Statement by François Crépeau (former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants) in response to Ayelet Shachar‘s opening question at the Second Annual Goethe-Göttingen Critical Exchange Roundtable Discussion. Shahar’s opening question was: “What in your opinion, are the biggest challenges we currently face in the context of migration? How are legal institutions and other social actors – local, national, regional, transnational, or international – helping to understand and address them?”
The roundtable was chaired and moderated by Prof. Ayelet Shachar and the event was co-organized with Prof. Rainer Forst of the Normative Orders Cluster of Excellence at Goethe University Frankfurt/Main.
1. Changing our mindset: overcoming stereotypes
The biggest challenge is to change our mindset regarding migration, to change how we represent migrants.
Our most common assumptions regarding migration are too often based on stereotypes, myths and fantasies regarding the “radical difference” of the migrants.
This is most visible when we talk about “our people” migrating: we call them “expats” or “tourists” or “executives” or “retirees”. We very rarely describe mobile people from the Global North – or even the elite 1% of the Global South – as “migrants”.
Fear of the “mobile other” seems a common thread of all settled societies throughout history, including the invention of the despised “asylum seeker” around 1982, in order to distinguish them from the good refugees who waited patiently in camps to be picked and chosen, or not.
Because of this fear, we need to remember the former kinds of migrants when we speak about migrants in a precarious situation: asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and temporary migrant workers.
Migration is in our DNA. It is a normal human behaviour. We are almost all migrants or immediate descendants of migrants. Settlement is often only generational.
To access the statement, please click here.