“Wealth is now defined, at least in part, by the ability to be offline whenever you want” Fernando Gros.
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Blog // Thoughts
September 4, 2015

We Should Stop Using The Word Migrant

As I write, we are experiencing an increasingly global crisis, with more and more people fleeing a number of long term, seemingly unresolvable conflicts and struggles. Some countries want to respond by building bigger walls and confronting people back on the high seas, others are seeking more inclusive and humane responses. However, one thing seems […]

As I write, we are experiencing an increasingly global crisis, with more and more people fleeing a number of long term, seemingly unresolvable conflicts and struggles. Some countries want to respond by building bigger walls and confronting people back on the high seas, others are seeking more inclusive and humane responses.

However, one thing seems to be universal; the thoughtless use of the word “migrant.” It’s a vacant, hollow word, describing little more than a person’s geographical status (moving from one place to another). It flattens a complex, challenging, and long running story of human movement. It’s like pointing to a CEO and an artist and saying, “they’re both just workers.”

There Are Better Words Than Migrant

We should stop using the word “migrant.” It is almost never the best, or most accurate description of someone’s life, struggles & choices. Words like immigrant, refugee, emigre, asylum seeker, expatriate, exile, settler are all more precise, more helpful ways of describing a person’s choice to migrate and the motivations behind that choice.

People migrate because something is broken in their world. It’s easy to forget this, if the only word we use describes the act of moving, rather than the reasons for moving. When we look past the transaction, the act of moving, to the motivations behind it; to live safely, to seek a better career, education or level of personal freedom, to provide a higher quality of life for your family, we see aspirations and dreams we can all identify and sympathise with. We may not all have moved country in our lives, but we desire security, comfort and well-being for ourselves and the ones we love.

We Are The Words We Use

Naturally people fleeing war, famine, and poverty will head towards countries they perceive as safe and wealthy. This is nothing new and frankly any of us, in similar circumstances would be the same. How we respond to these people will say a lot about what we believe and the world we want to live in. If being civilised means anything, it means using language in the service of the greater good. Whatever choices we make, we do the whole of humanity a service by describing what we see in the clearest and most accurate language we can. Therefore, the word migrant, has no place in the conversation.

Responses
Christopher Coxc 5 years ago

Well said, Fernando.

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