The Migrant ‘Crisis’: Exploring the Basics
Migration is not so much a delicate topic as it is a complicated one. When we talk about migration we do not just talk about the migrants, but the politics, the potential living conditions, the wars, and Western Civilisation’s inability to take responsibility for the mess it creates. It is also a topic that is shrouded in so much public misunderstanding that politicians are, debatably, using it to manipulate the way in which the public vote. For these reasons I shall only be touching upon the basics of the Migrant ‘Crisis’ in this article, with my aim being to offer education those who are uneducated on the topic but may be a little embarrassed to ask about it at this point. In addition it should also be noted that I am referring to the topic of migration on a global scale, not just a national one.
Let us start with the absolute basics: definitions. When examining the Oxford English Dictionary for an appropriate definition of ‘migrant’, I found that most definitions were vague, with the best definition being ‘A person who moves permanently to live in a new country, town, etc., esp. to look for work, or to take up a post, etc.; an immigrant’. Of course, the OED’s definition is aiming to be timeless and so no specifics are given, though for the sake of this article I will be drawing specific attention to asylum seekers and refugees. As a result, let us turn our attentions to the current disclaimer placed at the bottom of most BBC articles concerning migration:
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
As you can see, the BBC’s definition is a little more politically charged and current, paying reference to countries such as Syria and terms such as ‘claiming asylum’. Here we define the term ‘asylum seeker’, which is simply somebody aiming to seek asylum (refuge) in another country. A refugee is somebody who is successful in officially seeking asylum within the laws of said country, or, in the eyes of the OED, an immigrant. Here refugees and specific migrants/immigrants become the same.
Despite this, the BBC disclaimer asserts that the term refugee covers ‘people fleeing war-torn countries’, whilst economic migrant covers ‘people who are seeking jobs and better lives’, resulting in a failure to acknowledge the crossover of the two definitions. Similarly, the issue with the term refugee is that it only applies to those from war-torn countries, which are deemed to have unliveable conditions, yet those from countries like Niger- which has many of its resources depleted, thus making conditions unliveable- cannot claim the status of refugee. The only difference between refugees and economic migrants who originate from countries with unliveable conditions is that one is fleeing war and the other fleeing from things equally as dangerous such as famine and disease. According to the disclaimer, only those from war-torn countries are ‘likely to be granted refugee status’. This makes it harder for the people of countries like Niger to legally migrate, and, as a result, illegal immigration becomes an international issue.
Illegal immigration has been a hot topic within Western Politics of late, with its presence playing a key part in campaigns relating to Brexit and other political races. It is often painted in a negative light, with newspapers such as The Sun, the journalistic equivalent to out-of-date cabbage, writing articles that start their subheading claiming ‘GOTCHA’ when referring to finding illegal immigrants trying to travel into the country. It turns the hunt for illegal immigrants into a game in which the entire nation can get in on, not looking too dissimilar to the hunt for people of Jewish heritage within Nazi Germany during WWII. Thankfully, the outcome is a little different, but according to some it has now become national pride to deny help to those that need it instead of questioning our actions.
Other countries are not handling the situation much better. Italy have made a deal with Libya to keep as many potential immigrants within Libya as possible, leading to many people making the trip illegally and dangerously without aid across the Mediterranean Sea. As a result to Italy’s refusal to accept migrants, many are now trying to make the trip to other European countries such as Spain and France. The death toll of such trips is high, as known by many who take the trip. And so, one must ask, if the living conditions of the country from which one wishes to flee are so bad that they are willing to risk their lives to escape, then should they not be classed as a refugee? Especially when the living conditions are so poor that staying there is a risk to one’s life? What is so different to migrants viewing Europe as a land of opportunity in the same light as Europe did when colonising the Americas and committing mass genocide in the process? You know, besides the fact that current migrants do not intend to commit mass genocide.
(Graph supplied by the BBC)
But, of course, the crisis here is that people want to move to countries that provide better opportunities, thus leading to slight overpopulation. It only becomes a crisis when the Western World is concerned. The crisis, truly, does not lie with the act of migration, be it legal or illegal, but with the conditions of the countries from which the migrants originate. It lies with the inhumane approach that the Western World are taking to this epidemic. Some of these potential migrants have degrees, whilst some possess the practical skills to be able to help the Western World’s current working force. And even if they do not, who are we to deny them the education to better their lives and the world? A better solution than locking them in their home countries would be to bring migrants over to the Western World, educate them on how to improve their home countries, and then allow them to return home to attempt to solve the real crises surrounding their homes. Western Governments could invest more in exchange programs that allow for educated Western students to go to a country in need of help for a few years whilst a migrant studied, for example, medicine in the Western World. Solutions are present around every corner, yet Governments seem more occupied with keeping those that need help out of the country.
However, as mentioned earlier in the article, migration is a complicated topic. I wish it was as simple as allowing all potential immigrants to migrate into a better life. There is the matter of finding housing for migrants, teaching them the appropriate languages to communicate within the countries they migrate to, and a few other issues. The worry of overpopulation is a legitimate concern, especially with people emigrating from countries like India in part due to overpopulation. As a result, it is simply my request for you to take into serious consideration the implications of the terms such as ‘migrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ in the future, especially when used by tabloid newspapers and politicians. Migration is no new concept to humanity, though recently it has been dragged into the limelight and labelled as an issue and a crisis. Perhaps if the Western World spent a little more time dedicating help to migrants and the countries from which they come instead of trying to tighten borders and hire more coastguards to keep migrants out of their countries then we may reach a solution sooner rather than later.