Popular Misconceptions About Refugees Debunked

The Syrian Civil War began in 2011 and has escalated into civil war with many Syrians losing their lives and being forced out of their homes. The conflict has evoked fear and resulted in people voicing concerns, leading to a number of misconceptions being taken as fact.

Refugees and Migrants are NOT the same

It is difficult to teach children about the refugee crisis when even politicians are confused. David Cameron has continuously mistaken terms: “a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean, seeking a better life.” This undermines the severity of the crisis by suggesting that refugees are entering the country for a better life, rather than from fear for their lives. He referred to refugees in Calais as a “bunch of migrants” demonstrating a blatant misunderstanding of the difference between migrants and refugees.

Migrants make the choice to migrate to better their lives, this could be a choice made as a result of favourable weather, working opportunities and healthcare. These people have made an active choice to move country.

Refugees on the other hand, are forced out of their country to escape war, persecution or natural disaster. They have not done this to better their position but out of fear for their lives and the lives of their families.

Once people leave they are safe and live normal lives

Many refugees have died journeying overseas and families are broken apart. Seeking asylum is not desirable but many are forced to due to persecution. Nobody wants to leave their family or home behind but out of fear.

If they make the journey they have to apply for refugee status, many applications are rejected because the individuals are not perceived to be in ‘enough danger’. They have to fill in applications, have meetings with immigration officers and then asylum interviews. A decision can take up to six months to be accepted and in that time the refugee is unable to work and forced to live in refugee camps. These camps contain about 100,000 other refugees and whilst camps are intended to be temporary, some live the rest of their lives in these camps. Their living conditions, working conditions and family lives are not necessarily improved. The sad truth behind these misconceptions is that many refugees continue to face persecution as a result of their foreign status and many are misplaced and lose family members and friends as a result but there are very few alternative options to consider.

“If my country was at war, I wouldn't flee and leave my family behind.”

There is a misconception that the majority of refugees are young males, overall 49.5% of refugees are men and 50.5% are women. However, those fleeing via the Mediterranean Sea 69% are adult males, 18% are children and 13% are female. Statistics like these have led to people questioning, “if your country was so unsafe why would you leave your wife and children behind and go alone?”

The simple fact is that the process to seek asylum is lengthy and refugee camps are undesirable places for young children. Thus it is not surprising that many adult males make the journey alone with the intention of being granted official refugee status and after six months begin to work and find accommodation for their family first. Once an individual is granted refugee status they are then able to apply for a ‘family of a settled person visa’ and this makes the ordeal for young children a lot more bearable than if the family all arrive together. Additionally, adult males are more at risk of being forcibly conscripted in Syria by the government and Islamist groups like ISIS.

“Granting asylum to refugees increases the risk of terrorism”

It has been suggested that allowing refugees into the country increases the threat of terrorism, a ridiculous misconception considering refugees are fleeing the very threat we are concerned with. We are yet to be directly affected on a large scale, however their lives have already been shaped by this threat. The bigger issue is that people continue to make a fictitious connection between refugees and terrorists which in turn would lead to a disaffection and could lead to hostility if people fail to support and continue to vilify innocent individuals who ask for nothing more than security for themselves and their families.

Misconceptions about refugees and the crisis in Syria has monopolised the media and it is important to filter out opinion from the true facts of the ongoing crisis. Refugees are the central victims of this conflict and misconceptions that vilify these individuals are misconceptions we should try to avoid.

Edited by Lucy Jackman