Patrick Stewart joins actors explaining difference between ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ for UNCHR Words Matter campaign

The distinction is becoming increasingly important as the refugee crisis escalates  

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Colin Firth, Cate Blanchett and Patrick Stewart are among a number of high profile figures promoting the UNCHR’s campaign to highlight the difference between refugees and migrants. 

The UNCHR says the term ‘refugee’ refers to a person fleeing persecution or war in a country where it is too dangerous for them to return to. 

‘Migrant’ is used to describe people who leave their country of residence in order to find better work prospects, living conditions, to reunite with family or for access to better education. Migrants are protected by their governments should they chose to return back to the countries from which they left. 

Refugees are afford special protection under international law, including the right not to be deported back to a country where they would face gave danger. 

A number of media outlets, including the BBC and the Washington Post, still refer to refugees fleeing civil war and terrorism as migrants. The BBC says it uses the word as a neutral term for all people who have not yet completed the legal process of claiming asylum. 

Al-Jazeera and this newspaper have decided they will not use the term ‘migrant’ after the refugee crisis escalated in recent weeks. 

Models, actors and musicians including Kristin Davis, Helena Christensen and Peter Capaldi have appeared in a video stressing why refugee should be used where appropriate instead of migrant. 

 “A migrant chooses to move country, often to improve their life, for education, work, family reunification, they are free to return home. The UNCHR says it is important to make the distinction between refugee and migrants in order to promote a better understanding of the dire situation faced by the women, men and children trying to reach Europe’s shores. 

“And if they return, they still have the protection of their government.

“A refugee is running for their life. Fleeing war or persecution. They often undertake traitorous or traumatic journey's of escape.

"We need to treat all human beings, refugee or migrant with respect and dignity.

"But meanings matter. Words matter. Your words matter."