Skip to navigationSkip to content

This Chrome extension reminds you that “refugees” and “migrants” are “humans”

AP Photo/Borce Popovski
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

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:

Migrants are humans

The migrant crisis is a human crisis, and asylum seekers are humans

Refugees are humans

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.”

“Boat people” are humans

“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.”

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy.