TIME migration

Which Word Should You Use: Refugee or Migrant?

Legally, there is a crucial distinction

(STOCKHOLM) — Day after day, images of soaked and exhausted parents clutching their glassy-eyed children as they arrive on Europe’s shores make their way around the world.

That they are desperate and vulnerable after a harrowing journey across the Mediterranean on rickety rafts or packed ships is beyond doubt. But does that make them refugees from war or oppression, with a right to protection under international law, or are they better described as migrants, a term that usually refers to people simply seeking a better life in another country?

The scenes of human suffering, resilience, hope and rejection playing out in the Mediterranean have sparked an emotional and politically charged debate about what to call the hundreds of thousands of people from Africa and the Middle East who are entering Europe.

Al-Jazeera last week announced that it will stop using the word migrants in its news coverage, saying it doesn’t describe the “horror unfolding in the Mediterranean,” where almost 2,500 people have died this year after leaving Turkey or North Africa on overcrowded boats.

The word “has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanizes and distances, a blunt pejorative,” Al-Jazeera online editor Barry Malone said. Going forward, Al-Jazeera will instead say refugee “where appropriate.”

The move was applauded by some human rights advocates worried about a hardening of anti-immigrant attitudes in Europe but criticized by others, who said it implies that only refugees, not migrants, are worthy of compassion.

Legally, there is a crucial distinction.

The U.N. refugee agency says it boils down to whether the person is being pushed or pulled: A migrant is someone who seeks better living conditions in another country; a refugee is someone who flees persecution, conflict or war.

Only members of the latter group are likely to be granted asylum in Europe.

By and large, European leaders refer to the Mediterranean situation as a migrant crisis, not a refugee crisis. British Prime Minister David Cameron in July talked about “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life, wanting to come to Britain because Britain has got jobs, it’s got a growing economy, it’s an incredible place to live.”

His choice of words was widely criticized by human rights advocates as offensive and misleading.

U.N. officials say a vast majority of the 137,000 people who crossed the Mediterranean into Europe in the first half of the year were fleeing war, conflict or persecution in countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

“It’s simply inaccurate to talk about Syrian migrants when there’s a war going on in Syria,” said William Spindler, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “People who flee war deserve sympathy. So by not calling them refugees, you’re depriving them of the sympathy and understanding that the European public has for refugees.”

Still, European officials say using refugees as a blanket term isn’t technically accurate either. Many of the West Africans arriving in Italy, for example, may not be fleeing for their lives but instead be seeking better ones in European countries with much higher standards of living.

“I can sympathize with Al-Jazeera’s approach; I guess what they want to do is put a human face on the situation,” said Fredrik Beijer, legal director of Sweden’s migration authority. “But from our point of view, it’s simple: People who are on the move across the globe but who haven’t yet applied for asylum, to us they are migrants.”

Once a migrant applies for asylum, he or she becomes an asylum-seeker, Beijer said. The agency uses the word refugee only when the claim has been approved and a person receives refugee status.

The Associated Press has no blanket policy governing when to use the terms, but strives to be as specific as possible in describing the circumstances of people included in stories.

The BBC said it judges each story on a case by case basis because “it is not always clear cut whether some migrant groups already have refugee status, are seeking asylum, looking for work, the stage of their journey, or whether they will try to enter a country illegally.”

National Public Radio tries to use “action words rather than labels,” said standards editor Mark Memmott. “But when we felt that a label would help tell the story, the general label of migrant will describe everyone in the group.”

Fusion, an English language TV network that targets Latinos in the U.S., also deals with the issue case-by-case, “just as we do with stories about people seeking to come into the United States,” said Laura Wides-Munoz, director of news practices.

Some experts note that using either term — migrant or refugee — in a blanket manner doesn’t capture the situation of people who don’t fit neatly into either category or who belong in both.

For example, many West Africans moved to Libya for work, but found themselves at the receiving end of violence, threats and extortion by militias, criminals and security forces as the security situation there deteriorated, said Ruben Andersson, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics.

