Impossible Task: Sorting Economic and Political Refugees

As the globe’s population swells – from about 2 billion people a century ago to more than 7 billion today – migration numbers are on the rise, too, from 173 million in 2000 to about 250 million today. “International law and definitions have not kept pace,” argues Will Hickey, author and associate professor with the School of Government and Public Policy in Indonesia. He analyzes the dilemma for countries in trying to separate refugees based on their motivation, whether that may be economic or political. Welcome and treatment for refugees also varies widely among nations, leading many people to cross multiple borders. Hickey therefore asks, “Wouldn’t crossing subsequent borders implicate the political refugee ascription as to migrants seeking a better life, hence rendering the political asylum process moot as an economic migrant is devolved?” Refugees’ search for a better life, and the line between economic and political security is blurred. Sorting and judging the worthiest refugees may be an impossible task, Hickey concludes, and the stories from either side may be equally heartbreaking. – YaleGlobal