I have been following news regarding the Syrian Civil War, and how it is catastrophically affecting people’s life. The most tragic side of it all is the amount of civilians who have been made homeless, who have been torn apart by a war they did not ask for.
Although I am concerned about the whole situation, what has been catching my attention is the system of ideologies behind the movement of people caused by this War.
A lot of people, including journalists and ‘experts’ of the matter, have been using, without too much concern, the words migrant and refugee interchangeably, as if the two had the same meaning. At first glance, one may think ‘what is the big deal, after all?’, or one may not necessarily notice any problem with these terms. However, there is a lot to worry about. It’s not just the incorrect use of a word to describe a status that demands a different name; but what is disturbing, is the underlining ideology associated with the use of the word migrant instead of refugee.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Advanced English, a migrant is “a person who moves from one place to another, especially in order to find work”; whereas a refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country or home, because there is a war or for political, social or religious reasons”.
By defining a refugee a migrant, there is an intentional deconstruction of the status of the former, a clear design to make the public believe the refugee is making a voluntary choice to re-locate, which is not the case. See, clarity of language is everything; it is the means by which the oppressed is understood to have an oppressor, the means by which a status is clearly identified. Surely the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the 15th century was not a migration, nor the eviction of Jews from Nazist Germany and Austria in the 1930s was a migration. Was the exodus of the 1 million Armenians who had to leave Turkish Asia Minor between 1914 and 1923 a migration?
Think about it.
A migrant, regardless of their conditions, is a person who has made a conscious and voluntary decision; is a person who is aware of what the future may or may not bring; is a person who is not being violently forced to make a move. A migrant has a choice, regardless of the quality of that choice.
A refugee is a person made homeless, a person who has been uprooted from their home against their will; a person that has been traumatised by the conditions of their present situation. A refugee does not have a choice.
Migrant and Refugee are not synonyms.