Refugee or Migrant? Sometimes the Line is Blurred

When it comes to children who cross international borders without papers, there’s no easy answer

By Dr. Parvati Nair, Director of the United Nations University Institute on Globalization, Culture and Mobility

A dozen years before the influx of refugees and migrants to Europe’s shores would force policymakers to take heed, Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 docudrama In this World brought the inside story of international migration to the big screen.

In charting the risky, clandestine journey to Europe of two Afghans — the teenage Jamal and 30-something Ineyatullah from the Shamshatoo Refugee Camp in Pakistan’s northwest — the film demonstrates the simple but not uncontroversial truth: Jamal and Ineyatullah are at once refugees and migrants.

Like so many immigrants, they simply seek a better life, one of freedom, opportunity and dignity. At the same time, these Afghans are also refugees — people displaced by conflict and poverty — seeking a better life.

From languishing in Peshawar and nearly suffocating in the back of a truck during the crossing into Europe, to working without papers in London, their story is one of displacement, struggle and marginalisation.

It’s also a story of the economic and political borders that fence people in. Transcending these invisible frontiers requires taking inordinate risks. For Ineyatullah, doing so cost his life.

Jamal’s tale has a happier ending: after applying for asylum in England, he was adopted by a British family who’d seen Winterbottom’s film, finally giving the boy a place to call home.
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Comments (1)
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hmmm... great article