to possess it. His claim may have been rejected, so it doesn't necessarily mean he received it
    – user79952
    Dec 21 '19 at 9:50
  • 1
    @Apollyon Yes, it means you have a right to it. Baggage Claim at airports.
    – Lambie
    Dec 21 '19 at 15:50
  • @Gimmethe411 [It means he demanded they give it to him]
    – Lambie
    Dec 21 '19 at 15:50
  • @Lambie Well, some people say it means "to say you have a right to it."
    – Apollyon
    Dec 22 '19 at 0:14

A "claim" in this context is a "formally request". Most countries that offer asylum have an application process, which tracks that request. "The claim" can then refer to their original application, or to the process.

As a "claim" can be with or without basis, in the context you are asking about (asylum) the claim will be considered to see if it is valid or has basis in law.

The term for someone who has made a request, but has not yet had that request processed is an "asylum seeker".

I believe the term for being given asylum is "granted asylum":

From Wikipedia:

"A person becomes an asylum seeker by making a formal application for the right to remain in another country and keeps that status until the application has been concluded. The applicant becomes an "asylee" if their claim is accepted and asylum is granted."

Your second example "she has finally claimed a place on the team" contains a slightly different meaning of "claim" - in this context it means to take up something that you have rightly earned.

  • Does "claim" only mean "request" in "She has finally claimed a place on the team"?
    – Apollyon
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:12
  • 3
    @Apollyon That is a different context, and a different meaning of "claim" - to assert your right to, and collect something you have earned.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:14
  • 2
    @Apollyon Claims based on legal precedents always have to be assessed, or considered. It isn't really for a person to walk into a different country and demand that they have a right to live there - they would make a claim, and the basis of that claim would be considered. In other contexts, the basis of the claim is set out beforehand - for example if a store said "the first 100 people can claim a £5 voucher", those people would walk in and "claim" it by taking receipt of it.
    – Astralbee
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:20
  • 1
    @Apollyon What do you think about that one? Do you think a person could take a throne and replace an enthroned king without that claim being challenged? Or do you think they would have to go through some kind of process?
    – Astralbee
    Dec 20 '19 at 12:27
  • 1
    @Apollyon: Absent further context, "The exiled king returned to claim his rightful place on the throne" is quite simply ambiguous. Sure, he definitely asserted his right to be enthroned - but only the full context would tell us whether the claim was in fact successful or not. Dec 20 '19 at 13:43

Part of the problem here is that the word claim can both mean "actually secured the thing claimed" and "has asserted a right to the thing they want". For instance, India has claimed Kashmir, but that doesn't mean they actually have it. A person accused of a murder might claim self-defense, but that doesn't mean the court will accept that. You have to try and tell from context which meaning is being used.

Claiming asylum is usually meant in the "asserted a right" sense; as lots of asylum claims are denied. Someone wanting to indicate that the request had been accepted should specify that they were granted asylum.


I'm asking this because the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives the following sense of "claim," among others:

The key there is "among others"; you have to read the full set of definitions, not just one of them.

Your example is covered (literally!) by definition 2 on that page.

Put abstractly, to "claim" something can be either:

  • to retrieve/take/accept something that is offered to you pending your acceptance (e.g. football team place, misdelivered parcel, lottery winnings), or

  • to request something or assert that something is yours (land, asylum).

Either way, your intention is to get a thing, but the semantics are slightly different depending upon your starting state.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .