4 Things The Media Gets Wrong About Migrant Smugglers

What are Migrant Smugglers?

Migrant smuggling – or people smuggling – means helping someone to enter a country without authorisation. A migrant smuggler will generally help people to get around border controls or get them false or fake travel or identity documents.

Migrant smugglers have been in the news a lot in the last months. Many say they are the guys we need to deal with if we want to solve Europe’s ongoing migrant and refugee crisis. Earlier in the year there was even talk of bombing their boats to get rid of them.

We found 4 things the media is getting totally wrong about migrant smugglers.

#1 Migrant smugglers can be stopped with better border controls.

 

Nope!

European states are sending warships to confront people smugglers in the Mediterranean.

Wrong move! All the evidence tells us that increased border controls only encourage smugglers and make people more dependent on them.

People struggling through a razor wire border fence

Smugglers only exist because border controls exist

As leading migration professor Hein de Haas explains, smuggling people in boats across the Mediterranean only began when Spain and Italy introduced visas and blocked free entry in the early 1990s. This started out as a small-scale operation run by local fishermen. However, the more border controls Spain introduced, the more professionalised and profitable the smuggling became. The hit-back against migrant smugglers that has been ongoing throughout the 2000s only encouraged them to try out different routes.

Border controls do not put smugglers off. The opposite is true: Migrant smugglers exist because border controls exist.

Border controls create market demand for smugglers who provide a service to people escaping conflict, persecution and economic stagnation.

#2 All migrant smugglers do is exploit people for profit.

We often read news stories about abusive people smugglers who charge vulnerable people extortionate amounts of money, only to abandon them in death-trap boats in the middle of the Mediterranean.

This stereotype is true of some but not all migrant smugglers. People smugglers provide a professional service. Just as with any other service, they need to keep up a good reputation as reliable, trustworthy and cheap. Some smugglers, like Michael who works between Sudan and Libya, have to conduct their business alongside other smugglers who give their trade a bad name: “They sell our people like beasts. Eritreans are my people, my family. I take responsibility for them.”

Also just like the full-time providers of any other professional service, people smugglers need to make money to keep their business going.

Not all smugglers turn a profit, let alone a massive one. Some have been known to operate on a pay-what-you-can basis – providing free service for those who cannot pay.

Amir Heidari a well known human smuggler

Amir Heidari worked on a pay-what-you-can basis

Refugee turned anthropologist Shahram Khosravi of Stockholm University interviewed one of the best-known human smugglers among Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds – Amir Heidari – in prison in Sweden. He tells how his philosophy was to “take more from one who had money and send one who had no money for free.”

However – since increased border controls have made smuggling people a much riskier business – prices have been pushed up and up in the last decades.

Some would describe the work of people smugglers as more than simply a service. In the words of one Eritrean refugee speaking to Al Jazeera: “Smugglers could be compared to those individuals who helped black people during slavery moving from the South to the North in the US and today are considered heroes. Maybe one day smugglers will be considered heroes too because they helped people find freedom.”  

Some people smugglers are undoubtedly exploiting the market that has been created by restrictive border controls. What is really important is that not all smugglers make a significant profit. The reason why this is so important is that treating all smugglers like criminals makes things a hell of a lot worse.

#3 All migrant smugglers are criminals who don’t care about people’s safety.

Accepting payment to smuggle someone across a state border without authorisation is a criminal offence across most European countries, punishable with imprisonment or deportation.

This means that in official terms all smugglers are criminals, because smuggling is against the law.

However, not all smugglers fit the stereotype of reckless gangsters who don’t mind putting people in danger.

Much more worryingly, it is treating smugglers as criminals and threatening them with arrest which encourages them to take more risks and put more people in danger.

Border authorities in boat

Migrant smugglers will do anything to avoid getting arrested by border patrols

It is often thought that making people smuggling a crime is what will keep people safe from exploitation. In reality, making smuggling a crime is often what pushes smugglers towards criminal gangs and encourages them to exploit people.

As migration researcher Mollie Gerver explains for London School of Economics, the fear of arrest means smugglers require extensive intelligence information to evade border officials, which they can only get by teaming up with those involved in arms trading and trafficking sex workers.