“So how do we refer to people who may have left their country to look for work, but who end up in a country where they cannot go on living because they are facing all kinds of threats and even repression?” he said.

In the end, it’s important not to be blinded by terminology, he said. “We are talking about people. It astounds me how much time we spend on getting the terminology right, which obscures the fact that people are drowning on the borders of Europe.”

TIME Egypt

Senior al-Jazeera Reporter Ahmed Mansour Detained in Germany on Egypt’s Request

GERMANY-EGYPT-MEDIA-ARREST-JAZEERA
JOHN MACDOUGALL—AFP/Getty Images Supporters of ousted Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi stage a demonstration to ask for the release of detained Al-Jazeera journalist Ahmed Mansour in front of the local court of Berlin's Tiergarten district, where Mansour is being held in custody on June 21, 2015

Protesters are demanding the 52-year-old's immediate release

Ahmed Mansour, a presenter for al-Jazeera’s Arabic-language channel, has been arrested in Berlin at the request of the Egyptian government.

The New York Times says it’s the first time a Western government has acted to comply with one of Egypt’s many extradition requests. An extradition hearing will take place on Monday, according to the BBC.

In 2014, Mansour was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia by an Egyptian court. The 52-year-old Egyptian national was convicted of torturing a lawyer during the 2011 Tahrir Square uprising. He denies the charges.

Mansour was arrested at Tegel airport in Berlin as he boarded a flight to Qatar, where his employer is based. Since former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in 2013, al-Jazeera has been critical of the current government, headed by Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, the New York Times reports.

Protesters gathered outside the facility where Mansour is being held on Sunday to demand his release.

“It is quite ludicrous that a country like Germany would enforce and support such a request made by a dictatorial regime like the one we have in Egypt,” Mansour said in a video he recorded while in the Berlin prison.

TIME Egypt

Al Jazeera Journalist Sues Employer for Negligence Over Imprisonment

Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, formerly with Al-Jazeera, attends a press conference in Cairo on May 11, 2015.
Khaled Desouki—Getty Images Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, formerly with Al-Jazeera, attends a press conference in Cairo on May 11, 2015.

An Al Jazeera television journalist on trial in Egypt for allegedly aiding a terrorist organization is suing the news network for $100 million in compensation, his lawyer said Monday.

Mohamed Fahmy filed a lawsuit in a Canadian court claiming Al Jazeera’s negligent actions contributed to his 400-day detention in a Cairo jail on false charges, Reuters reports.

Fahmy was originally sentenced to seven to 10 years in prison on charges that included spreading lies to help the Muslim Brotherhood, a “terrorist organization,” along with fellow Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste. Earlier this year, Fahmy and Mohamed were released on bail after a retrial was announced.

The lawsuit seeks to declare Al Jazeera negligent in its conduct toward Fahmy and said the network should pay $100 million in punitive and remedial damages for its role in Fahmy’s conviction and imprisonment.

Fahmy was one of thousands put in jail after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled the Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013.

[Reuters]

TIME India

India Bans al-Jazeera for 5 Days for Showing ‘Incorrect’ Maps of Kashmir

Protesters Demand Freedom For Jailed Journalists In Cairo
Adam Berry—Getty Images A logo is seen at the Al Jazeera bureau in Berlin on Feb. 27, 2014

Three wars have been fought between India and Pakistan over the historically contentious territory

Al-Jazeera English has had its broadcasts in India suspended for five days after the Indian government ruled that the Qatar-based international news channel had previously shown maps that misrepresented the disputed border region of Kashmir.

A blue screen reading, “As instructed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, this channel will not be available,” greeted al-Jazeera’s Indian viewers on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.

An official told AFP the ban was ordered earlier this month after the channel was found to have used maps showing sections of Kashmir as part of neighboring Pakistan and China. “The ban has been imposed for five days and it was done on instructions of an inter-ministerial committee, who took cognizance of an incorrect map of India in which the channel showed parts of Kashmir in Pakistan and China,” he said.

