Mind your language

Think ‘migrant’ is an insult? ‘Refugee’ can be too

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

Al Jazeera, the Qatari broadcaster, is going to use refugee instead of migrant in its English output. ‘The umbrella term migrant is no longer fit for purpose when it comes to describing the horror unfolding in the Mediterranean,’ one of its editors explained. ‘It has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative.’

Doubts about terminology are not new. ‘Please don’t speak of those arriving in Australia from Britain as immigrants,’ wrote the Sydney Daily Mail in 1922. ‘Call them rather migrants, because to go from Britain to Australia is only to pass from one part of Great Britain to another.’ Perhaps.


It is not easy to know whether migrants enjoy more dignity when they pay, or when they’re paid for. In the 19th century, bounty immigrants to Australia had their passage paid by the colonial government, a bounty going to agents for skilled labour. In 1841, bounty of £4,956 was claimed by A.B. Smith & Co. of Sydney for safe arrival in the ship England of 345 immigrants. Their general conduct on the voyage had been ‘orderly and obedient’. At sea, seven were born and 18 died.

The dear old Australians managed to turn refugee into a pejorative term, in the diminutive form reffo. There are references in the 1950s to ‘Dagoes and Balts and reffos, the New Australians, who were taking over the country’. A century earlier, George Eliot had a character in Daniel Deronda talk of ‘a Pole, or a Czech, or something of that fermenting sort, in a state of political refugeeism’.

Any word can become bedraggled with use. Refugee was first applied to Protestants fleeing France. But in the 18th century the word was used as an equivalent of fugitives from justice. The Liberty of Whitefriars, wrote John Hawkesworth, once Samuel Johnson’s friend, ‘became filled with lawless refugees of all sorts’. In the American revolutionary war, Refugees, like Cow-Boys, was a name for pro-British guerrillas.

Since the 1920s economic refugee has sometimes been used in just the same way as economic migrant. By referring to refugees, Al Jazeera is not going to keep ahead.

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Show comments
  • Patrick_Blankfein

    How can you compare Caucasian Christian, Western people with those from the MENA! The former created the modern industrialised world, the latter nothing. But it seems the former have lost the plot: allowing invasion by welfare bandits who have no common culture is a recipe for destruction.

    • Gilbert White

      We will all be in this together eventually woth a world government run by the likes of Monbiot.

    • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

      You are a vile racist BRITNAT.

      • Bertie

        He’s actually spot on.

        And you’ll note he speaks of Islam, and the mass migration of Moslems. Last time I looked Islam was a religion, not a race, so how can he be racist you ignoramus.

        The photos of these alleged refugees are all predominantly young Moslem men – where are all the women?the Children?

        Additionally Trueky is safe last time I looked – these people are deceitfully trying to jump the queue by leaving Turkey in an effort to get to Greece.

        That’s economic migration.

        Further evidence that many such Syrians are economic migrants and not refugees:

        “More than 40 Syrian refugees granted asylum in Uruguay last year are now fighting to leave the South American country, saying they can’t earn enough money to provide for their families. ”

        Because they’re clearly migrants!!!

        And what of their fellow Moslems, the rich ones living nearby. How much are they doing????

        http://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2015/09/07/united-arabe-emiratest-gulf-states-offer-little-help-to-migrants-becky-anderson-pkg.cnn

        6 Gulf countries havent offer ANY resettlement locations to refugees.They’ve given money, but not taken any.

        Very telling.

        And where are we too house all these extra people, we already take 640,000 per year, each year, and we’re unable to house our own people, let along all these new comers. What of the impact on School places, housing generally, NHS, welfare.What of those of us already here who’s standard living will be eroded to make way for all these newcomers who have never contributed anything?

        What makes these economic migrants more important than our own people ?

        “A war veteran has lashed out at his local authority after they told
        him he would never get a council house – despite almost giving his life for the country.

        Daniel Finch, 24, was blown up when he stepped on a hidden IED in Afghanistan.The former infantryman, who was forced to leave the Army because of his injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, is trying to rebuild his shattered life and confidence.

        But the single dad-of-one was told by Tower Hamlets Council he was not able to get social housing – because he was not a “priority.”

        Not a priority? No, it’s because he is WHITE.

        He’s also an ex soldier, ie displays all the qualities these fuckwits
        at local councils such as these detest – namely sense of duty, honour, personal discipline, courage,and loyalty to ones country.

        Utterly disgraceful people such as this are made second class citizens in their own country, after giving so much.

        Don’t see anyone on the Left quick to make claims of morality in respect of this poor individual – too busy saying its morally reprehensible not to give shelter,food, welfare to johnny foreigner it seems.

      • Cyril Sneer

        Christ you’re ignorant.