This means the trade is being taken over by professional criminal gangs, pushing out more amateur smugglers who have closer personal ties to refugee communities and so are less likely to demand large profit margins.

The fear of arrest also encourages smugglers to commit terrible acts of violence against the people they are transporting. As Gerver writes: ” In June, smugglers wished to avoid reaching an EU port to prevent being arrested, so they threw pregnant women and children overboard and then turned their ship back to sea. These were repugnant actions, but they were also a response to legal incentives: they threw individuals overboard precisely to avoid imprisonment.”

Let’s be clear; some migrant smugglers do commit awful acts of negligence and violence. However, treating them as if they are all alike only gives them more incentive to operate underground and take risks. Anything to avoid being caught.

#4 Stopping people smugglers will put an end to migrant deaths. 

Believing in this myth, as many do, has grave consequences. Attempts to crack down on people smuggling will likely lead to more deaths. This is because criminalising smuggling and closing off established routes will only encourage smugglers to seek out other, often much more dangerous, routes.

Experience has shown us that no disincentive is great enough to stop people trying to leave if they want to leave – and Europe’s current strategy of targeting people smugglers only contributes to migrant deaths. 

This graphic from Research Professor Jørgen Carling says it all.

Migrant Smugglers Explained: Sure, smugglers are part of the process which leads to people drowning in the Mediterranean. However, they are operating within a market that has been created by border restrictions, some of the people they help would call them ‘heroes’ and ‘freedom facilitators’ and yet they are increasingly encouraged to take risks in order to avoid arrest.

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What should a refugee look like?

Not what you expected?

In the last few months, hundreds of thousands of people have arrived in Europe seeking asylum. Most of them are coming from Syria, although the majority of people fleeing the civil conflict there have remained in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

A number of countries, including Britain, followed Germany’s example of pledging to accept tens of thousands of refugees. Other states, like Hungary, have been doing all they can to put people off coming.

The reaction from the European public has varied from thousands offering refugees their homes to arson attacks on asylum shelters.

Some people have been confused though. How do we know all these people are really refugees?

A group of young men take a selfie having landed on Lesbos

Is this what a refugee should look like?

To many people, this group of men taking a selfie having landed on Lesbos don’t look like typical refugees. Pictured in the Daily Mail, They look too well-fed, too well-dressed. Their iPads are way too charged.

Meme depicting large muscled men with text over-laid saying refugees?

This meme showing refugees as body-builders is making the rounds

A torrent of images and memes like this have flooded the web showing these men to be hulking body-builders. The problem with this meme, Vice tell us, is that these images are not actually of Syrian refugees and were not actually taken in Europe, but we’ll let that one slide.

Quite a few UK public figures have been asking the same question. In his column for the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens asked “You really think these crowds of tough young men chanting ‘Germany!’ in the heart of Budapest are ‘asylum-seekers’ or refugees’?

Boris Johnson commented in the Telegraph that the crowds of people trying to enter Germany “seem to be composed overwhelmingly of young, able-bodied men.”

The suggestion these two columnists are making is that these tough young men are not in fact refugees at all: They are economic migrants, attempting to slip illegally into Europe among the genuine refugees. They are not, the argument goes, fleeing war and persecution but simply looking for a more prosperous future. Basically – young strapping lads who want better jobs, not  refugees with rights to asylum,

That’s quite a big conclusion to draw from just looking at people. But looks can be deceiving.

How do we know a refugee when we see one? If these guys aren’t real refugees, then who is?

What does a refugee look like?

A refugee is a specific legal category, defined by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention as someone who:

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

Type ‘refugee’ into Google images and you won’t be too surprised by what comes up. The people in the pictures are mostly women and children, shabbily dressed, and often quite dusty. These are the kinds of images we are used to seeing when we hear about refugees.

Refugees leaving Kosovo

Refugees from Kosovo.

This is why it is, to be fair, quite confusing when we see pictures like the well-built well-dressed young men taking a selfie with an iPad. They don’t seem too badly off…

However, young men are in very specific kinds of danger in a war zone. Military service of up to three years is mandatory for Syrians men aged 18.

