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Why Do People Migrate? Part 1: Facts

Chapters 2 › Unit 2: SCROLL DOWN FOR INSTRUCTIONS View instructions Hide instructions

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`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!

New definitions for migrants and refugees?

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Policy makers and governments have a preference for neat categories. However it is obvious that those definitions cannot capture the complexity of the contemporary migration flows as migrants and refugees use the same travel routes, means of transport and smugglers' networks and they flee for complex reasons that cannot be clearly distinguished into categories. A good example that challenges the official categorisation of migrants and refugees is the migration crisis in the south-east Mediterranean. Lately there has been a huge influx of Syrians fleeing war which qualifies them for asylum status. However there are a number of issues. First, there is no common European asylum system and no legal routes for asylum seekers. According the international law asylum seekers should file an asylum application to the first country they arrive, i.e. Greece. However, the goal of the vast majority is to apply in a central/northern European country. Initially the EU tried to overcome this problem by allowing them to continue from Greece to northern Europe and apply there. Moreover some countries as Germany recognised Syrians as prima face refugees. However when they realised the magnitude of the influx they were frightened which led to the closing of borders and restrictive asylum policies. Governments used as an excuse for these policies that there are a lot of economic migrants crossing the borders along with the asylum seekers and so the border controls and the restrictive asylum policies aim allegedly to identifying those in real need of protection. This was coupled with allegations for security threats from terrorists entering Europe as refugees. It is clear that in this case the clear and strict official definitions were manipulated by governments in order to limit the number of refugees they have to accept. Secondly, the EU signed a readmission agreement with Turkey in order to send back the undocumented economic migrants. Nevertheless, the effectiveness process of distinguishing migrants from refugees is doubtful as it is based on those strict definitions. This means that there might be sent back many people who should not. In conclusion, categories, and especially neat ones, are never adequate. The situation is even worse when those categories leave space to governments and policy makers to manipulate them in their own interest. This does not mean that we should not have categories and definitions, but maybe we should focus more on the obligations of governments towards migrants and refugees.

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