From the New York Times to Yahoo News to local media outlets, the millions of Syrians fleeing their homeland are typically referred to as ‘migrants’. The word migrant has a fairly neutral connotation and usually refers to voluntary immigrants who move to a new nation for work or education or family reasons. The key here is voluntary.
The people fleeing Syria aren’t doing so for any of the fairly tame reasons attributed to migrants. They are literally fleeing for their lives from the armies of President Assad, the terrorism of ISIS and the bombing attacks from the US and our allies. They are truly for all intents and purposes, refugees.
And refugees present a whole different picture in the minds of the rest of the world. It contains the awareness of terror, desperation and foreboding that is the lot of those fleeing Syria.
Why has the media across the board chosen migrants over refugees? It totally saps the emergency status from the situation and increases the risks and desperation involved for these displaced peoples.
diaspora: the movement, migration, or scattering of a people away from an established or ancestral homeland
migrant: a person who goes from one place to another especially to find work
refugee: someone who has been forced to leave a country because of war or for religious or political reasons