Whether those who receive the draft do not support the regime or fear what will happen to them if captured by rebels, many have chosen to flee rather than stay and kill or be killed.

Four years into the civil war, these defections have left the Assad regime facing a manpower shortage, which only leads to further mandatory conscription, where the newly drafted can expect to be shipped to the front lines with little training.

Sanjayan Srikanthan, director of humanitarian policy at the International Rescue Committee told Buzzfeed : “There’s a common fear of being conscripted into fighting, regardless of which side that’s driving people to flee.”

Of course it’s not just about conscription. This all comes on top of the barrel-bombing and airstrikes which Syrian civilians, men and women, rich and poor, young and old, have found themselves in the middle of, and which have left many Syrian towns and cities completely destroyed.

Strapping young lads, or fighting-age men as they are sometimes referred to, might not look like stereotypical helpless refugees. But it is precisely because they are young, fit and male that they face conscription. This, on top of barrel-bombing or fear of the police, is why they choose to leave.

We cannot know who is a real refugee and who isn’t just by looking at them. You do not have to look helpless in order to be in need of help.

But should we be focusing so hard on who is and isn’t a refugee in the first place?

High profile players like Al Jazeera and UNHCR have led the way in insisting that the thousands of people arriving in Europe are refugees and not migrants.

UNHCR poster "Refugee or Migrant (C) Andrew McConnell

The UNHCR was among the leading organisations against using the word migrant

The argument behind this was that the word migrant had become a dehumanising label that allowed governments to keep people out rather than let them in.

The groundswell that followed of European citizens insisting their leaders take their fair share of refugees was proof of how powerful a difference the word refugee made.

However, insisting that we call them refugees did not solve the primary problem of migrants being dehumanised.

On the contrary, it has given politicians and the media a licence to distinguish between crowds of people to pinpoint who was worthy of Europe’s help (the refugees) and who was not (tough young male migrants who were supposedly only posing as refugees).

Is this what happens when we start talking about two different kinds of people? In practice, the difference between a migrant and a refugee is often barely recognisable: Both are leaving intolerable situations.

What does a refugee look like? Explained: Anyone can find themselves in a situation where they have to seek asylum from war or persecution. We are used to picturing refugees as poor and desperate women and children, but war puts young able-bodied men in specific kinds of danger, like being drafted into the army of a regime they no longer support. However – this exercise of sorting between who is and isn’t a refugee can be dangerous. This is because it suggests that refugees’ lives are worth more than those of migrants.  

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A Theory that Proves the UK Immigration Debate is Rigged

The UK government promised to lower immigration levels to the tens of thousands. They are nowhere near meeting this target; do they really want immigration to drop?

By Bobbie Mills

All I hear is Immigration

Immigration is up there with the NHS and the economy as the issue which most worries Britain’s electorate. When politicians start on their immigration spiel, what we hear are numbers, numbers, numbers.

The Labour Party are all for tea and immigration controls

The Labour Party are all for tea and immigration controls

One number in particular keeps coming up: Net migration figures. This is the total number of people coming in to the country minus the total number of people going out.

If 100 people come in and 99 go out, net migration is 1.

If 1 person comes in and 0 go out, net migration is 1.

This figure includes people coming or going for more than a year for reasons of: work, study, joining family and seeking asylum. This means we are counting a very mixed bag of people –including students, children who arrive as dependents, senior managers transferring to their company’s London branch, and asylum seekers who cannot work while they await a decision on their refugee status.

The most recent statistics show net migration in the UK to be at 330,000.

This figure is enormously greater than Cameron’s pledged reduction of net migration to the tens of thousands. The Conservative government have since renewed their commitment to reducing net migration to these levels, but literally no one believes this is possible. Fail!

Why is the government failing so monumentally at meeting this target? Why do we want so badly to reduce immigration in the first place? Is it really such a good idea?

There is one simple answer to these questions: Not everyone wants to reduce immigration – INCLUDING THE GOVERNMENT.

Yes. We’ll say it again – the UK Conservative government, and pretty much any rich democratic state, does NOT want to reduce immigration by anywhere near the amount it says it does.

