Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts

16 Mar 2016, 10:50 AM
Chapters 2 › Unit 2: SCROLL DOWN FOR INSTRUCTIONS View instructions Hide instructions


`Start by reading this article and discuss in your journal how current official definitions of "migrants", "refugees" and "asylum seekers" are challenged by the on-going migration crisis at the South-East borders of Europe.

You can also see Unit 2.1 for more information about irregular migration in Mediterranean region, Unit 2.2 about EU norms on asylum seeking, and Unit 2.3 on the case of Syrian refugees.

Don't forget to have a look to what others have done in their journals!

Migrants, Refugees, asylum seekers: definitions on the move


Migration is part of human history. People and groups always moved for different reasons to other areas in the world. In fact, that's how the world was populated at the beginning of human history. And even the reasons why people move haven't really changed. To flee war, discrimination, to seek freedom (the old testament is telling a great story) or to seek a better life for oneself and ones family.

is only with the rise of nations since the beginning of the 19th century that migration became "international". And it is only since the industrial revolution and the unprecedented wealth creation in the developed countries that a migration for economic reason became a new type of understanding. Before the "economic" reasons were mainly better agricultural land.

The modern use of the terms migration, refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers started in the 1920s with the political migration due to the rise of the soviet union and or Nazi-Germany.
Under the impression of the Third Reich, the right for asylum was included in the German constitution and other European countries applied a similar approach. The notion of migrants for economic reasons became in Europe a topic after the fall the Soviet Union.

The problem with the definitions of what type of migrant someone might be, is that there is normally not only one reason and that the categorization of migrants leads to the notion of "good" and "bad" types of migration.
As the living standards in developed countries are higher than almost everywhere, it is quite normal that being accepted as a asylum seeker for political or other reasons in a developed country will lead to a higher living standard and a more peaceful life than in most countries of origin.

Medias and especially social media are amplifying the "good" types of refugees because of war or political suppression and the "bad" type of economic migration.
This said, I would prefer that a standard categorization of migrants should be avoided or a more nuanced discussion that people mainly migrate because of one or more reasons. As the by far largest part of migrants stay close to their home (countries) this approach could be easily used for these people.

Unfortunately, to avoid social unrest in the developed countries the migration to these countries has to be channeled and should be in an orderly way. And to do so, the use of categorization is absolutely necessary. Notions like "secure home countries" or "refugees because of war or political unrest compared to "uncontrolled immigration because of economic reasons" have to be used and applied.
When applied to the "main" reason for migration, the generalization seems justifiable. This general approach helps to keep the social peace in a country and the individual right to apply a decision in a state under the rule of law makes it at least theoretically possible for a migrant to be the exception.

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