What can you do?

1. Understand the issue and respect the disagreement

We should all respect what the point of contention is: some stakeholders want ‘migrants’ to be an inclusive term, others want it to cover only those who are not refugees. Distorting this disagreement as a matter of correctness, ignorance or xenophobia is unhelpful.

The downloadable one-page overview puts the issue clearly on display.

meaningofmigrants.org is based on the view that an inclusivist definition of migrants is the best starting point for respecting the rights of individuals and developing sound policies for all. There are several additional things you can do in support of this position.

2. Always use the important ‘other’

The inclusive definition of migrants is being undermined by the ever-more frequent use of ‘refugees and migrants’. This is not a neutral term, but one that implies that refugees are not migrants. When you refer to people on the move and want to emphasize that some of them are refugees, use ‘refugees and other migrants’. You could also say ‘migrants, including refugees’.


3. Don’t make ‘migrant’ a deadly label

Using ‘migrant’ to mean ‘not a refugee’ means making it a potentially deadly label. You cannot tell from a person’s nationality or skin colour if they are crossing borders because they are fleeing persecution. Every migrant is potentially a refugee, and our use of ‘migrant’ should always reflect that possibility.


4. Stand up for the specific rights of specific migrants

Every migrant is a unique person. While all are protected by human rights, some migrants have specific vulnerabilities and enjoy particular rights because of who they are or what they have experienced. Children, trafficking victims, and refugees are especially important in this respect. The use of ‘migrants’ as a label for all should go hand in hand with recognizing and protecting the rights of specific groups.


You can explore further readings on the multi-faceted nature on contemporary migration and the importance of the categories that we use.