Cameron’s government could not be clearer in what it says about immigration: the current rate is too much and must be reduced. We know, however, that there is often a difference between what politicians say and what they mean.

Behind the scenes, the government is being pulled in two different directions on the subject of immigration.

tug of war, falling over, immigration debate

Which way will the government fall when it comes to immigration?

This is because there is a great demand for immigration (both high-skilled and low-skilled) from the business sector. Rich economies like the UK rely on immigration to function properly. This not only goes for the National Health Service but also for processing plants, hotel cleaning, public transport and food processing, the list goes on.

The government has great interest both in keeping the economy moving and keeping the business sector happy. Therefore, it has great interest in allowing immigration at a reasonable level.

It’s business time

Business wants immigration. Lord Business from the Lego MovieWhy does the business sector favour higher levels of immigration? Business leaders tend to favour the free movement of highly-skilled workers because this allows them to take their pick from a wider pool of talented people. No surprises there.

Business leaders also tend to favour the freer movement of low-skilled workers because these people are more likely to take the jobs that British nationals simply do not want to do.

There are certain jobs that most Brits will not do because the education and aspirations that come with living in a rich economy mean they tend to want well-paid and fulfilling jobs which are seen as better than manual jobs. Even if we don’t want jobs from the top of the pile, we still have an idea of acceptable working hours, acceptable pay, and an idea of our rights.

Migrants, like everyone else, also have education and aspirations for decent jobs and a decent life – and this is why they decide to leave their country where they see few opportunities to come to work in a rich economy. Those who come to Britain, rather than another country, do so because they speak English (which all politicians agree they should do) or because they already have friends or family living there.

Not only are migrants more likely to take jobs that Brits do not want;  migrants are also much more easily exploited than British nationals. This is because their visas are conditional on them remaining with a particular employer. If they quit their job because, say, their wages are being withheld, they automatically become illegal immigrants. Therefore, even if there were plenty of British nationals who wanted to do the hard and poorly-paid work typically done by migrants – like picking vegetables and cleaning toilets – employers would still prefer to employ migrants because they are cannot quit. They are a captive and exploited workforce, unlikely to complain.

This is the harsh reality of why the business sector prefers higher levels of immigration. Because the government needs to keep the economy growing and to keep business happy, it has great interest in allowing immigration at a reasonable level. This is why the government does not want to reduce immigration as much as it says it does, and why in many ways it does not want to meet its net migration target.

The UK government cannot meet its target

On top of this, there are reasons why the UK government cannot meet its target. All liberal democratic governments (who are committed to freedom, equality and human rights) are under a number of obligations under international law to guarantee human rights.

The UK is bound by the UN Convention on Refugees which requires it to provide shelter to people fleeing war and persecution.

The UK has passed the Human Rights Act, which brings its law into line with the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8 of which guarantees the right to a family life.

This means that the government cannot really control the number of people who settle in Britain as refugees or through family reunification. Neither can it control the number of people arriving, settling or leaving from within the European Union, owing to the terms of its membership of the EU.

Let’s combine the business stuff with the human rights stuff. There are big reasons why the government cannot meet its target on reducing net migration – because this would be going against a whole bunch of human rights conventions. Then there are equally important reasons why the government does not want to meet its target. Not only would this displease powerful business leaders, it would also be a very bad move for the British economy, which relies on migrants workers both highly- and low- skilled.

How come the government appears to be slavishly trying to reduce immigration, then?

Again, there is a simple answer to this: the government wants your vote, and it thinks that what you want are fewer immigrants in the country. So long as the government believes that the electorate is opposed to immigration, it will do all it can to at least appear to be reducing immigration by any means possible, regardless of how many it actually wants to let in.

This is where the targets come in – nothing sends a strong message of a government’s intentions like a solid target for reducing immigration.

Everything this article has explained so far is what fancy-pants people call the ‘liberal constraint theory’. Governments tend to have good reason to want to keep immigration at a good level, but because public opinion tends to be anti-immigration, they have to keep up a tough-on-immigration rhetoric to win votes. Any government who wants to win votes, keep the business sector happy, and uphold international obligations finds itself in this tricky situation. So that goes for basically any liberal democratic government ever, it’s not just a UK thing, it’s not even a left- or right-wing thing.

