The session highlighted some interesting and remarkable statistics:
- there are 65.3 million displaced people in the world, and 21 million of those are living outside their country of origin;
- there are 3.2 million people seeking asylum worldwide, most of whom come from Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia;
- Europe hosts only 6% of the world's refugees, and
- the UK is the 9th most popular destination in Europe for refugees.
One of the many issues raised during the discussion was the impact of the use of the term "migrant" rather than "refugee" to describe many of those entering Europe. This is something I wrote about last year and it is disappointing that nearly 12 months later the distinction is still not being made clear in the media. The term "refugee" is a legal term for someone fleeing persecution in their home country whereas "migrant" has no legal meaning but is often used to refer to people moving for economic reasons such as work or study.
The panel agreed that more should be done to highlight the distinction between the terms as this would help to combat some of the misunderstandings around refugees. One audience member even suggested that national media outlets should be legally required to use the correct terminology.
Unfortunately, another aspect of the discussion highlighted that terminology is not the only issue facing refugees seeking safe haven in the UK. The asylum process, which our team has discussed previously, continues to be complicated and slow and often involves moving individuals from one part of the country to another with little or no assistance. Many involved in the process have fled their homes without documents and therefore find it difficult to persuade the Home Office that their claims are genuine. The panel and audience members were of the view that more could be done to make this process faster and more sensitive to the circumstances refugees find themselves in.