Refugee Crisis and the Role of Media

Abstract: The topic of this Paper is ‘Refugee Crisis and Role of Media’. The paper has discussed the main causes of the refugee problems and what type of role the media plays towards them. Few books and some articles are used to formulate this paper. The article argues how media is important in the refugee crisis and how it impacts on the situation.



“Unaccepted where they are, unable to return whence they came” (Gordenker)

According to the Geneva convention on refugees is a person who is outside their country of citizenship because they have well-founded grounds for fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable to obtain sanctuary from their home country or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country or in the case of not having a nationality and being outside their country of former habitual residence as a result of such event is unable or owing to such fear is unwilling to return to their country of former  habitual residence ( Wikipedia, 2016).  “The 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees has adopted the following term “refugee” to apply to any person who (in Article 1.A.2)” (Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (PDF),1967). The article is given below,

“owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”


 The Refugee ‘problem’:

The refugee is an important ‘Problem’ in the recent world. Refugees are individuals who fled from their homeland because of abnormal conditions. The significant impact the ‘Refugee problem’ now has on aspects of international and national politics, policy-making processes, human rights, and development. According to Dowty and Loescher, refugees illustrate the thin boundary between the national and the international: ‘A large scale movement of people across national borders, under duress, internationalizes what might otherwise be purely domestic issues related to the causes of that movement (Dowty and Loescher, 1996, p.44).


Who is (not) a Refugee?

“Within the repertoire of humanitarian concern, a refugee now constitutes one of the most powerful labels. From the first procedure of status determination – who is a refugee? – to the structural determinants of life chances which this identity then engenders, labels infuse the world of refugees” (Zetter, 1991, p.39).

Economic migrants, illegal immigrants, asylum-seekers, displaced persons, political refugees, bogus asylum-seekers, stateless persons, political refugees, bogus asylum seekers, stateless persons, B-refugees, the de facto refugees-the list goes on refugees. Refugees fled from their homeland because of the disastrous situation. They might go back to their land if the situation will be normal as before. But there are some people who also migrate from another country for some natural calamities. Asylum seekers are extremely marginalized and vulnerable people. They have ceased to be under the protection of the governments of their own countries, and are unable to return home through fear of persecution.


read more Relation between Climate Change and Migrant Crisis


The Refugee: A Historical Analysis

It became a common experience for a refugee to find himself on a frontier, trapped between a country that had spat him out and a country that would not let him in (Dorothy, 1938, p.39).

Between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, several events were taking place. Attack on Jews in Tsarist Russia in 1880, millions fled in search of refugees and the wars in the Balkans of 1912–13 caused the displacement of millions more as did, of course, the First World War (Haddad, 2008, p.99). By 1926 more than twenty million individuals were displaced within states. The refugee problem occurred for many reasons. Conflict held within states along ethnic or religious lines. The conflicts between Eritrea and Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000 was an unusual exception. US-led military action in Afghanistan and Iraq has changed the scenario of the world.


Literature review: The Refugee and International state system

“Just beyond the frontier between ‘us’ and the ‘outsider’ is the perilous territory of not-belonging: this is to where in a primitive time peoples were banished, and wherein the modern era immense aggregates of humanity loiter as refugees and displaced persons” (Said, 2001, p. 177).

International society divides the world into sovereign states and sovereign state has two authority – external autonomy and internal control. The whole world is now conscious of refugees. The refugees are now a headache of the world community. Many countries accept refugees but many not.


Theoretical Framework: Role of media from different perspectives

Media plays an important role in the refugee issue. Some theoretical framework on the refugee crisis is given below.

IR Theorist:

Alexander Betts and Gil Loescher are two IR theorists. They have given some statement about refugee. Their quotation is given below.

