Words Matter: Celebrities Explain Important Difference Between ‘Refugee’ And ‘Migrant’


Celebrities including Sir Patrick Stewart, Colin Firth, Cate Blanchett and Peter Capaldi have spoken out as part of a new campaign video, explaining the important differences between migrants and refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) campaign aims to highlight how the current refugee crisis has been misreported by certain sections of the world’s media, and hopes to fight prejudice.

The UNHCR says the term ‘refugee’ refers to a person fleeing persecution or war in a country where it is too dangerous for them to return to. Whereas, ‘migrant’ is used to describe people who leave their country of residence in order to find better work prospects, living conditions, to reunite with family or for access to better education.

In the new video, numerous models, actors and musicians help define that difference between the two terms.

The various celebrities come together to say:

A migrant chooses to move country, often to improve their life, for education, work, family reunification, they are free to return home. The UNHCR says it is important to make the distinction between refugee and migrants in order to promote a better understanding of the dire situation faced by the women, men and children trying to reach Europe’s shores. And if they return, they still have the protection of their government.

A refugee is running for their life. Fleeing war or persecution. They often undertake traitorous or traumatic journeys of escape. In order to find sanctuary, by land, by sea, they [refugees] can’t return home. It’s too dangerous. But they are entitled to special protection under international law. Including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into harm’s way.

The bottom line is migrants, refugees – we are all human beings. We need to treat all human beings, refugee or migrant with respect and dignity.

But meanings matter. Words matter. Your words matter.


Well said!

In total the film features actors Peter Capaldi, Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, David Morrissey, Douglas Booth, Kristin Davis, John Abraham and Patrick Stewart, singers Barbara Hendricks and Rokia Traore, writer Neil Gaiman, model Helena Christensen and comedian/TV host Craig Ferguson.

The video has been released at a particularly significant time, given the ongoing refugee crisis and, according to the UNHCR there are currently 59.5 million refugees around the world, fleeing war or persecution at home.

Several newspapers and channels have since confirmed they will stop using the term ‘migrants’, in light of the escalating refugee crisis. Beyond the media, it’s important that people around the world learn the distinctions between the two terms as well, if only to stop the constant circulation of dangerous misinformation.