The depiction of Kashmir, a historically contentious territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, is a highly sensitive issue for the oft-feuding South Asian neighbors.

The Surveyor General of India, to whom the matter was subsequently referred, found that the channel also failed to show the Indian islands of Andaman and Lakshadweep, the Times of India reported.

Al-Jazeera English issued a statement in response to the ban, condemning what it deemed “censorship” by the New Delhi government.

According to the statement, the suspension of its broadcast concerns maps of Pakistan used in 2013 and 2014 that did not demarcate the part of Kashmir under Pakistani control (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir or PoK) as a separate territory. Once notified by Indian authorities, the channel said it ensured all maps from Sept. 22, 2014, onward used dotted lines and unique shading for the disputed portions.

“This ban is a disproportionate response to an issue that we fixed promptly after it was pointed out,” said Al Antsey, Managing Director of al-Jazeera English. “It needlessly deprives Indian viewers of our global news and programs.”

Representatives from the channel have reportedly reached out to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to resolve the issue.

TIME Australia

Freed Journalist Peter Greste ‘Ecstatic’ to Be Back Home in Australia

The Sydney native thanked his family and called for the release of his two colleagues who remain behind bars

Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste returned home to Brisbane, Australia, on Thursday, following his release on Sunday from an Egyptian prison.

Speaking to members of the media, Greste thanked his family and supporters who had been campaigning for his release during the 400 days he was behind bars, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports.

“I’ve dreamt about this so many times and the reality is nowhere near what I imagined it to be,” he said with a huge smile. “I really want to thank everyone who’s been involved with this campaign, who’s been supporting us.”

The 49-year-old then spoke about his two colleagues, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed, who remain locked up in Egypt, saying, “We’ll see them out.”

The trio were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison for aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, charges they all vehemently deny.

After 13 months in an Egyptian prison, which he said felt like a “near-death experience,” Greste plans to spend time with his family before resuming his work as a correspondent.

TIME Egypt

Canada Says Release of al-Jazeera Journalist in Egypt ‘Imminent’

Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste
Heba Elkholy—AP From left: al-Jazeera English producer Baher Mohamed, Canadian-Egyptian acting Cairo bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy and correspondent Peter Greste appear in court in Cairo on March 31, 2014

Diplomats are trying to secure the 40-year-old's deportation to Canada

Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird announced Monday that the release of Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy from an Egyptian prison was “imminent.”

Baird told Canada’s public broadcaster that diplomatic efforts to free Fahmy, who was al-Jazeera’s acting Cairo bureau chief, were going well but gave no specific time frame.

Fahmy, 40, was arrested in 2013 along with colleagues Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste for allegedly aiding the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood. All three were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail.

Greste was released on Sunday and deported back to his native Australia. Mohamed remains in detention.

Fahmy has relinquished his Egyptian citizenship as a prerequisite to his deportation under a presidential decree that allows foreigners on trial to be returned to their home countries.

On Jan. 1, Egypt’s Court of Cessation overturned their sentences and ordered a retrial, but there is as yet no indication of when this will begin.

TIME Egypt

Amal Clooney Clarifies Near Arrest in Op-Ed, Urges Release of al-Jazeera Journalist

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney looks on during a news conference at the Acropolis museum in Athens
Alkis Konstantinidis—Reuters Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney looks on during a news conference at the Acropolis museum in Athens on Oct. 15, 2014

The human-rights lawyer, who married Hollywood actor George Clooney last year, said the incident that led to an arrest warning from Egyptian authorities had nothing to do with her representation of Mohamed Famy

Correction appended: Jan. 5, 2014

Amal Clooney, the international human-rights lawyer currently representing jailed al-Jazeera journalist Mohamed Famy, called for his release in an op-ed on Sunday, while also clearing up a recent report that she was threatened with arrest by authorities in Egypt, where Famy is currently detained.

