The rush of people streaming out of the Middle East and into Europe is often referred to as a "migrant crisis"...

Syrian refugees near the Croatian boarder. Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images.


...which can be very misleading as many of the so-called "migrants" are actually "refugees."


An asylum-seeker on a train in Macedonia. Photo by Armend Nimani/Getty Images.

Both migrants and refugees are coming to Europe, but there's actually a pretty big difference between the two.

Craig Ferguson. All GIFs via United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees/YouTube.

Perhaps most importantly, migrants can return home if they want to. A refugee on the other hand?

It's critical to recognize that the millions of refugees crossing Europe's borders are fleeing for their very survival.

According to some estimates, over 300,000 men and women have already lost their lives in Syria's brutal civil war. Those who have left are fleeing torture, imprisonment, bombed out homes, and army service where they've been forced to kill their own countrymen.

Those of us lucky enough to reside in rich, secure countries have the luxury of debating how many asylum-seekers we feel like letting in the door. But those asylum-seekers don't have the luxury of deciding whether or not to knock.

They can't go back, and they have nowhere else to go — which is why we need to welcome them into our communities and help them start new lives.

And we need to help them now.

And the migrants coming to Europe might not need help as urgently, but that doesn't mean we should send them back either.


A raft of refugees and migrants drifting near the Greek island of Lesbos. Photo by Aris Messinis/Getty Images.

Many are running from countries were poverty is rampant and employment is scarce. If you were born somewhere, through no fault of your own, with few good jobs and fewer prospects, it makes sense to want to a move to a country, like the United States or many in Europe, where those things are abundant.

Others are seeking to reunite with family who have already made the move. If you've been living apart from your husband, or son, or wife, or daughter for years, even decades, it makes even more sense that you would move heaven and earth to try to join them.

It's a different situation, which is going to require different policy solutions. But there's nothing wrong with wanting a better life in a country where living that life is more possible.

Bottom line: It's important that when we're talking about refugees, we say "refugees" and when we're talking about migrants, we say "migrants."

Their needs are different and helping them requires different approaches.

But though their circumstances aren't the same, it's critical to treat all people who seek a safe, secure future for themselves and their families with respect and dignity.

You can watch the full video, where Patrick Stewart joins Craig Ferguson, Kristin Davis, Neil Gaiman, and others in calling on countries around the world to help seek justice for both groups:

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