Donald Trump Just Described Syrian Refugees in a Problematic Way

October 1st 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Donald Trump put the Syrian people fleeing their country on notice that under his presidency, anyone seeking refuge in the U.S. "as part of this mass migration" would be promptly sent back, referring to the refugee crisis as a migration—a term that has largely been discredited throughout the Syrian conflict. 

"They could be ISIS," Trump explained at a rally in a New Hampshire high school Wednesday night. "This could be one of the great tactical ploys of all time. A 200,000-man army maybe, or if you said 50,000 or 80,000 or 100,000, we got problems and that could be possible."

"I don't know that it is, but it could be possible so they're going back—they're going back." 

The announcement marked a policy shift for the GOP front-runner, who said last month that the "answer is possibly yes, possibly yes," to the U.S. accepting more refugees from the war-torn areas of the Middle East and North Africa.

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"It is a huge problem and we should help as much as possible, but we do have to fix our own country," he said. His remarks Wednesday come after the U.S. agreed to accept 100,000 Syrians in the coming year.

"I'm putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as a part of this mass migration, that if I win, they're going back," Trump said.

What is the difference between refugee and migrant?

The semantic difference in the fallout from the Syrian conflict—refugees vs. migrants—is an important one, especially in political rhetoric and international law. Since the 1951 Refugee Convention, refugees, people fleeing their country because of conflict, have been protected under international law, ATTN: reported last month. Migrants, on the other hand, choose to leave their home country in order to seek work, education, or a generally better quality of life. 

Under the Refugee Convention, people fleeing their home country because of conflict are protected from having to return to that country if their safety is not assured, a stipulation that Trump would seemingly break if he were elected president. Then again, it is not the first time that the primary candidate has hinted at breaking international agreements in the interest of domestic advancement. 

Check out author and YouTube vlogger John Green explaining the important differences between "refugee" and "migrant" in the below video.

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