  • Nick

    Vote UKIP.

    • Mary Ann

      No

      • Nick

        Why not?

        • Bertie

          Because either Mary Ann is a quisling or she’s well off enough to live in a gated community/decent suburb well away from where all these migrants are likely to be housed – ie therefore she doesn’t give a damn about anyone else as long as it doesnt it affect her.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    A migrant, a refugee, and an asylum seeker walk into a bar.
    They all order a drink. The barman says, “Who’s paying for this round?”
    To which they all reply, “The British taxpayer”.

    Suck it up, Britisher pals.

    • davidofkent

      And the barman refuses to serve them until he sees hard cash.

    • Sponsz

      Let’s hope that was a non-alcoholic drink then, as the migrant, the refugee and the asylum seeker were all members of the RoP.

  • jeremy Morfey

    We have the terms “asylum seekers”, “vagrants”, “travellers” as well as those mentioned in the article. We could go on for a while, like Captain Haddock hurling insults at some out-of-reach villain.

    The truth is that the waves of people crossing borders following a major destabilisation comprise all of them, as society in general does. It is up to the hosts whom to offer sanctuary to, and who to turn away.

    • vieuxceps2

      Yes, I’m sorry for the poor sods but it’s a bit of a cheek hamering on people’s doors and demanding to be let in. Unbidden guests cannot expect to be welcomed,and blackmail by putting childre in peril is a crime.

      • jeremy Morfey

        True.

        I therefore commend David Cameron’s latest announcement that we will be drawing our quota of refugees from the camps on the borders of Syria, rather than those that are queue-jumping by paying the traffickers and ransacking the borders.

        As Viktor Orbán from Hungary also implied, by encouraging the travellers with promises of unlimited asylum, Germany is making a rod for its own back. Cameron’s response is that this sort of duress simply should not be seen to be working. However, we should still take in our fair share, relieving the extraordinary burden faced right now by Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurdistan.

        I believe that Saudi Arabia, with all its phenomenal wealth and space, has not taken in a single refugee. Nor, according to Wikipedia, has Israel. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refugees_of_the_Syrian_Civil_War
        http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-34116381

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Labour Mole Catcher
    Discussion on Spectator Blogs 103 comments
    George Osborne: criminal gangs ‘killed’ the drowned refugee boy
    Labour Mole Catcher Jackthesmilingblack 16 hours ago
    Illegal immigrants not refugees.

    Labour Mole Catcher Jaria1 16 hours ago
    The Zaidi as well as Bohra Ismaili Shia of Northern Yemen and modern SW Saudi Arabia have this “Orphans’ Decree” to keep the Yemeni Arabian Jewish minority “under control”. Perhaps we should learn from the Shia, at least on this!

    Labour Mole Catcher Vinnie 17 hours ago
    Knowing full well from their mates ’round t’Edgware Road that they cannot be deported after the completion of any prison sentence, a “Get in Gaol Free Card” for England and Wales issued by the Home Office is probably as good as gold dust to most of that lot!

    Labour Mole Catcher Jackthesmilingblack 17 hours ago
    The term is “the Holy Grail” not “the Holy Grain”, you fool! Do you have problems with certain English words with certain consonants?!

    Labour Mole Catcher Jackthesmilingblack 17 hours ago
    But there are no “refugee crisis” in Europe as such, are there?! What refugee crisis?! This is a man-made economic-migrant crisis manufactured by Angela Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, “Cast-Iron Call Me Dave”, Sam Cam, Lynton Crosby and Rebekah Brooks! Get it right, right?!
    The drama of St Crispian’s Day: Shakespeare got it right

    Labour Mole Catcher Jackthesmilingblack 16 hours ago
    There are many chips on the shoulders of this Japanese fantasist, indeed!
    It’s 200 years since Britain last fought America. But it’s not a battle the British care to remember

    Labour Mole Catcher Jackthesmilingblack 16 hours ago
    Be told what?! They are not your own words! You copied them straight out of Wikipedia, word for word! Can’t afford to pay to use a PROPER encyclopaedia?!

    And this is just the last 24 hours. You’ve got a nutter on your hands, Spectator with a rapidly deteriorating mental health condition. So stop providing him a forum.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

    • Labour Mole Catcher

      Calling me a nutter … whilst calling yourself “THE Japan Alps Brit”!

      Aren’t you a little too old to play “I will tell Teacher”?!

  • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

    The disturbing xenophobia / racism of so many of the Red, White & Blue unionist / loyalist BRITNATS is clear for everyone to see in their comments here.

    So not only do these BRITISH NATIONALISTS dislike, belittle and talk down Scotland, it seems that they also abhor refugees fleeing violence……….. Foreign ones of course.

