For those of you who haven’t seen the news lately…or haven’t visited news sites that carry such news…the French government is tearing down a refugee camp in Calais and moving its residents to other facilities in France. Many of the residents are upset because they would like to reach Great Britain and feel that being moved from Calais will make that move more difficult. This despite the fact that the camp is described as a squalid jungle. So there has been some rioting and violence.
I don’t know what we can do about it directly but there is something about they way it is being reported in much of the America press the really bothers me. As we’ve seen in this campaign, words matter. And NPR and other outlets have repeatedly called the residents of these camps: migrants.
They aren’t migrants. Migrants follow the crops and harvest them. Migrants move from their home to a new home to find work. Migrants came to America to find a better life. Migrants settled the west and the plains by moving from the east. Migrants moved from the rural south to the north and Midwest to find factory jobs. Migrants abandoned the dust bowl and moved to California in the depression. Those are migrants.
The people in France are refugees. They have been violently driven from their homes by war. I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of that. They have left behind everything they knew for the unknown to literally keep from being killed.
This is an important distinction and I don’t know why the media is trying to soft pedal this by using the term migrant. As I said NPR has used the term migrant the past two days. Good Morning America got it right in a title: “France Begins Removing Thousands From Squalid ‘Jungle’ Refugee Camp“, but used migrant in the story a time or two. And the Associated Press uses migrants: “France moving more than 6,000 migrants, destroying huge camp” (an article reprinted in the October 26, 2016 print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where the subheading read: “Thousands of migrants still await relocation”).
I won’t go on with other examples…but it is really important that we use refugees…it denotes their existence and their presence resulting from violence, an involuntary movement from their former homes. The label migrant makes it sound voluntary and implies less urgency for their situation.
Let’s call refugees…refugees.