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Why use of the word "migrant" is probably wrong

In a piece "Why Al Jazeera stopped using the word migrant (and we probably should too)"  in The Independent, the paper explains how the Qatar-based newspaper came to determine to not use the term "migrant" in its reporting.

"In a post on Al Jazeera's website on Thursday, the news organisation said that it would no longer use the word 'migrant' to refer to people trying to cross the Mediterranean.

"The word migrant has become a largely inaccurate umbrella term for this complex story," online editor Barry Malone wrote.

The UN says that the majority of people drowning trying to get to Europe are escaping war and persecution in their home countries of Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and Somalia, and they should be recognised as valid candidates for asylum.

Malone was one of the first people to tweet a picture by German photojournalist Daniel Etter of a Syrian family arriving in Greece last week, which subsequently went viral:




In the article, Malone wrote that the word 'migrant' "has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative" and from now on Al Jazeera will use the words 'people', 'families' and 'refugees'.

It is not hundreds of people who drown when a boat goes down in the Mediterranean, nor even hundreds of refugees. It is hundreds of migrants. It is not a person – like you, filled with thoughts and history and hopes – who is on the tracks delaying a train. It is a migrant. A nuisance.

Pointing out Al Jazeera's mandate to give a voice to people in the world who don't have one, Malone wrote that the editorial team has decided to stop using the word 'migrant' altogether.

When we in the media do this, we help to create an environment in which a British foreign minister can refer to "marauding migrants," and in which hate speech and thinly veiled racism can fester.

We become the enablers of governments who have political reasons for not calling those drowning in the Mediterranean what the majority of them are: refugees.



 

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