The op-ed, published by the WorldPost and co-authored by Famy’s other counsel Mark Wassouf, expresses reservations against the proposed retrial of Famy following the cancellation of his and two colleagues’ jail sentences. “A re-trial process is lengthy and its outcome is uncertain,” the op-ed reads. “It is also not clear how a new process would fix any of the deficiencies in the original trial.”

Clooney and Wassouf further state a hope and expectation that Famy will be pardoned by Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi or extradited to his home country of Canada. They also call for the immediate temporary release of the journalist on health grounds.

Addressing a report in the Guardian last week that she was nearly arrested for her representation of Famy, Clooney said the incident took place in early 2014 before she got involved in his case and before al-Sisi came to power. She was reportedly warned that publishing of a report she co-authored by the International Bar Association could lead to her arrest, following which the launch was moved from Cairo to London.

“The [Guardian] journalist has since apologized for the misleading presentation of this matter in the article and corrections were made to the text to attempt to address this,” the op-ed says.

[The WorldPost]

Correction: The original version of this article misstated the source of the op-ed written by Amal Clooney and Mark Wassouf. It was published by the WorldPost.

TIME Egypt

An Egyptian Court Orders a Retrial For the Jailed Al Jazeera Journalists

Mohamed Famy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste have been in prison for over a year, convicted of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood

The three Al Jazeera journalists incarcerated in Egypt received a glimmer of hope on Thursday, when a court canceled their jail sentences and ordered a retrial.

However, Mohamed Famy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste were denied bail at an appeal hearing, with the judge ruling that their case had to be reviewed by a criminal court, Al Jazeera reported.

Famy, Greste and Mohamed have been in prison for over a year after being convicted of conspiring with the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Greste and Fahmy were sentenced to seven years each in prison, while Mohamed received an additional three years for possession of a spent bullet casing he had picked up during one of the protests.

Al Jazeera has maintained that the charges against its employees are baseless and absurd, and the defense lawyers said they expect the retrial to be held within a month.

The trio’s families were not satisfied with the verdict, having harbored the hope that they would be released this week.

[Al Jazeera]

TIME Qatar

At Egypt’s Request, Qatar Suspends Al-Jazeera Affiliate in Cairo

Mideast Qatar Egypt Al Jazeera
Kamran Jebreili—AP In this Wednesday Nov. 1, 2006 file photo, A Qatari employee of Al Jazeera Arabic language TV news channel passes by the logo of Al Jazeera in Doha, Qatar.

The channel has been alone domestically in covering the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's beleaguered political party

In a concession to Egyptian authorities, Qatar will stop broadcasting an Al-Jazeera affiliate in Cairo that has criticized Egypt’s military-led government.

In agreeing to the suspension, Qatar is seeking closer ties with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, which had urged the tiny gulf state to cease its long-time support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — the political party of the ousted president whom Sisi displaced, Mohamed Morsi, Reuters reports. Qatar owns Al-Jazeera, though the international news channel is yet largely seen a free voice in a region severely wanting for free media voices.

The local station, Al Jazeera Live Egypt, was the last major news outlet in Egypt that was willing to cover the Brotherhood.

Two journalists for Al Jazeera —Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy — began serving seven-year sentences last December on charges of conspiring with the Brotherhood against the Egyptian state, while a third, Baher Mohamed, received a ten-year sentence. All three vehemently deny the charges, which have been condemned by human-rights groups.

[Reuters]

TIME

Amal Alamuddin Is The Latest Exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women

Human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney speaks to media in Athens, Oct. 13, 2014.
Yorgos Karahalis—Reuters Lawyer Amal Clooney speaks to media in Athens on Oct. 13, 2014

The new Mrs. Clooney is advising the Greek government on its campaign to regain looted sculptures. But the overlapping interests of her and her husband feels uncomfortable

Amal Clooney, lawyer, is reported to be at the epicenter of “the west’s longest-running cultural row.” The Guardian, which coined the phrase, meant the two-century-long tussle between Athens and London over the rightful home of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1805 by the English aristocrat Lord Elgin and later sold by him to the British Museum, where they still reside. Clooney, née Alamuddin, arrived in Greece on Oct. 13 at the invitation of the Greek Culture Minister to assist with the campaign for the marbles’ return.