“Refugees in International Relations: Refugees lie at the heart of world politics. The causes and consequences of, and responses to, human displacement are intertwined with many of the core concerns of International Relations. Yet, scholars of International Relations have generally bypassed the study of refugees, and Forced Migration Studies has generally bypassed insights from International Relations. This volume, therefore, represents an attempt to bridge the divide between these disciplines and to place refugees within the mainstream of International Relations. Drawing together the work and ideas of a combination of the world’s leading and emerging International Relations scholars, the volume considers what ideas from International Relations can offer our understanding of the international politics of forced migration. The insights are drawn from across the theoretical spectrum of International Relations from realism to critical theory to feminism, covering issues including international cooperation, security, and the international political economy. They engage with some of the most challenging political and practical questions in contemporary forced migration, including peacebuilding, post-conflict reconstruction, and state-building. The result is a set of highly original chapters, yielding not only new concepts of wider relevance to International Relations but also insights for academics, policy-makers, and practitioners working on forced migration in particular and humanitarianism in general.”


Media Theorist:

According to Marx’s theory, the institutions of the mass media are owned by the ruling classes. These institutions are used to indoctrinate the masses into believing capitalism is good for all. The mass media exists to serve the ideological interests of the ruling class. Marx argued that as an outcome of capitalist ideology was the alienation of workers from the means of production a disconnection between the maker and what is made. An example is given below how media manipulate the audiences.

“The fake refugee images that are being used to distort public opinion on asylum seekers: As the debate about how to solve Europe’s refugee crisis continues, right-wing groups and commentators are using photos and memes to demonize the desperate people risking their lives to reach the continent. But many of the photos are being faked, twisted, edited or taken out of context in an effort to support the following myths and arguments” (Independent News, 2016).


Case Study:

I have taken a case study on Rohingya Refugee from Imtiaz Ahmed’s Book “The plight of the stateless Rohingyas”.  The Tile of the case was “We pass our days crying”. The victim’s name was Rashid and he was 43 years old. The interview was taken at Kutupalong Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar. The person who had taken the interview her name was Shaon Shyla. She is the student of the Department of IR, University of Dhaka. I am describing Rashid’s story below.

Rashid fled from Myanmar along with his four family members in 1992. At that time he was prevented by the BDR in the border area but later he made his way through by giving bribe. Their life was in a state of insecurity because of the Moghs. He told that they were all under threat. He was a fisherman and used to catch fish in the Undying River in Myanmar. Even now he becomes nostalgic. Wherever he goes he hears the rippling sound of the river. His eyes were shining when he was talking to me about all his catches. He told that ‘Even now his heart leaps when he held a big fish.’ In Myanmar, there is no freedom for anyone but for the Muslim, it is even worse. Actually, in the Arakan, violence against the Rohingyas is a way of life despite the fact that the Rohingyas are one of the minority groups in Myanmar. The military government still does not recognize the Rohingyas as a distinct ethnic group.

At the end of the conversation, Rashed started humming a Rohang song:

“Ara khandi khandi zibon khataisi mog bormar vitor

Tai alom sikhi na phorilam mog bormar boi

Moger phua dos chelasa the dhotori kore

Musolmaner phua bhas kori phane khili beche.”

[We pass our days crying inMyanmar

And so we hardly have time to lear and teach

Children of Moghs become doctors

While Muslim children pass their days doing menial jobs.]”



We took an interview from the UNHCR office in Dhaka Bangladesh. We try to understand the situation and activities of UNHCR. How they help refugees, what are their activities towards refugees? What we understand by the interview that is UNHCR is not a state or it has not that kind of power to stop or prevent war. If a state wants to remove the UNHCR office from their country they can easily can and UNHCR have no right to stop them. UNHCR tries its best to help refugees.


Media coverage as a revolutionary tool:

At present, the World is facing different problems. The refugee crisis is one of the major issues in this current context. The issue didn’t come overnight. People all over the world are becoming aware of this refugee issue for several years. Media played a vital role in this regard. In a busy life, people are also concern about global issues.

Since 2015 refugees crossed into Europe in a heavy range. According to different news documents, more than a million people crossed into Europe during 2015 and at the starting two months of 2016 already 135,000 refugees have arrived in Europe. Syrian refugees are really high comprising 49% of total refugees. People are taking a huge life risk to reach their destiny. Most of them are successfully landing in the EU but some are dying and missing. Till now many media outlets informed that 410 refugees are dead or missing.


