As thousands risk their lives to flee their homes in what has come to be known as “Europe’s Migrant Crisis” the Al Jazeera News Network announced that it will no longer use the term migrant, stating that,
“The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean. It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances….”
Instead, Al Jazeera argues, the term refugee better describes the reality of those who are fleeing unlivable conditions for a chance at – not just a better life – but for many, a chance to live at all.
I’ve argued before that naming is important, and Al Jazeera is right to make this consideration. However, in the midst of the refugee vs. migrant terminology debate, I still wonder if either word captures the reality of the situation.
Both migrant and refugee refer to states of being. Just like fireman or high-school graduate, these terms indicate something you are. When used in the context of this crisis, both words deceptively imply something permanent, even preexisting – as if some people just are, and always have been refugees.
Refugee conjures up images of the dispossessed, struggling in overpopulated camps or at blocked borders. And while these images are often accurate depictions of the present reality, the term does not conjure up images of the stable lives many of these individuals once had – stable lives that were interrupted. Continue reading “‘Refugee’ is a Not a Name; It’s Something Done to You. “