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Watch Patrick Stewart, Cate Blanchett, And More In U.N. Video “Refugee Or Migrant? #WordsMatter”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), uploaded a video titled “Refugee or Migrant? #WordsMatter ,Say Our High Profile Supporters” to explain the difference between these two terms and their implications.

The video features Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, David Morrissey, Douglas Booth, Kristin Davis, John Abraham, Sir Patrick Stewart, Barbara Hendricks, Rokia Traore, Neil Gaiman, Helena Christensen, and Craig Ferguson defining ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant.’ The UNHCR goes into more detail in this accompanying article, noting that while these terms are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings that are essential to understand. This passage explains the issue well:

Politics has a way of intervening in such debates. Conflating refugees and migrants can have serious consequences for the lives and safety of refugees. Blurring the two terms takes attention away from the specific legal protections refugees require. It can undermine public support for refugees and the institution of asylum at a time when more refugees need such protection than ever before. We need to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. We need to ensure that the human rights of migrants are respected. At the same time, we also need to provide an appropriate legal response for refugees, because of their particular predicament.

As we continue reading news about the refugee crisis, it’s important to understand how word choices can frame narratives. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver similarly talked about the use of language in discussing the crisis, from David Cameron describing them as a “swarm,” news channels talking about “potential terrorists,” and general hostility. As the UNHCR supporters say (again for those in the back):

We need to treat all human beings, refugee or migrant, with respect and dignity. But, meanings matter. Words matter. Your words matter.

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