War-torn countries such as Palestine and other problems such as hunger, disease, clash, etc are strongly responsible for this refugee influx. The death image and news of Syrian three years old boy Aylan Kurd in Turkey beach shook the world in September. The heartbreaking photograph of a dead 3-year-old boy, whose body washed up in Turkey on Sept. 2, has already had an impact on policy, with the U.K. agreeing on Friday to take thousands of more refugees. This news coverage draws huge attention to the humanitarian issue of the refugee crisis. This is the power of media. Recently Greece’s issue has become in great concern. Media are highlighting that Yiannis Mouzalas denied EU manifesto. Greece also built control in Athens. Minister demanded that they are cooperating enough to accommodate refugees.


Response From Different Community:

There is no way of isolating oneself from the effects of gross violations abroad: they breed refugees, exiles, and dissidents who come knocking at our doors – and we must choose between bolting the doors, thus increasing misery and violence outside, and opening them, at some cost to our own well being ( Hoffmann, 1981). The response of the international community (IC) is another crucial dimension in understanding the problem and solution of the Refugees. It is not only for the reason that the international community can put diplomatic pressure on the states responsible for the crisis but also provide critical support for the survival of the refugees in the camp and non-camp areas. All the parties to this issue concur on the point that global support is a must for the durable resolution of the Refugees crisis. The IC has been continuing support for the protection of refugees in order to find a permanent solution and ensure their human dignity. The major IGOs involved in the refugee’s issue include UNHCR, USAID, and EU while INGOs comprise IRI, TAI, MSF, and Concern Worldwide.


read more Who are the Rohingyas?



‘Refugee’ homeless people are the biggest problem in recent world issues. Especially Europe faces this problem. Bangladesh and other Asian countries face Rohingya refugee problem. Refugees face problems worldwide. Women, girls were raped and all refugees deprive of their human rights. Media sometimes create concern for refugees and sometimes manipulate people. It is true that refugees could be a future threat to a country. Refugees are interacted with local people and local people most of the time abuse them. The bitterness is growing day by day and it would be a future threat. ISIS is one of the most crucial examples of a refugee. World leaders and all IC should take necessary steps for solving the ‘refugee problem.’



A refugee is not a natural disaster, it is a human creating problem. Every man has the right to live safe, it is the fundamental human right. Because of the World’s superpower, some countries are involved in the war. With today’s mixed movements of persons, the international community will need to continue looking for ways to respond to the specific needs of the refugee. The proposals for regional protection promulgated by the European Union are one recent example of this search. Protection norms have been diffused and accepted among the Member States as one of the new ways of interacting with third countries on asylum issues at the EU level.




Nafiya Binte Goni

Masters in International Relations

Bangladesh University of Professionals

Bibliographical Reference


1.Dorothy, T 1938, Refugees: AnarchyorOrganization?, Random House, New York.

2.Dowty, A and Loescher, G 1996, RefugeeFlowsasGroundsforInternationalAction, International security 21.


, L 1987, RefugeesinInternationalPolitics, Croom Helm, Beckenham.

4.Haddad, E 2008, TheRefugeeinInternationalSocietyBetweenSovereigns, Cambridge University Press, New York.

5.Hoffmann, S 1981, DutiesBeyondBorders: OntheLimitsandPossibilitiesofEthicalInternationalPolitics, Syracuse University, New York.

6.Zetter, R 1991 ‘Labelling Refugees: Forming and Transforming a Bureaucratic Identity’,

Journal of Refugee Studies 4, 1, P.39.

7.Said, w. E 2001, ‘Reflections on Exile and Other Literary and Cultural Essays’, London, Granta, p. 177.

League of Nations:

Official Records

1.League of Nations, 1933, Monthly Summary vol. XIII, no. 12, p.273.

Internet Sources:

BBC NEWS. (2016) Greece begins to return migrants to Turkey. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 06 April 2016]

Independent NEWS. (2016) The fake refugee images that are being used to distort public opinion on asylum seekers. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 06 April, 2016]

Wikipedia, “Refugee”, [Online] Available from:,

[Accessed: 18 March 2016]


Treaties and Legal Instrument:

1.Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (PDF),1967, Geneva, Switzerland: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Communications and Public Information Service.

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