Is Britain as anti-immigration as we think?

There’s a loose end to this theory. Does public opinion always tend to be anti-immigration?

It’s not even that clear what the British public actually think about immigration – and we seem to be obsessed with talking about it!

The British Social Attitudes Survey  found in 2011 that 77% of the public wish to see immigration reduced, whilst research from think tank British Future found in 2014 that the majority of the public have much more pragmatic and nuanced views, and do not necessarily wish to see it reduced. Is our government pandering to an anti-immigrant public opinion that doesn’t exist?

To be fair – the arguments surrounding the immigration debate are pretty hard to stay on top of. Every argument has a counter-argument, and it’s hard to get our thoughts straight.

Scenes of Reason have put together a graphic that shows why the immigration debate cannot be won.

Your immigration debate

EXPLORE: the UK Immigration debate which cannot be won

Why is Immigration an issue?

Politicians know that immigration is ultimately what our economy needs to keep ticking over.

Conversely, every politician feels the need to take seriously people’s legitimate worries about how their towns are changing and how their local services are faring. That makes a lot of sense: people do have genuine worries and problems. Whether these problems are genuinely caused by immigration is an important and complex part of the debate.

What should politicians make of the fact that a lot of people see immigration as a problem not so much for their local area but for Britain as a whole? This trend was found by an Ipsos Mori study:

immigration-graph-public-attitudes-01

Public Attitudes toward Immigration in the UK

What should we make of the fact that a lot of the anti-immigration feeling in Britain comes from places which have next to no immigrants living in them? This is the case in Clacton-on-Sea where UKIP member Douglas Carswell won his seat. According to the last census, less than 1 in 20 residents of Clacton were born abroad.

What makes people anti-immigrant?

What can be done?

Local level tactics. It has been proposed that rather than shouting at the government for or against the crisis, members of the public need to contact their local MP and work up rather than down. How immigration affects your town should be more of a concern than how immigration affects the entire of the UK. Whatever you think about these issues, you can contact your MP using the WriteToThem service. Now you’re decoded, there might not be an excuse.

Immigration in the UK explained: The UK government does not want to reduce immigration as much as it says it does because it knows how important immigration is for the UK economy. However, all political parties maintain tough rhetoric on reducing immigration because this is what they believe the UK electorate want to hear. Is this what you want to hear?

How do we form our views on migration? Do we care how immigration impacts the economy? Is it more about how it affects our local area? How can we know what kind of impact immigration is really having? If we have no direct experience with UK immigration, where do our views come from? Are these fears about immigration coming from the press?

Bobbie has just finished an MSc in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford. She writes on politics, the media and migration and lives in North London @MsBobbieMills

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Refugees and UK Immigration: Explained

When did the European migration crisis turn into a refugee crisis? What’s the difference, and what does it have to do with immigration?

By Bobbie Mills

Migration, what?

Whatever you think about migration, chances are you will agree that what has been happening across Europe over the past few months is a shocking mess. Over 2,500 are estimated to have died in the Mediterranean Sea since the start of 2015. Sadly, this is nothing new. The conflict in Syria mean that thousands more have judged it time to leave, adding to the 11 million already displaced in and around Syria and adding to the thousands making the journey to Europe. It would be fair to say that the situation has stepped up a bit.

If this has been going on for a while, why are we taking notice now?

In late July, a lorry strike brought Britain’s attention to a “swarm” of so-called “marauding migrants” attempting to cross through the Channel Tunnel from Calais to England.

It could be argued that calls to send in the army were a little hysterical considering that the number of migrants trying enter Britain are a fraction of those in Europe. News also came of thousands of people in Hungary demanding to get on trains to Germany. Images of bodies washed up on beaches in Turkey, especially one of a toddler, caused moral outrage and European leaders came under pressure to take in refugees.

What are the facts?

Immigration statistics on a chalkboard - Via Facebook.com

Immigration statistics… or should that be refugee statistics? Via Facebook

David Cameron announced on Monday that Britain will take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years.

Sound good?

