Unmixing migrants and refugees

Authored by: Liza Schuster

Routledge Handbook of Immigration and Refugee Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138794313
eBook ISBN: 9781315759302
Adobe ISBN: 9781317638773


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In discussions on migration, a basic distinction is often made between ‘voluntary’ and ‘forced’ migrants. Economic migrants are frequently assumed to be people ‘choosing’ to improve their situation, while forced migrants are constructed as victims of ‘political’ persecution. This distinction underpins migration policy where the two categories (voluntary economic versus forced political) are treated as separate and mutually exclusive categories. However, according to the UNHCR:

[Migrants travel] together generally in an irregular manner, using the same routes and means of transport, but for different reasons. Persons travelling as part of mixed movements have varying needs and profiles and may include asylum-seekers, refugees, trafficked persons, unaccompanied/separated children, and migrants in an irregular situation.

(UNHCR 2011)

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