Media Discrimination Against Migrants

Published On: July 16, 2023Categories: Fact Check

The Afghan media has been using the term  “illegal migrants” instead of “irregular migrants”. In a recent report, Afghanistan International channel mistranslated the term “irregular migrants” as “illegal migrants”. The media outlet has used the incorrect term on other occasions too.

Afghanistan International is not the only outlet that has used this discriminatory and anti-migrant term. Other media outlets such as Etilaatroz, 8 am Daily, Tolo News, BBC, and VoA have been using the term frequently.

On June 2nd, 2023, misquoting the Telegraph report on the war on drugs, Afghanistan International used “illegal migrantion” instead of “irregular migrantion”. 

On Friday, the media outlet once again misquoted the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and used the term “illegal migrants” instead of “irregular migrants”.

The two terms have different meanings and the usage of “illegal” is inherently incorrect.

Why is the use of the word “illegal” for migrants incorrect?

1.       According to Global Compact For Safe, Orderly And Regular Migration, and the Budapest Process, migrants are categorized into two: regular and irregular migrants. These documents do not call irregular migrants illegals, but all their member countries use the word “irregular migrants”, not “illegal migrants”.

Irregular migrants are those who flee from physical and psychological harm and leave their native countries and immigrate to other countries in search of a safe place and a fear-free life via illegal border crossing or without any formal documents or visa. Regular migrations are migrations where asylum seekers migrate to other countries with the agreement of the host countries through legal means.

2.       The term “illegal” for migrants is distorted and discriminatory:

The use of the word “illegal” instead of irregular migrants is in conflict with international agreements and declarations, and the use of this word is discriminatory and anti-immigrant.

The word “illegal” is used for breaking a law. This word has a negative connotation. Governments reprimand and punish those who commit illegal acts, based on the laws and regulations of the country.

However, migrants who have left their countries for various reasons and to seek better opportunities and life in other countries. They have not committed illegal acts, but they have utilized their rights.

Based on the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees1951 and its 1967 Protocol, migration and asylum are fundamental human rights, and humans have the right to immigrate and acquire citizenship of other nations with the only exception for war criminals and human rights violators.

The term “illegal migration” is often used by right-wing anti-migration groups intentionally, particularly during election campaigns and when political opponents of migration-friendly governments put their governments under the pressure of public opinion. Iranian media, particularly the state-owned media, use the term ‘illegal migration’ and the Afghan media follow suit.

Migration in Islam:

Migration and immigration have a special place in Islamic history and have been glorified. So much so that the Islamic calendar is based on the year of migration of the Prophet (622 CE).

While for the Arabs of that period, their tribal names had a special value; nonetheless after the migration from Mecca to Medina – Yathrib – Muhajir (Migrants), and Ansar (migrant helpers) took the place of their Bedouin tribal names.


Due to the large scale of migrations, it is hard to provide exact statistics for irregular migrations, but organizations that specialize in this field have estimated that between 30 to 40 million irregular migrants have been recorded only in 2023.

Based on scientific evidence, humans have originated from one place and one family. According to these facts, the similarities among humans exist due to their migratory nature. No one can claim to be the original inhabitant of a country or a specific place. Humans have always been in pursuit of better life and better opportunities, constantly migrating and moving. Therefore, throughout history, the ancestors of all humans have migrated and created new lands. 


Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol

The Budapest Process

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 International Center for Migration Policy Development

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