In conversations surrounding the European refugee crisis, there's been a lot of talk about which words we should use. Are the people desperately trying to reach European shores "migrants," or are they "refugees"?
It's not an arbitrary distinction. On Sunday, Neil Gaiman posted a powerful video to Facebook featuring Craig Ferguson, Peter Capaldi and more of your favorite celebrities, who have joined together to clear up any confusion over which word is the right one. The video was created for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has repeated time and again that there is a real, legal difference between the migrants and refugees -- and that knowing that difference can literally save lives.
It's all about choice. Ferguson breaks it down in the simplest terms: A migrant has a choice to stay in their home country or leave to seek opportunity, while a refugee faces death or persecution if they don't leave.
Because refugees have no other choice but to flee their homes, there exist international laws that require other countries to grant these individuals asylum, protect them from being deported and provide them with assistance to find a safer place to live and work, the UNHRC writes on its website. Denying them that linguistic distinction -- and, as such, those protections -- can mean serious (and "potentially deadly") consequences.
Ultimately, this isn't about mincing words nor political correctness; it's about recognizing the needs of real people who, at the very least, deserve to be treated with respect, compassion and basic human dignity.
Watch the full video: