*warning* The following contains far too many CAPS LOCK words for passionate emphasis.
I sit at my computer in a rare moment of peace – after work and before my son arrives home with his constant energy and need to connect. Outside the sun is shining the trees near our balcony sway in the breeze. I have come home from a day’s work and enjoy this moment of silence. My son is happy, healthy, and starting school in a few weeks. My (German) husband has a secure freelance career (well, as secure as freelance can be :)) and more importantly, our home is not under threat. We are safe. We do not fear for our lives on a daily basis.
On the computer I read stories of war and persecution. Of people driven to leave their countries due to war and terror and rampant violence. People who risk their lives, often in cramped boats across the mediterranean to reach western European shores in the hope – not of a better life, but merely of a SAFE life.
On the computer are also stories of ‘migrants’ trying to cross from Calais to the UK, or ‘illegal migrants’ drowning in boats offshore. And I frown. Migrants? I am a migrant. I chose to leave my country and move across the other side of the world. Why? Many reasons. Adventure, love, career, friends, boredom. Not one of my reasons included war. Terror. Fear of death or persecution in my home country. I did not flee – I chose to leave, knowing full well that if it didn’t work out, or just if I didn’t like it, I could go back. I liked it, it worked out, so I stayed. That my friends, is a migrant. A migrant has a CHOICE.
These people – these people who risk their lives and pay the last of their money to dodgy smugglers – these people do not have a choice. They are not coming (as some politicians would have us believe) to sponge off the system and a cushy social welfare system (anyone who has tried to live on welfare will tell you it in anything but cushy). These people are terrified. They are afraid. These people in their home countries are being bombed, and beheaded, and thrown in prison (or from roofs) for being the wrong kind of people – in their own countries. These people do not have a choice. These people risk life and limb, and yes, sometimes those of their children – to simply survive. You do not do that if you have another choice. You do not do that on a whim or simply because seek adventure or a better career. And therefore – my friends – these people ARE NOT migrants. They are asylum seekers. They are refugees. They are people who have fled war and bloodshed and a life we have thankfully never known, because we are safe and secure in our priveleged, war-free world. They are people who have left behind everything they know in order to simply survive and perhaps live to see their children grow to adulthood, if they’re lucky. Who among us has experienced what they have experienced? Who among us have been in fear of our lives every day, day after day after day? Who among us has lived in a country torn apart by war? These are people who deserve our compassion and our respect. Would you deny them that?
The media, many politicians and even some of my friends constantly refer to these people as migrants. This makes me angry. I am a migrant, and I understand exactly how priveleged I am compared to these poor unfortunates. I chose to come here. They do not have a choice, apart from the choice to stay in their own countries and die. And watch their children die. They are fleeing, escaping terrors the likes of which I (thankfully) have never known. Their only hope to survive is to get out. This makes them not migrants but seekers of asylum – seekers of a safe place. If they are granted this status, they become refugees – people who have been granted refuge. They were never migrants. They will never BE migrants.
I am a migrant, I know the difference.