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Refugees or migrants? The EU grapples with definitions

Sep 22, 2015 | News

(22 September 2015) – As EU leaders prepare to meet Wednesday (23 September) for an extraordinary summit, one question will haunt them: How to distinquish economic migrants from asylum seekers.

Europe is currently seeing a mixed influx of immigration, in which economic migrants mingle with asylum seekers. Economic migrants are a harder sell for some of Europe’s political leaders, even though, according to the UN, they represent only a small fraction of the refugees arriving in the EU.

According to the UNHCR’s Andrej Mahecic, there is no official figure for how many economic migrants form part of the refugee flow. But he pointed to UN statistics showing at least three quarters come from conflict-ridden countries like Syria (51%), Afghanistan (14%), Eritrea (8%), and to a lesser extent, Nigeria (4%), complicating the picture.

“In the past, the migration may have been motivated by economic reasons,” Mahecic admitted. “But there has been a clear shift in the past year, with a strong refugee narrative,” he told EurActiv, calling for special asylum procedures to be applied for those fleeing war and persecution. (EurActiv)

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