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!

Migration terminology between convenience and reality

1 comment

The present-day argument concerning the blurring of the demarcation lines between economic migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is mostly a politically-motivated one, as opposed to an argument brought about due to changing conditions or new circumstances such as the Syrian civil war. It is more a reaction to political posturing than a reaction to the Syrian crisis.

The terminology used for defining the status of moving people is, more often than not, a reflection of a more Euro-centric political (and public) mood. One must also differentiate between academic/scholarly and legal definitions, as well as the more conveniently blurry political and media utilizations of the terminologies.

It is generally acceptable to consider someone who is forced to flee their country as a result of war or violence as a refugee. Legally speaking, that person is a refugee if given official refugee status following an asylum-seeking process. Yet, in reality, whatever the legal situation from the point of view of the UNHCR and/or the country where that person is seeking asylum, that person is fleeing from violence and fear for safety, and is thus seeking refuge, hence a refugee. If that person, for example a Yemeni professor or a Syrian businessperson, is economically (and, in a lot of cases in the developing world, socio-economically) advantaged to the point of being able to fly to a European country on an existing long-term visa and reside with relatives or in an already-owned property, considering that person as a refugee would be laughable from a legal perspective. Yet in reality that person would be a refugee.

Similarly, but with regards to economic migrants, a European or North American citizen who moves for an extended period of time to the Gulf or to Australia because of more advantageous work opportunities would hardly be classified as an economic migrant the same way as a south or southeast Asian citizen going to the same places would.

In some cases, the classification is even farcical. Egypt, for example, has a few million Iraqi, Libyan, Sudanese, Syrian and Yemeni people who have moved to the country in recent years, mostly for lengthy periods of time to which they are legally entitled in Egypt. The grand majority of them have moved because of war and violence in their countries, or for better living conditions, or both. They are included, however, in Egypt's tourism statistics, which are based on the figures of non-residents entering the country from its various points of entry (airports, ports, border points). As such, refugees and economic migrants are classified, ironically, as tourists, blurring the issue even further and giving grossly misleading economic indicators as well.

Terminology related to defining and classifying moving people is, sadly, decreasingly based on reality, but rather on political and politically-related motivations


about 3 years ago

What you said is absoluetly true. I went to Ghana for working reasons and to widen my knoledge of that part of the African continent. There I'm considered an expatriate, never an immigrant. But no African going to Italy (my country) for the same reason is considered the same way. Any African going to Europe is an immigrant!

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