So contentious is the refugee crisis facing Europe that even the words used to reference it have come under fire. The concern is that the words ”refugee,” “asylum seeker,” and ”migrant” risk dehumanizing the people, who are being hidden behind the labels used to define them.
Such is the opinion of Australian creative studio Agency. On Sept. 4, four of the 20 people who work at the agency, a non-profit focused on promoting social causes, put down the work they do for clients to dedicate several hours to a project called “Rehumanize.” The project is essentially an app extension for the browser Chrome that replaces textual occurrences of “refugee,” “asylum seeker,” or “migrant” with “human.”
Even for those who argue these words are etymologically correct and not usually meant to be offensive, replacing them using the app still has a sobering effect, emphasizing that there is tangible, relatable suffering behind the labels. Below are some examples:
Murray Bunton, Agency’s executive director, told Quartz the intent of the app was to criticize not so much the use of words such as “migrant” or “refugee,” but of other expressions that are used in Australian media, such as “boat people.”
“We waned to make a statement,” Bunton tells Quartz, explaining the message behind the app is directed especially to the Australian government. “We have this notion in Australia that they [the migrants/humans] are illegal,” said Bunton, who said expressions such as “illegals” and “queue jumpers” are used in the country to refer to migrants. “But we forget how much this country has been built by migrants, and refugees too. It’s very disappointing.”