facebook 32x32 twitter 32x32 youtube 32x32 rss 32x32

  • SSSA2

stwanditscrticsmod

c2cmod

Latest News & Comment

West's guilt for refugees fleeing war can't be washed away by calling them migrants

The UN says the overwhelming majority of people fleeing are refugees from wars in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and beyond.


IMAGINE waking your children in the morning. Imagine feeding and dressing them. Imagine pulling a little girl's hair into a ponytail, arguing with a little boy about which pair of shoes he wants to wear.

Now imagine, as you are doing that, you know later today you will strap their vulnerable bodies into enveloping life jackets and take them with you in a rubber dinghy - through waters that have claimed many who have done the same.

Think of the story you'd have to tell to reassure them. Think of trying to make it fun. Consider the emotional strength needed to smile at them and conceal your fear.

Imagine waking your children in the morning. Imagine feeding and dressing them. Imagine pulling a little girl's hair into a ponytail, arguing with a little boy about which pair of shoes he wants to wear.

Now imagine, as you are doing that, you know later today you will strap their vulnerable bodies into enveloping life jackets and take them with you in a rubber dinghy - through waters that have claimed many who have done the same.

Think of the story you'd have to tell to reassure them. Think of trying to make it fun. Consider the emotional strength needed to smile at them and conceal your fear.

According to the UN, the overwhelming majority of these people are escaping war. The largest group are fleeing Syria, a country in which an estimated 220,000 to more than 300,000 people have been killed during its appalling and escalating war.

Many others come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia – all places from which people are commonly given asylum.

There is no "migrant" crisis in the Mediterranean. There is a very large number of refugees fleeing unimaginable misery and danger and a smaller number of people trying to escape the sort of poverty that drives some to desperation.

So far this year, nearly 340,000 people in these circumstances have crossed Europe's borders. A large number, for sure, but still only 0.045 percent of Europe's total population of 740 million.

Contrast that with Turkey, which hosts 1.8 million refugees from Syria alone. Lebanon, in which there are more than one million Syrians. Even Iraq, struggling with a war of its own, is home to more than 200,000 people who have fled its neighbour.

There are no easy answers and taking in refugees is a difficult challenge for any country but, to find solutions, an honest conversation is necessary.

And much of that conversation is shaped by the media.

For reasons of accuracy, the director of news at Al Jazeera English, Salah Negm, has decided that we will no longer use the word migrant in this context. We will instead, where appropriate, say refugee.

At this network, we try hard through our journalism to be the voice of those people in our world who – for whatever reason – find themselves without one.

Migrant is a word that strips suffering people of voice. Substituting it for refugee is – in the smallest way – an attempt to give some back.

Source: Al Jazeera