DCU students highlight the differences between the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’

In the past few months refugees, or migrants as they are oftentimes referred to, have become more prominent in the news. Boats full of people from across the Middle East and Africa have come to Europe in their hundreds of thousands in pursuit of a safer environment to live in and prosper.

Darragh Mowlds, a student on the Masters in Political Communications course in Dublin City University, is part of a group who undertook a social media project to raise awareness of the difference between the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary a refugee is “a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster”, whereas a migrant is defined as “a person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.”

Although the definitions share some similarities, it is clear there is a difference, and Mowlds argues that by using the term ‘migrant’ instead of ‘refugee’ the media are conveying an incorrect message to audiences.

“The main aim was to raise awareness about the misrepresentation of refugees in the media. It’s by no means the worst in Ireland but the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’ are often used interchangeably and they have different legal distinctions.

“The recent refugee crisis has obviously increased the prevalence of refugee coverage in the media. As a regular consumer of news, it became very apparent that media organisations use migrant and refugee as if they are synonyms. Misrepresentation of people in the media impacts on how they are perceived by the public,” Mowlds said.

The campaign recently produced a video which featured legendary Irish musician Christy Moore backing the campaign and Mowlds said: “We were delighted to have been supported by Christy Moore, we are all big fans of his. Other supporters were Senator Ivana Bacik, Barry Andrews (CEO of GOAL), Sue Conlan (CEO of the Irish Refugee Council), and Razan Ibraheem (Syrian Refugee and a journalist in Storyful).”

Despite the campaign having begun life as a class project, Mowlds said the group intends to continue the campaign in order to keep highlighting the difference between the terms ‘migrant’ and ‘refugee’.

You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @_Gogery

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