But the frenzy of flashbulbs and fashion commentary that greeted Clooney’s visit shows that she has become entangled in a cultural row of greater longevity and importance than the disposition of some antique artworks, however significant those may be. Throughout her adult life, this 36-year-old attorney specializing in international jurisprudence, extradition and criminal law has stood on her own merits accomplished, independent, respected. Now her identity risks being spirited away as the sculptures she seeks to repatriate once were. Even in the 21st century and among first-world elites, marriage retains the power to transform women into appendages, while celebrity culture reliably reduces females to ciphers. Since Alamuddin’s engagement and Venice wedding to actor George Clooney, she has never been more closely observed by a wider audience — or in greater danger of disappearing.

You might say this is Amal Clooney’s business. It is she who chose to say “I do” not only to “Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor” but also to celebrity-encrusted nuptials that created “intimate, exclusive” images for the happy couple, friends, family and the many millions of readers of publications such as People and Hello! to enjoy, showcasing the bride’s ability not only to anatomize the unfair trial of al-Jazeera journalists in Egypt under the military-backed government but also to wear nice dresses and skyscraper heels. It is Clooney who chose to retire the maiden name of Alamuddin under which she had scored many career successes and a client roster including Julian Assange and Yulia Tymoshenko. It was not, however, Clooney who chose to memorialize her first professional foray as the new Mrs. Clooney with banal reportage like this (“Move over, Kate Middleton! There’s a new hair queen in town!”). Clooney has always seemed to wear her startling beauty as lightly as her startling accomplishments, and there is nothing to suggest that she has changed.

The problem — and the reason the media repurposing of Clooney from queen of jurisprudence to hair-queen matters — is that there is still a dearth of women who rise to prominence through their own merits, reflecting the harsh reality of a world resolutely skewed against female achievement.

Many interlocking mechanisms keep women down, but in watching the transmogrification — and trivialization — of Clooney we are witnessing one of the most pernicious of these. I laughed back in June, when Britain’s Daily Mail turned its report about a global summit on combatting sexual violence into a slavering commentary on Clooney’s appearance. I laughed at reporting of the Alamuddin-Clooney marriage so tremulously overexcited by the groom (two-time “sexiest man alive”!) that it characterized the bride’s crowning attainment as “snaring” him. I laughed louder at the spoof headlines this spectacle inspired: “Internationally Acclaimed Attorney Marries an Actor,” etc.

I also laughed at that actor’s ham-fisted attempt earlier this year to boost the long-running initiative to reclaim the Parthenon marbles for Greece. “Even in England, the polling is in favor of returning the Pantheon [sic] marbles, the marbles from the Pantheon,” George Clooney said during a promotional tour for his movie about the restitution of art looted by the Nazis, The Monuments Men.

There’s nothing wrong and a lot right with stars using their celebrity power to publicize worthy causes (though it’s generally better to do the research first). However the overlapping interest of Mr. and Mrs. Clooney in this case feels uncomfortable. The Greek government originally approached the then Amal Alamuddin in 2 B.C. — that’s 2011, two years Before Clooney entered her life. Greece sought her services and those of her storied colleagues at the London-based law firm Doughty Chambers for one reason only: their collective legal expertise. Now Mrs. Clooney’s involvement in the case has been ascribed a new and more tenuous value. “We will of course be discussing all our legal options but what we really want is to keep the issue alive,” a “well-placed policy maker” told the Guardian. “There would be no better way of doing that than getting Hollywood involved and, hopefully, [George] Clooney too.”

A brilliant lawyer and strong female role model is being misappropriated, to be put on show as the latest exhibit in the Museum of Disempowered Women. Never mind restoring the marbles to Greece: give us back Amal!

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