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Linguistic usage: UN refugee agency doesn’t believe in the word “refugees”

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Language changes, gender is the trend: students become students, teachers become teachers. What about refugees? The UN refugee agency takes a clear position here.

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The UN refugee agency UNHCR does not believe in replacing the word “refugees” with the term “refugees”. “We regard the word refugees as derogatory and do not use it,” said UNHCR spokesman in Germany Chris Melzer, the German Press Agency. The German name of the UN refugee agency will not be shaken either. The head of the UN organization, Filippo Grandi, remains the high commissioner for refugees, not for refugees, stressed Melzer.

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The organization Pro Asyl also sticks to “refugees”. “In the legal sense, a refugee is someone who has rights,” she wrote back in 2016. The federal government uses both “refugees” and “war refugees” on its websites.

“Refugee” has “sharpness and strength that protects people”

Melzer thinks the term “refugee” is too banal. “We’ve all fled from something at some point, whether it was a downpour, an unpleasant duty or something else,” he says. A refugee, for example, is also a criminal who flees from the police or who has escaped from prison. “Refugee”, on the other hand, is “quasi a protected term”. “It has been firmly defined by the Geneva Refugee Convention for more than 70 years and has a sharpness and strength that protects people.”

The convention is called “Agreement on the Legal Status of Refugees” in German. Regarding the “definition of the term “refugee””, Article 1 states that the term “refugee” applies to any person who “reaches from a well-founded fear of persecution because of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or because of his political belief is outside the country of which he is a national and cannot, or because of these fears, does not wish to seek the protection of that country.”

“It is inappropriate to lump criminals or those who have fled from a downpour in the same category as people who had to flee because of resistance to a regime or from a war to save their lives,” says Melzer. He does not accept the argument that words ending in “ling” are derogatory because cowards or fools also end in the same way. After all, there is also “darling”.

Source: Stern

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