Refugee Advocacy and the Meaning of ‘Migrants’

Policy brief

Carling, Jørgen (2017) Refugee Advocacy and the Meaning of ‘Migrants’, PRIO Policy Brief, 2. Oslo: PRIO.

There is a universally accepted legal definition of ‘refugees’ but no corresponding key to the meaning of ‘migrants’. The United Nations traditionally regards everyone who changes their place of residence to another country as an international migrant. But ‘migrant’ is increasingly used in a different way, as a contrast to ‘refugees’. Although this usage is promoted in the context of refugee advocacy, it carries the risk of undermining access to protection for those who may need it. Migration dynamics are challenging to understand and manage, and redefining the meaning of ‘migrants’ is a counterproductive move.

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