Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts

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!



This section emphasizes the problematic terminology of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers which all trigger different imaginations and are used in different contexts of legal systems, academia and public discourse. Problematic about all these definitions is the fact that they reduce a very complex reality of heterogenous people to a homogenizing set. In public discourse and media, there is few space for diversity aknowledging that a asylum seeker/refugee/migrant might be a young women from Ukraine, a family from Syria or an old man from Pakistan which migrated from both security and economic reasons. First of all, the term "mixed migration" emphasizes that the opposed terms of "economic migrant" vs "persecuted refugee" can be easily deconstructed by social sciences. However, poiicy makers need legal definitions which exclude certain categories of people. What is missing so far is a discussion about the political willingness to interpret those categories narrowly or broadly by individual states, especially on a collective level. From my point of view, it is rather a choice of political and diplomatic relations than of objective facts of the German government to declare Afghanistan and Turkey as safe countries of origin and thus not entitling asylum seekers to refugee status while declaring other countries as unsafe.

Everyone should take this course to understand the different definitions: The German media widely uses the word "refugee" (which is not correct due to the high number of unfinished asylum processes which can take up to three years) instead of the word "asylum seeker". An alternative term used is "someone who fled" (Geflüchtete) to start an alternative discourse or to talk about "liiegalized migrant" in order to emphasize that the migrant him/herself is not illegal (no human can be illegal), but rather that his/her host country has coosen a process which makes this person´s stay illegal.

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