It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane: the Importance of Being an Effective Social Aid Association by Differentiating Migrants and Refugees
As the number of migrants and refugees has steadily increased, the number of people who want to play a hand in their aiding has also significantly increased. While some volunteers might not have any knowledge of the difference between a refugee and a migrant, nor understand the legal obstacles they are supposed to be guiding people through, their hearts and motivations are enough to make them wonderful contributors to the cause.
The main way associations can increase their effectiveness in working with refugees and migrants is to teach their volunteers in the proper needs of each category. It is pertinent to understand the difference between refugees and migrants, since they are not the same groups of people. Migrants are people who willingly choose to leave their homeland. Economic migrants are people who choose to leave to find a better job or life saving opportunities. The European Union is experiencing heavy economic migrations, as people from eastern and more commonly poorer countries, to the western countries that are not only further developed in infrastructure, but also in social programs, and more importantly, jobs. Often government in receiving countries provide social programs as they would to another citizen.
In contrast, refugees are status given to people who often need protection from a particular state, or a signatory member of the Geneva Convention, as they leave their home country or region under duress, a threat to their safety, and often with no choice. A refugee is someone who cannot return home, or if they do, they risk the possibility of persecution, incarceration, or death. A refugee can appeal to a State to grant them an asylum status, where they will be granted protection from that country.
Vital steps associations can take to better help refugees. Nonprofits can educate themselves and their volunteers on the process of regulating one’s status as a refugee, through guidance for people seeking to gain a legal asylee status. This is not a variation of legal training that requires memorization of French code law. It is simply knowledge of what documents people need to furnish, the process, and guiding them towards the appropriate resources in applying for refugee status.
What associations can do is be alongside people as they undergo difficult times in their lives. Ways of creating community and a place of belonging should be the goal for associations, churches, and communities willing to help these specific groups of people. Whether that be through the organizations of groups for migrant or refugee children, workshops to help the parents manage the new systems, or provide language learning opportunities to those who are faced with the task of learning a new way of life.