Why don’t you call people fleeing Venezuela ‘refugees’?

Sept. 5, 2018

I am curious regarding GPF’s editorial reluctance to label the people fleeing Venezuela as “refugees,” choosing instead to call them “migrants.” Is this due to an absence of a U.N. ruling, or is it a matter of editorial policy?

Response from Jacob L. Shapiro

Ian, the debate over what is a refugee vs. an internally displaced person vs. a migrant vs. an asylum seeker has been the subject of thousands of pages of doctoral papers and bureaucratic memoranda. We care not to wade into this political and legal firestorm and so simply call them migrants because that is what they are. By the U.N.’s definition, certainly some fleeing Venezuela are technically “refugees” – but not all, and perhaps not even most. Rather than going through this song and dance every time we have to use the word, we rely on the word that is always correct and explain why they are leaving. We leave it to our readers’ good judgment to figure out the legalities or politics of the rest.

All the best,


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