Not compared with Germany. The German Vice Chancellor has said it can handle up to 500,000 asylum seekers every year for the next few years!

The cheeky twist to Britain’s response is that the people it will host will be transferred directly from the refugee camps established in Syria and the surrounding area.

What about all those migrants already in Europe? The upshot is Britain won’t be taking them.

The British government reckons that taking in people already in Europe will encourage yet more to pay smugglers and to make the dangerous journey. How will residents of Kent and Calais feel about this? The situation isn’t going away on its own.

Another reason given for not taking in people who are already in Europe is, basically, that not all of them deserve Britain’s help.

Responding to claims that Britain is a “fucking disgrace” for not taking its share of Europe’s asylum seekers, Boris Johnson makes one point plain and simple: not all of these people are genuine refugees – many are “migrants”.

So… refugees good… migrants bad?

 

UNHCR poster "Refugee or Migrant (C) Andrew McConnell

Choose your words with care

Hold up. What’s the difference between a “refugee” and a “migrant”?

Whether someone is considered a migrant or a refugee has massive and immediate impact on their life, and also on the countries and towns we live in.

A refugee is a specific legal category, defined by the United Nations 1951 Refugee Convention as someone who:

“owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”

A person is a refugee if they have been awarded refugee status by a state, or registered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugees are legally entitled to a set of protections and cannot be sent back to the country they have sought refuge from. Whilst awaiting a decision on their asylum application, asylum seekers are not permitted to work in the UK and may be detained to make sure they don’t disappear. Charming.

“No universally accepted meaning.”

 

‘Migrant’ is a much more wishy-washy word with no universally accepted meaning. If we go with the United Nations definition like we did for our refugee definition, their recommendations on migration statistics define an international migrant as “any person who changes his or her country of usual residence.” Simples.

Yet this is not what most people think of when they hear the word “migrants”. We tend to picture a specific type of migrant – an economic migrant. Economic migrants change their country of residence for economic reasons like work and better wages.

Britain, like most rich countries, has a never-ending debate about whether this kind of immigration is good for the country.

Some reckon that letting people come is an important part of Britain. After all migrants do jobs that most UK nationals just won’t do, like fruit and flower picking bent double for long hours. They bring skills that Britain is short of, like nursing and construction. There are also people who really value diversity. These people may also reckon that the world would be better if we were able to share its resources more evenly.

Opposing these views are people who feel that, given high levels of youth employment, if the UK is lacking skills then Brits should be being trained rather than foreigners being hired in. As well as worries about migrants taking British jobs, people also fret about non-Brits living off unemployment and housing benefit. You can’t have it both ways.

Also, some people feel that the rate of UK immigration is ‘too much, too fast’ as they feel neighbourhoods have changed rapidly.

A sideline to this debate is fears over “illegal immigrants”. These are considered to be economic migrants who have entered the country without a proper visa. People who do not have permission to reside in the UK can be detained and deported.

EXPLORE: a guide to immigration in the UK

Why does the difference between ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ even matter at a time like this?

 

Graphic showing where Syrian Refugees are going.

Calling refugee families fleeing a civil war in Syria “migrants” could be a little unfair.

A debate on the language we use to talk about people who move from country to country has blown up out of the current migrant crisis… I mean refugee crisis… or do I mean migrant and refugee crisis?

Let’s go back to the start. All the jibber-jabber began when Al Jazeera announced it would no longer use the term ‘migrants’ to describe what was going on in the Mediterranean. ‘Migrant’ – it argued – had become a dehumanising, inaccurate term, undermining the value of the lives lost at sea:

“It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.”

‘Refugee’ became the choice replacement – because the majority of the people at the borders are escaping war and persecution.

This was received really, really well. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) circulated the graphic pictured above and a change.org petition requesting the BBC to use the “correct” term for the refugee crisis gained nearly 75,000 signatures.

Here is how these groups are distinguishing migrants from refugees:

“All the prominent English language dictionaries define a migrant as someone who moves from one country to another in search of work and better living standards. A refugee, on the other hand, is defined as someone who is forced to leave their country in order to escape war and persecution.”