    Thankfully these dinosaurs are in great decline in Scotland, with a large majority of the people of as Scotland already supporting independence.

    At least independent Scotland will be able to offer assistance in ways that we are unable to do now because of that affront to democracy called Westminster.

    YES SCOTLAND

    • davidofkent

      I note that Ms Sturgeon called for David Cameron to take in more ‘migrants’. She stopped well short of offering them a home in Scotland. You know what you can do with your childish insults.

    • vieuxceps2

      Well,Jocky, you have your own government already,so why not invite a horde ot two of these migrants to live where you are? A little help is worth a lot of pity they say;and a little help will avoid the charge of hypocrisy. Not very kind of you to use the migrants as a stick to beat the “British”with,is it?

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        That’s the difference between the Scottish independence movement, and unionist / loyalist BRITISH NATIONALISTS like yourself.

        You lot see these people as a “swarm” or “hordes of immigrants”, we see them as human beings seeking refuge from violence.

        Unfortunately we cannot “invite the hordes” as you so disgustingly put it, as although the Scottish Government and people of Scotland wish to help, we are prevented from doing so by the unionist UK Westminster Government who have decided that we won’t.

        YES SCOTLAND

        • vieuxceps2

          Mr. Strap, Kindly note:
          I am not British but English. I ceased to be British when it became commonplace after anyone, including Scots ,were allowed in.
          I wrote of a “horde ot two” from the untold millions of would-be settlers. You are easily disgusted. Try better food,travel more.
          Don’t let UK government stop you, simply write to any town in ME and/or Africa and twin any town in your land with ththeir towns and jolly well invite the people to settle with you. Then you could scold the English even more selfrighteously,couldn’t you?

          • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

            “I am not British but English. I ceased to be British when it became commonplace after anyone, including Scots ,were allowed in.
            I wrote of a “horde ot two” from the untold million…..”

            —-

            The bizarre ranting of a embittered racist English Nationalist.

            YES SCOTLAND

          • vieuxceps2

            Guess whose face Nationalists see when they look in the mirror? Hint:It’s got ginger. hair….

    • Pioneer

      I don’t think many want to stop you leaving. That was just the idiot politicians.

      Off you go. Good luck.

    • Cyril Sneer

      Then leave the union, we don’t care, in fact actually we’d be glad to be rid of you.

  • Teacher

    Today’s politically correct terminology becaomes tomorrow’s term of abuse. Look at what happened to ‘special needs’. The pupils in my old school brooked no delay in making ‘special’ an insult.

  • Damaris Tighe

    It’s interesting that the Sydney Daily Mail in 1922 understood that the word ‘migrant’ implies someone moving within the same cultural area, however many miles separate departure & arrival. It could just as easily refer to someone moving from Sussex to the Midlands in the 19th century, when the world was a lot smaller.

    I see the increasing use of ‘migrant’ to cover cross-cultural immigration, illegal immigration & refugees alike as part of the left’s dislike of ‘discriminating’ between the undeserving & the deserving.

    Unfortunately if Al Jazeera is simply going to replace ‘migrant’ with a new blanket term ‘refugee’ this obfuscation will continue, except with more emotionally-blackmailing terminology. The media need to return to clear definitions.

    • jeremy Morfey

      If Al Jazeera is going to take the moral high ground over these people, perhaps they could report just how many refugees its host nation, Qatar, has taken in?

      • Gilbert White

        Most Arabs excrete hypocrisy through their pores did you not know this?

      • Bertie

        The answer to that question would be “NONE”, “NADA”, “ZERO”
        They’ve given money though.But dont want their fellow Moslems living amongst them where, let’s be honest, these people would be most compatible and at home.

    • Ambientereal

      In 1922 people had better understanding of the language, today everything is offensive (everyone wants to have the right to feel offended). If you call tall to someone that is actually tall he will feel offended. If you call “blue” to someone that is actually “blue” he will be offended.

      • Jonathan

        in 1922 you could speak your mind-as could those you didnt agree with. You could crack rude or irreverent jokes about jews catholics perverts or non heterosexuals and people saw the funny side of things. You would likely see the funny side of a joke made at your expense too. A lot of people adopted a live and let live attitude. People also by and large accepted the difference between right and wrong.
        Roy jenkins didnt like that though. He claimed that a permissive society was the only truly civilised society. But in the present day, its amazing just how few things you are actually permitted to think say or do in this allegedly advanced socially progressive society-without upsetting or offending someone somewhere

        • Ambientereal

          I´m full hearth with you !!!

  • Gilbert White

    Try RoPer’s on QF.

  • cartimandua

    France Russia Qatar and the UAE are contributing less than half what they promised to contribute to the UN for the crisis.
    Where does Al J come from again?

