Al Jazeera’s position on the use of refugee vs. migrant


“There are refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and there are about 4 million from Syria…So he’s a ‘refugee’ in Turkey and a ‘migrant’ in Europe? It doesn’t make sense.”

Salah Negm, the director of news at Al Jazeera English, explains why the channel made the editorial decision to scrap the term ‘‪‎migrant‬’ in its coverage of the ‪refugee‬ crisis in Europe.

Plus, we speak to our field correspondents Jonah Hull and Charles Stratford about whether this change in terminology affects their reporting on the ground.


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  1. I am proud to say that I've been using the word, refugee, since the beginning of this disaster. I'm glad to see that Al Jazeera has caught up. Now, we've got to convince the rest of the world to do the same.

  2. It is vitally important for an adequate and humanitarian response to the refugee crisis that refugees are held distinct from economic migrants. If that distinction is not made then nations lose all sovereignty over their borders, nation-states will feel threatened and there will be a general loss of popular support for refugee assistance.

    Yes, refugees are principally after refuge. If so, why do so many insist on migrating through safe havens such as France to end-points in the UK? Why pass through Hungary to Germany? Why pass through Malaysia or Indonesia to Australia?

    As difficult as it is for these people, it should be acknowledged that refuge from war and persecution is not their only objective. There is some element of economic migration that causes them to move on from a refuge in a moderately wealthy country to refuge in the most wealthy country.

    It is in managing this economic migration component of refugee movement that the UN Refugee Convention is broken.

  3. This is an excellent decision! The bigoted, self-absorbed citizens of a destination nation feel they have much more latitude when abusing migrants than they would if the travelers were referred to as refugees. This is a responsible and virtuous call, and once again shows the power of words.

  4. It is a matter of motivation, those in the countries surrounding Syria should be considered refugees because their motivation is to seek refuge from Syria, they simply wish to survive. Yet those who migrate into and across Europe for a better life should be considered migrants. Calling those crossing from Serbia to Hungary "refugees" implies that they are still in mortal peril while in Serbia.

  5. They are people in need. Where are all the charities? ICRC..MSF…etc…the politicians are still away on their summer holidays, so nothing much will be done till September either way.

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