The world is full of false refugee narratives and information.

In a post published on the World Economic Forum, Alexander Court, a Marketing Communications Lead for WEF, notes the following as the most common fallacies about refugees:

  • Most refugees seek refuge in Australia, the US, and Europe; they don’t. Data from the UNHCR shows that 80% of displaced people seek refuge in neighboring countries.
  • Most refugees live in camps, which is not 100% true because 61% of refugees live autonomously in urban centers, and, as you know, refugee camps differ from country to country.
  • Refugees leave to seek better job opportunities; they don’t because the very definition of a refugee is “someone who has fled their home, hoping to safeguard their safety from war, conflict, or violence.” Alexander Court notes that the leading cause of this negative narrative is the interchangeable use of “refugee” and “migrant.” As the UNHCR notes, there are stark differences between refugees and migrants. Refugees flee from armed conflict. Migrants often migrate in search of “betterment,” not always because their lives are in danger.

While it’s so unfortunate that we live in a world full of misinformation about refugees and their journeys, fortunately, there’s something we can all do to change this misinformation-driven refugee narrative.

As the UNHCR notes, refugees are not the crisis; the narrative we tell about them is:

Refugee narrative

Today, we’ll share 4 simple things you and I can start doing to change the false refugee narrative and stop the spread of false information about refugees in our communities.

Let’s get into it earnestly, shall we?

1: Mind your language

As you know, language is a powerful tool that we can use to change public perception towards refugees. The words we use consciously or unconsciously when referring to refugees and their predicament are perhaps the primary cause of the refugee misinformation in modern society. 

Using words like “a flood, tsunami,” or “surge of refugees” and metaphors like “the refugee headache or cancer” to describe refugees and their difficulties perpetuates the false narrative. 

Whether you’re talking to your kids, friends, or colleagues about refugees, or publishing refugee-related content online, be mindful of and deliberate with the words you use.

Also, don’t use the words “refugee,” “migrant,” and “asylee” interchangeably. Research to learn the differences, then go out of your way to ensure that you use the right words and even do your best to correct your friends and family members when they use the terms interchangeably—gently, of course. 

In a future post, we’ll dive deep into the differences, similarities, and everything else you need to know about the terminologies used to describe refugees and the refugee situation. 

When talking about refugees, remind yourself to use language that does not promote stereotyping, hate speech, or bias—political or otherwise. 

I’m sure that if we all did this, it could change the narrative. After all, wasn’t Desmond Tutu right when he said:

refugee stories

2: Share impactful refugee-related content

Can you imagine what a difference we would make in the world if all of us shared impactful and positive refugee-related content?

Let’s do some hypothetical math:

The CTF newsletter has over 10,000 subscribers. Suppose each person on the newsletter deliberately decided to share positive content about refugees online once a week. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’d flood social media with positive refugee stories, wouldn’t we? Indeed, we would. Can you imagine what impact this would have? I can: a massively positive impact.

Here’s a practical way we can collectively work towards diluting the negative narrative the media feeds us about refugees:

Whenever you come across impactful content highlighting refugees’ stories, share it on social media, email it to a friend or two, and even talk about it with your close friends and family members. 

Our blog and social media channels have tons of impactful content you can share with your social circle.

Here is a small list of such content:

Here are links to our blog and social media channels where you’ll find other stories and resources you can read and share widely:

The UNHCR also has a curated list of 7 videos it says “will change how you see refugees.”

It takes only a few minutes to watch and share such content, but the positive effect of such a simple action could be astronomical.

3: Do your part to combat disinformation

The very essence of this blog post is to awaken you to the fact that the world is full of misinformation regarding refugees. 

Now that you are aware of it, it stands to reason that one of the simplest things we can do to combat this misinformation is to fight it in any way we can. Sharing impactful content is one way to do this, but we can still do more to combat refugee disinformation. 

For example, whenever you read fake news about refugees, fact-check it through research or fact-checking websites like Truth or Fiction, Snopes, or Fact Check. Facebook, and most social media platforms, even have built-in tools you can use to report fake news. 

Like most ideas on this blog post, it only takes a few minutes to flag and report fake news.

To quote Michael Josephson’s wise words:

4: Educate yourself and your kids

In the song Patience (Sabali), Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley and Nas state something we should all remember, especially concerning refugees and their plight:

“The average man can’t prove most of the things that he chooses to speak of and still won’t research and find out the root of the truth that you seek of.”

Patience: Nas & Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley

Wise words: Most of us speak of things we can’t prove, especially relating to refugees. 

Self-education is one of the most important things we can do to stop refugee misinformation. Mind you, you don’t need to know everything or be the go-to resource for refugee information in your social circle.

All you have to do is research a little to ensure you’re well-informed. That way, you can ensure you’re passing on factual information to your friends, children, and even family members.

Another important thing we can do to fight, stop, and change the false refugee narrative is to teach our kids the truth about refugees by giving them bias-free information. After all, our kids are the future. If we ensure our kids know the facts, we can change the narrative from the bottom up, and create a better future and world. As as it so happens, we can’t teach our kids the facts if we’re misinformed.

There you have it: 4 simple but impactful things we can all start doing to change the way people see refugees and the socially accepted refugee narrative.

Which of these things spoke to you the most?

Which one will you start doing today?

Let’s engage in the comment section and on our social media channels.