  • cartimandua

    The UK has contributed 1 billion to the UN camps which support 4 million people.
    We as usual have done the heavy lifting while others merely emote uselessly.

  • Random Punter

    It’s the eternal struggle between the PC brigade and the rest of the population. The PC brigade notices that the rest of the population use Word X as an insult and demand they stop and use Word Y. Word X falls out of favour, then Word Y becomes the new pejorative. Just look at the terms used to describe mental illness. Even just ‘Mental’ has become an insult.

    It’s a bound-to-fail utopian attempt to shift public conciousness and opinion and it won’t work. The terms may change, but the feelings behind them won’t. Remember when ‘Asylum Seeker’ was being used as a pejorative word? I do.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Looks like OZ had the right idea after all.

  • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

    Vieuxceps 2

    That’s the difference between the Scottish independence movement, and unionist / loyalist BRITISH NATIONALISTS like yourself.

    You lot see these people as a “swarm” or “hordes of immigrants”, we see them as human beings seeking refuge from violence.

    Unfortunately we cannot “invite the hordes” as you so disgustingly put it, as although the Scottish Government and people of Scotland wish to help, we are prevented from doing so by the unionist UK Westminster Government who have decided that we won’t.

    YES SCOTLAND

    • wycombewanderer

      Thedre are plenty in London you can help, their are hundreds living in parks defecating,begging stealing and generally making the place foul.

      Yet even though they go through all that they dont want to go to Scotland.

      That must tell you something about your country.

    • Mow_the_Grass

      Hey jockroach do they still do a good deep fried mars bar in your part of the world.
      National delicacy – I believe

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        Your Maw never complained.

    • Jonathan

      LOL the scotch political elite taking notice of westminster, LOL you couldnt make it up. What you really mean is, great, decision taken out of our hands, we dont want the illegals, but dont want the public to know that, so we’ll (yet again) blame the English. If ms strudgeon REALLY wanted to help, she would simply invite them into scotland

      • Shapster

        Here here, well said that man. Yet another Jock with a huge chip on his shoulder about the English without whom Scotland would be nothing. YES, Scotland and let’s build Hadrians wall back up while we’re at it….what a relief it would be never again to hear the accent of a migrant Scot on English TV, down here because there’s nack all going on in his homeland..

    • Mary Ann

      You don’t speak for the majority of Scots. they voted to stay in the UK

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        Things have changed Mary Ann.

        the majority of Scots now want independence, with the latest poll showing an 8% lead……. and rising.

        I certainly don’t speak for the majority, but I am part of the majority.

        YES SCOTLAND

        • Cyril Sneer

          Good riddance.

  • Chris

    I’ll never vote Tory again. It’s UKIP now on for me.

    • Mary Ann

      Leaving the EU is not going to stop migration from the third world.

  • Mow_the_Grass

    Al Jazeera is the official mouthpiece of the Qatari ‘royal’ family – and nothing more.
    Many of its reporters/talking heads are ex that other arabist network viz BBC

  • 1__1_1

    These people fleeing into Europe are fleeing from Turkey.

    They left Syria a long time ago.

    They are no longer in danger.

    They are leaving Turkey for economic reasons.

    They prefer a more affluent lifestyle in the West.

    Their children are dying because the parents have chosen to leave Turkey for economic reasons.

    They are killing their kids to get more money.

    The Turkish Government has not asked for help with the refugees in their country. And even if they did: we could send aid, and these people would not be in any danger.

    Individual Kurdish families are not persecuted in Turkey, Turkey wants to join the EU after all.

    Remember: these people are fleeing Turkey, they are fleeing a place of safety..

    • Mary Ann

      Do you really believe they are deliberately killing their children just to get more money.

      • 1__1_1

        I really believe they are negligently killing their children just to get more money.

    • Bertie

      Absolutely spot on in all bar………

      You do miss that nearly all photos of these wave of migrants” hitting Southern Europe from places such as Turkey show said people to be predominantly young men.Very few women & children in the pictures and you can be assured the likes of the BBC would paint such people in the best light possible.

      So they’re economic migrants using emotional blackmail, the “claim to be persecuted refugees” so as to jump the queue ahead of the millions that clearly apply through the correct channels to migrate to the UK/Germany..millions evidenced by the fact that UK took 630,000 migrants last year, similar number prior year, and will take similar in the coming year. This, in itself evidences that said” queue” is in the millions.

  • aelfheld

    If they don’t want to be called ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ (instead of the more accurate ‘invaders’) let them return to their respective countries.

    If they were truly ‘migrants’ or ‘refugees’ they would as a matter of courtesy accommodate to their host countries. That they demand accommodation from those countries demonstrates they are, truly, ‘invaders’.

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