The difference rides on people choosing to move, and people being forced to move.

The problem: the difference between the two is not as straightforward as all these articles suggest. It’s the total opposite of straightforward. We had better do some explaining;

Who the hell do they think they are?

Refugee crisis: a sign says "Seeking asylum is a human right"?

If true, why do we demonize those attempting to get into the country?

The million dollar question: who can really tell the difference between force and choice?

Research tells us there is little difference between the people who apply for asylum and those who do not. When someone leaves their home, is it because of corruption and violence or because they’ve been unable to find work? Aren’t the two connected? If it were you would you feel you had any choice in the matter?

No one wants to undermine the troubles of people leaving Syria; some would argue we shouldn’t undermine the problems of other migrants, either.

The petitions have got one thing right, the word ‘migrant’ certainly is dehumanising. However, insisting on calling them ‘refugees’ instead does not solve the problem. This is because it accepts the worthlessness attached to the lives of ‘migrants’, arguing that ‘refugees’ are a fundamentally different kind of people who are more worthy of help and compassion.

As Professor Jørgen Carling argues:

When people drown at sea or suffocate in lorries, our first question should not be ‘so, which kind were they, refugees or migrants?’”

At Scenes of Reason, we reckon there is one thing missing from this debate: how do these people who are moving actually want to be seen? Who do they think they are, and who do they want to be?

Our media has given us the idea that everyone arriving in Europe would like to qualify as a refugee. But there are accounts (read page 66) of the shame that some people feel on becoming refugees. This is understandable – no one likes to be a burden on anyone else. Rather than the protection afforded by refugee status, some people would prefer a work permit and the opportunity to make their own way. What do you think? Beggars can’t be choosers?

Neither ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’ are perfect as labels. The resounding message from people interviewed in camps is that they are people too. So, why not just call them people?

Explore: Why are these refugees all hench lads with iPads? What should a refugee look like?

Migrants, good or bad? Are we asking the wrong question?

The refugee crisis ... explained with a Nicholas Cage gif. Sometimes there are no answers.

Nuff said.

This is a bit like the question ‘Nicolas Cage, good or bad?’ No one knows the answer because there isn’t one!!!

The debate on immigration has been going on pretty much the same way since forever. Have a read of Enoch Powell’s famous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech – delivered to a Conservative Association meeting in 1968 – to get an idea of just how much the debate in Britain has changed since then (hint: it hasn’t changed much).

It can always be argued that migration is good in some ways, bad in others. It may seem like a cop-out not to be getting down and dirty with the evidence for and against.  Yet there is so much contradictory evidence out there that we begin to wonder: are we asking the wrong question?

Migration is neither fundamentally good nor fundamentally bad. It is normal and is not going to go away. The question that needs asking is how it is managed. This involves a lot of difficulties, like concerns about integration.

However, the bottom line is:  the current ‘keep-them-out’ tactic is causing deaths.

What has this got to do with what is happening now with the refugee crisis?

Graphic outlining refugee deaths in the Mediterranean. Refugees are crossing from Syria and Iraq to Turkey.

Can you see the pattern? Via migreurop.org

Issuing key guidelines for dealing with what is happening in Europe right now, UNHCR chief António Guterres encouraged a common strategy but ultimately warned that “none of these efforts will be effective without opening up more opportunities for people to come legally to Europe”.

This involves expanding visa programmes, scholarships and all other ways to migrate legally outside of the refugee system. This, he says, will “reduce the number of those who are forced to risk their lives at sea for lack of alternative options.”

Who is right?

Boris Johnson, who says that “the first step to finding a constructive way forward” is “recognising that not all migrants are refugees”, or UNHCR chief Guterres, who reckons that solving the current crisis cannot be done without opening up borders to more legal migrants?

You decide.

Refugees Crisis Explained: the difference between “migrants” and “refugees” is not as straightforward as we think.

We’re now analysing the language we use to describe people who move from country to country. Should we have started doing that a long time ago? Should we think of the current refugee crisis as part of a much bigger, longer conversation on migration?

Bobbie has just finished an MSc in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford. She writes on politics, the media and migration and lives in North London @MsBobbieMills

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