Migrant talk: IOM Glossary on migration

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has released a Glossary on Migration. The first forward in the almost 300-page document offers a succinct rationale for the glossary:

“Effective cooperation among relevant actors is probably more important in the migration field than in any other policy areas. Not only do States sometimes speak different languages when dealing with migration, but also actors within the same State often use an inconsistent vocabulary. Variations in the use of terms are also common depending on the person’s field of work.

“International law contributes to create some common denominators, through the definitions provided by international instruments that are binding on the States that are parties to them. Among the most significant examples are the definition of a refugee in the 1951 Refugee Convention or the ones contained in the two Protocols on Smuggling of Migrants and Trafficking in Persons to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crimes. Transnational cooperation would never be effective without a common understanding of the elements of the crimes prosecutors are responsible to fight, and burden?sharing could never become a reality without the commitment of many States to protect those who flee persecution.

“In other instances, States have pushed for a more humane approach to migration by calling on the international community to put an end to the use of dehumanizing terms associated with migration, such as “illegal migrants”, in favour of the more neutral attribute of “migrants in an irregular situation”. And these types of shift in the use of terminology are not only for the sake of political correctness but also to contribute to shaping the perception that we have of migration realities. The rise in the use of negative or alarmist terms in recent public discourse around the world have similarly impacted, although negatively in this case, the way migrants are perceived.

“At the time of releasing this Glossary, the adoption of the Global Compact for Migration has sparked renewed attention to migration realities. It is thus a critical moment to try to contribute to the consolidation of not only a uniform but also a correct and balanced approach to migration terminology”.

Regrettably, the glossary uses some outdated terminology that can be seen as stigmatizing. i.e., “acquisition of nationality”

“Any mode of becoming a national, i.e. by birth or at any time after birth, automatic or non?automatic, based on attribution, declaration, option or application.

Source: European Union Democracy Observatory on Citizenship, The EUDO Glossary on Citizenship and Nationality (2008–2016).

Note: The acquisition of nationality can occur at birth or after birth. The most common modes of acquisition of nationality at birth are the acquisition based on descent (jus sanguinis) or based on birth on the territory of the State concerned (jus soli). Nationality can also be acquired after birth for example by adoption, legitimation of a child born out of wedlock, marriage, naturalization or as the result of the ceding of territory from one State to another.

The glossary also uses he/him/his (sigh). But kudos for this explanation of the term adoption which clearly and correctly states how the process removes a child’s rights:

“adoption

“The statutory process of terminating a child’s legal rights and duties toward the natural parents and substituting similar rights and duties toward adoptive parents”.

Source: B.A. Garner (ed), Black’s Law Dictionary (10th edition, Westlaw, 2014).

Note: The Declaration on Social and Legal Principles relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with Special Reference to Foster Placement and Adoption Nationally and Internationally (UNGA Res 41/85 (3 December 1986)) set forth a number of commonly agreed principles and guidelines to ensure the protection of children in relation to national and inter?country adoptions.

The IOMs approach to talking about irregular migration also merits a shout out :

“Although a universally accepted definition of irregular migration does not exist, the term is generally used to identify persons moving outside regular migration channels. The fact that they migrate irregularly does not relieve States from the obligation to protect their rights. Moreover, categories of migrants who may not have any other choice but to use irregular migration channels can also include refugees, victims of trafficking, or unaccompanied migrant children. The fact that they use irregular migration pathways does not imply that States are not, in some circumstances, obliged to provide them with some forms of protection under international law, including access to international protection for asylum seekers fleeing persecution, conflicts or generalized violence. In addition, refugees are protected under international law against being penalized for unauthorized entry or stay if they have travelled from a place where they were at risk”.

Other terms in the glossary with interesting definitions include:

  • assimilation
  • asylum seeker
  • border management
  • build back better
  • climate migration
  • cultural diversity
  • cultural pluralism
  • economic migrant
  • environmental migrant
  • family reunification
  • family unity (right to)
  • healthy migrant effect
  • humanity (principle of)
  • integration
  • migrant
  • multiculturalism
  • safe third country
  • social cohesion
  • social inclusion