Why Al Jazeera will not say Mediterranean ‘migrants’

 

The whole piece is powerfully written and well worth reading (h/t Craig Valters)refugees 1

“The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean. It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative.

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.

It already feels like we are putting a value on the word. Migrant deaths are not worth as much to the media as the deaths of others – which means that their lives are not. Drowning disasters drop further and further down news bulletins. We rarely talk about the dead as individuals anymore. They are numbers.

refugees 3There 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.”

Barry Malone is an online editor at Al Jazeera. Twitter :  @malonebarry

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