difference between refugee and migrant
Unconscious refugee baby rescued from sunken boat. (Image Source: Reuters/Giorgos Moutafis)

Some of you are aware of my editorial policy of not burning electrons and time debating over trivial things like the isms and schisms of labels — unless even the most subtle of nominal permutations can mean the difference between framing an important truth and maintaining a social or political falsehood.

But calling the ramped-up influx of people from the Middle East and Africa into Europe, Egypt and other places migrants, as opposed to identifying them as refugees, is one of those falsehoods which attempts to negate history and current foreign policy.

Therefore, the topic deserves some attentive distinctions.

As a MIGRANT, you chose to leave your home to live somewhere else.

As a MIGRANT, there was no pressure behind your decision to leave home.

If you left home in search of a better career which will help support your family, you are a MIGRANT.

If you created an embarrassing name for yourself back home and want to start a new life somewhere else, you’re a MIGRANT.

Did you want to be a celebrity, and you left your hometown because it was “too small” of a frame to hold your aspirations? You’re a MIGRANT.

As a REFUGEE, you left home because you had no choice — unless you call death and oppression choices.

If a natural disaster forced you to leave home, you’re a REFUGEE.

If you left home because it was devastated by war, you’re a REFUGEE.

Escaping repression because of who you are, or fleeing from the deadly whims of dictators and oligarchs, makes you a REFUGEE.

Remember the Great Migration of African descendants to the North as a way escape the South’s lynch mobs, Jim Crow policies and racially-anchored employment practices? What would you call such a mass movement … ?

The Africans and Arabs who you currently see in the depressing media photos and videos are refugees.

The media’s use of the “migrant” label for these refugees hides how the failed western policies in Libya, Syria, Yemen and Iraq created this exodus.

And this misdirection of facts prevents people who are against this so-called migration from holding the architects of these crises accountable …

song currently stuck in my head: “for all we know” – dinah washington


  1. Well said. I think you have captured the problem entirely and show just how wrong some of the comments and representations of the refugees and asylum seekers are in the media.

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