Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A necessary clarification:

I am a migrant.

I have a home country, one that I am free to return to. I can and do maintain my citizenship and ties to my homeland while living my life in a different country.

I have come to this country of my own free will, and do so because of the opportunity my adoptive country presents my family. My country of residence is not obligated to take me in, and I am not obliged to come, but we have found it mutually advantageous for me to come and live here and we have made a legal agreement signified by the Visa stamp that is in my passport.

Living here, I have certain rights, and certain obligations to my new home. If I fail to abide by the laws of the land or the terms of the agreement, I can be fined or otherwise punished and/or deported.

This is ok. As a migrant I am voluntarily leaving my home country and coming to my new one in order to OBTAIN something.

Some illegal immigrants are also migrants. They don't have an agreement, and are obviously breaking at least one law of the land, but they still have rights, and they still have obligations to their host country.

I am NOT a refugee

This distinction is essential.

Refugees are not coming to new countries to get a better job, explore a culture they're interested in, or otherwise obtain something they want for themselves or their families.

They are ESCAPING.

When a person faces the threat of violence, oppression, or death -from political, criminal, or natural threats- in their home country and leaves that country to escape that threat, they are not a migrant, they are a refugee, and they are entitled to protection under international law.

They have a special status as seekers of asylum, and any law-abiding member of the modern international community that we live in has special obligations to them and their safety.

Refugees have these rights whether they enter a country legally or not, and any nation that wishes to call itself civilized is obligated to welcome and protect refugees, at least temporarily until they can helped to find a place where they will be able to live free of whatever threat drove them from their home.

Europe is not facing a migrant crisis. Do not use the word migrant. The people who are fleeing their homes and risking death a hundred different ways to make it to a place that can provide them safety aren't doing it because they'll have more money if they happen to survive. They aren't paying whatever they can to smugglers who take advantage of them and their desperation so they can explore a new culture, or start an interesting new career.

They are fleeing torture, oppression, and murder. They have decided that it is better to risk dying on the way to safety than to stay and risk dying every day that they do.

And the western governments, who hem and haw and try to use the word "migrant" instead of correctly calling these people refugees do so intentionally.

They know that to acknowledge them and their status as seekers of asylum would force them to accept their responsibilities to these people under international law. Or break those laws and do so as a blatant act of selfish xenophobia.

Choosing to play bureaucratic semantics in an effort to obscure your inhumane and illegal policies? That is the very face of evil to me.

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