They Are Not Refugees

Monday, September 05, 2005

They Are Not Refugees

I don't have all that much to say to say about Hurricane Katrina. After all, what is there to say, really?

But I guess I won't let that stop me from complaining about the media's lazy use of the word "refugees" to describe those who have been displaced by this catastrophe.
"States Struggling With Katrina Refugees"

"Texas to move Katrina refugees to other states"

"Texas groans under burden of Katrina refugees"

"Rapes, killings hit Katrina refugees in New Orleans"

"Five Days After Katrina, Refugees Waiting"
The people who have been forced from the homes - and states - are not technically "refugees" unless they end up in Mexico or some foreign country. Until then, they are "internally displaced." The UNHCR explains
When a fleeing civilian crosses an international frontier, he or she becomes a refugee and as such receives international protection and help. If a person in similar circumstances is displaced within his or her home country and becomes internally displaced person then assistance and protection is much more problematic.
This is not really a big deal, I guess, but it seems ridiculous that the media is either unable or unwilling to make this basic distinction.

Perhaps the victims of Katrina should have crossed over into Mexico. At least then they would have had an internationally recognized right to protection and assistance - two things they were sorely lacking for most of the week.

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