Patrick Stewart and Cate Blanchett Explain the Difference Between Migrants and Refugees


As the global refugee crisis continues to grow, the facts of the matter can be watered down in misleading or even incorrect language that can unfortunately lead to a wider misunderstanding of the situation.

To combat this and set the record straight, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is strongly encouraging people to be explicit about the difference between "refugee" and "migrant" with a star-studded video explaining the distinction. 

Celebrities from Cate Blanchett to Colin Firth to Patrick Stewart participated in the plea to more humanely regard refugees and their adversities. "Words matter," the stars repeatedly say at the video's start.


"A migrant chooses to move country, often to improve their life for education, work, family reunification," the video states, weaving together segments of the message spoken by different people. "They are free to return home. And if they return, they still have the protection of their government."


"A refugee is running for their life, fleeing war or persecution," the celebrities explain. "They often undertake traumatic and treacherous journeys of escape in order to find sanctuary, by land, by sea. They can't return home. It's too dangerous."


"But they are entitled to special protection under international law, including the right not to be immediately deported and sent back into harm's way," the video continues.


The United States has made a pledge to accept more of the hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn countries for Europe. Yet David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, has described the U.S. efforts in mitigating the crisis as "meager."

Half of Syria's population has been forced to flee as a result of violent conflicts, and 380,000 refugees from around the world have attempted to escape to Europe via sea in 2015 so far. While countries like Germany have made generous pledges to receive 500,000 refugees annually, others, like Hungary, have been less welcoming.

The video ends with the call to remember that "we need to treat all human beings, refugee or migrant, with respect and dignity" and that how the world talks about the issue does, in fact, matter.