Speech on the Language of Migration Debates

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English ‘Language of Migration’ Speech

Hundreds. Thousands. Tens of thousands. Threatened, hunted and persecuted without mercy. Violated and robbed in broad daylight. Driven from the very confines of their households. This is the story of a people terrorized by monsters like Bashar and Baghdadi. It is a tale of death, destruction and destitution. But most importantly, it is a chronicle of hopes destroyed across countless borders.

Fellow citizens, I stand before you as an individual who understands what these refugees are going through and I stand before you as a voice for these humans, urging us as a community to pay heed to their cries for help. Humane? Selfless? Believers in international law? Mark my words, ladies and gentlemen. Go and look at the countless families stranded between borders. Go and look at the racist attacks against refugees in Austria. Go and look at the battered remains of Aylan Kurdi on the Mediterranean shore.   They will tell you that we are not worthy of these titles. You have no further to look than your daily newspapers and television. Their use of language has dehumanized and marginalized the people they seek to describe. Their use of words such as ‘cockroaches’, ‘barbarians’ and ‘animals’ have had as much of an effect on the lives of those fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq as that of the use of words like ‘illegal immigrants’ and ‘illegal aliens’ which society deems justified for describing these people. The word illegal, used to describe refugees in the mass media, is something that is ostracized and shunned in society. If someone is driving a car at 14, we say “underage driver,” not “illegal driver.” If someone is driving under the influence, we call them a “drunk driver,” not an “illegal driver.” How would you feel if you — or your family members or friends — were referred to as illegal?

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‘Migrants’ is another way that the media refers to refugees but this term has evolved from its dictionary definitions into a tool that dehumanizes, decries and distances, a blunt pejorative. It implies choice rather than coercion. This leads to natives disregarding the injustices in Syria and Iraq rejecting these people by labeling them as ‘leaches’ and ‘parasites’ that desperately search for better living standards and European employment, education and healthcare. On the other hand, a more neutral term, ‘refugee’ implies that we have an obligation to people. It implies that we have to let them on to our territory and ...

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