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Refugees or Immigrants?

People are flooding into Europe from Africa and the Middle East. In media coverage, they tend to be referred to as “refugees”. Sometimes, perhaps, they could be better described as “immigrants”. It’s an important distinction, which should influence all our thoughts on the subject. We feel that Britain has had enough immigrants and that the flow has to be greatly reduced, or, at least, temporarily halted. But our consciences respond to people who are so obviously in trouble, people whom we should help: refugees without a home.

Many of those who are coming might perhaps be described as part-refugee, part-immigrant. But let’s start with some initial rough-and-ready distinctions:

Immigrants are people who have left their homes to seek a better and more prosperous home in another country. They are not running away from anything, except perhaps poverty and lack of opportunities. They are leaving families and extended families behind them. They regard themselves as pioneers. They hope to establish themselves in a more prosperous environment. If and when they succeed in making good in their new homes, they will encourage families, extended families and friends to follow them.

Refugees are of two kinds. There are political refugees who fear for their lives. These are people who are being persecuted. In most cases, they have become involved in politics in a way which the government of their country does not permit. There are also sometimes whole groups of people – Protestants in 17th century France, Jews in Hitler’s Germany – who fear for their lives simply because of who they are. Political refugees will always be welcome in Britain, provided they do not arrive in excessive numbers at any one time. Almost certainly very few of the people who are currently trying to enter Europe belong to this category.

But there are currently many refugees who are not leaving their homes so much as leaving their countries because their homes and places of work have been destroyed, and their lives have become increasingly intolerable due to the dangers, privations and anarchy of war. Refugees are families fleeing with children. They are people who would never have considered emigration if their lives had only been allowed to continue as they were a few years ago. They may want nothing better than to be reunited with their extended families and friends in their home countries if and when conditions there return to normal.

There is another rough-and-ready way in which refugees can be distinguished from immigrants:

Immigrants are almost always young men, travelling alone or with friends. If they have families at home, they have left them behind in conditions of reasonable safety and stability, hoping that, in due course, their families will be able to follow. Immigrants are subject to pull factors – they are attracted to their chosen destination.

Refugees are responding to push factors, which are driving them out of their homes.

In practice, both pull and push factors will influence a decision to chance one’s luck with a long, dangerous and perhaps expensive journey. For example, conditions are getting worse and worse at home; then an opportunity occurs to get to the Promised Land – or so it seems. The money is paid. The journey commences. Perhaps long before the chosen destination is reached, the decision is bitterly regretted, but it seems too late to go back…

From the point of view of those on the receiving end in Europe, immigration policy must depend greatly on the category into which the arrivals fall.

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About Mike Munford (57 Articles)
Mike Munford is a member of UKIP, a retired businessman and a lifelong student of English history.

6 Comments on Refugees or Immigrants?

  1. Sad though the death of the small boy (now used to justify more immigration) was it is worth noting that his father has taken him home to be buried.

    So much for fleeing an inhospitable country.

    Time for common sense to prevail over the bleeding hearts; only one person was to blame for his death and it does not justify allowing thousands more aliens into our country.

    • The kid died because his father wanted new teeth, paid for by his cousin in Canada — they thought the money transfer would be easier from Canada to the UK.
      He really should be charged with murder for putting his family’s life at risk for such a superficial, unnecessary reason.

  2. A sensible helpful article that dispels some of the deliberate, sensationalism of the MS media, which is pretty dire nowadays.

  3. Yes, these are important differences, but the MSM right across the EU, in unison, are now only talking about ‘refugees’, the expression ‘immigrant’, never mind ‘illegal immigrant’ is no longer used, it’s no longer PC.
    And then there’s the huge pull-factor exerted by Germany, or more precisely by Madame Merkel, who said that all Syrian refugees are welcome. Lo and behold, a report in one German online paper today described how German Customs officers found several parcels containing Syrian passports, real ones and fake ones.
    The Hungarian PM, Mr Orban, is spot on when he says that this crisis is one ‘Made in Germany’. For that, and for his attempts to implement EU Law, he is vilified across the EU MSM.
    What did not get reported here is the fact that Mrs Merkel demanded he must adhere to the Dublin Agreement, broken by Greece and Italy already. That’s why the trains stopped in Budapest … but it’s of course Mr Orban’s fault …
    I think we need to be fully aware of the propaganda war going on here – not just in regard to mixing up asylum seekers, politically persecuted people, refugees, and economic migrants who are mostly illegal migrants. The concerted crocodile tears about that drowned little boy shows clearly how politicians and MSM are working in concert: make people feel sad and outraged, so that politicians can ‘help’ alleviate the hurt and outrage – by taking in more ‘refugees’ who are generally young healthy males belonging to a certain religion … as if we didn’t have enough of those here already. Do we really want more Rotherhams?

  4. If they are really fleeing from a greater danger than the one presented by dangerous boat journeys, why did the ones who landed in Greece insist on barging into Hungary, where they are now making such a fuss about going to Germany? Shouldn’t people fleeing from war zones just be glad to be out of them without making demands about precisely where they want to end up?
    Most, if not all of them, are Muslims. Why are they not fleeing to nearby muslim countries instead of making hazardous journeys to Europe, where there is rising tension with muslim populations?

    • My article wasn’t meant to excuse anybody or to recommend any particular course of action. It was intended as a starting point for rational discussion of the subject rather than relying on gut reactions, whether sympathetic gut reactions or hostile gut reactions.

      I’m not so sure what should be done. But following up on what’s in the article, perhaps we should:

      1. Treat immigrants in the same way as other immigrants or people wishing to be immigrants, who lack the correct qualifications and perhaps are even liable to endanger our security: i.e keep them firmly out.

      2. Offer what humanitarian aid we can to refugees, but guide them in the direction of going home again as soon as conditions make it possible.

      Of course there’s a lot more to be said on the subject!

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