Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts

03 Mar 2016, 12:36 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!

Could there be a two-pronged approach to labeling?


It's both fascinating and frightening how much weight a label can carry for people in need. I am fortunate that I don't have to be labeled by a state somewhere in the world (other than my own, but that comes with a lot of privilege). It makes sense that asylum seekers would "shop" or be strategic about where they choose to go given the different biases they might face around the world.

I agree with the reading that we need newly refined terms given the complex global challenges leading to modern migration trends. However, in addition to refining the words we use to label migrants to make it easier to understand their situation, we might also make it easier for them to be strategic about where they go for help. To accomplish this it would be necessary to widen the scope of labels to include more of the actors directly involved in the migration process.

The three conventions referenced in chapter 1 appear to have focused solely on labeling the migrants in a way that met the political challenges of the day. Why not expand that and do the same for states?

States with the best refugee programs could earn a label that identifies them as such and rewards their effort with a positive label.

Perhaps we can make labels that create incentive for states to act in ways that could help save the lives of asylum seekers on their journey? A label for states that take an active role in helping refugees arrive safely within their borders might be an example of this.

Conversely, restrictive states that focus more on denying entry and forcing asylum seekers to leave should earn a label that warns asylum seekers to stay away, and identifies their behavior appropriately. This would not be pejorative, but a fair assessment of their refugee policy and enforcement.

Labels are powerful. Let's try to use that power to identify and create incentive for states to do what's best for the dignity of the humans who are seeking asylum rather than just refining how we update the labels we give to those asylum seekers.

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