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Why is migrant a fearful word today?

Italy, Greece and now perhaps, Poland have voiced concerns about whether “the new system “would prove workable, with some States refusal to host migrants.

2 mins read
Representational Image - A boat in the Strait of Gibraltar carrying migrants who were rescued on September 8, 2018 [ Photo © AFP ]

We hear the repeated use of “Boat people” invading the shores of UK. Countries all over Europe are putting up barriers against migrants. Poland’s former Prime Minister. Mateusz Morawiecki had warned at the beginning of December 2023 and said: “We were very open to war refugees from Ukraine when the need was there…… but this is a very much different from the huge [amounts] of Muslim migrants from the Middle East who are coming to Germany and France and other countries and who want to change the culture of those countries, those nations. I am clearly opposed to such attempts. I don’t want my Polish culture to be destroyed by Muslim migrants coming from the Middle East or from Africa”.

How the EU responded within days?

It was on 20 December 2023 that the European Union agreed on new rules to handle “irregular arrivals” of migrants, sometimes called “asylum seekers”. This was after Britain passed a first reading of a Bill to deport refugee arrivals, many of them called “boat people” to Ruanda, after the High Court had ruled that Ruanda was not a safe country to send these migrants.

After a decade of bitter feud on this issue, the EU has wanted to tighten external borders and its asylum law. “Each EU country would be assigned a share of the 30,000 people overall the bloc is expected to accommodate, based on the size of the country’s GDP and population, the number of irregular border crossings, including via sea rescue operations. This agreement would introduce a new expedited border procedure for those deemed unlikely to win asylum and to prevent them from lingering inside the EU for years. Their claims will be dealt with within a maximum of 12 weeks will be returned and if rejected they will be returned to their home countries”.

Italy, Greece and now perhaps, Poland have voiced concerns about whether “the new system “would prove workable, with some States refusal to host migrants. This Pact is to be implemented from 2024 and will take two (2) years to fully take effect.

What really is the distinction between a “refugee and a Migrant”?

The distinction between a “refugee” and a “migrant” has been hotly contested particularly in United Kingdom as well as the European Union. This is particularly since the arrival of boat loads across the English Channel and from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece. The figures speak louder than words, some 2 million individuals at EU borders since 2015, and over 250,000 to UK over the recent past. This is an unacceptable situation for each of the Governments,

Technically, refugee status has a discrete legal meaning that usually stems from the 1951 Refugee Convention. It is available only to individuals who can prove they fled their origin country due to “a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Receiving refugee status can be a long winding, long winded, and a complicated procedure that involves extended processing through lawyers, law courts, agencies, such as the British Refugee Council, the UNHCR, or the office called the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) or even through a national government such as in the United States, as in the case of the “vulnerable migrants” or people needing protection and assistance, even if they are not refugees as seen in the recently accepted 76,000 Taliban vulnerable migrants working for the US in Afghanistan,  or refugee for even victims of trafficking by IOM.  

Man’s desire for human movement since civilisation

There is also the hunger dimension of human movement, besides the forced and voluntary migration. In the US they are termed in US Immigration Law as either “aliens” as opposed to citizens, or some called as “evacuees”.  

Now with Climate Change there is the further use of climate migration.

Besides, with the constraints of the cost of living, governments are being forced to restrict migration, but at the same time governments are allowing specialised labour to replenish any shortage of the workforce in their countries.

It is anybody’s guess that the movement of the people of the world in search of work can be completely eradicated. Perhaps, much can still be done to control and eradicate human trafficking by corrupt gangs who thrive on sex trafficking and the accompanying misery.

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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