Is Migrating the Same as Fleeing?

Migration oder Flucht?

Living in a country other than the one you were born in isn't a new phenomenon. According to United Nations (UN) estimates from 2015, roughly 243.7 million people live in countries that aren't their native homes. The word “migration” doesn't apply only to refugees, but to every person who moves from a place or country, independent of the reasons for moving. “Migration”, in general, signifies a movement, while the word “fleeing” has a much stronger connection to external causes.

Those who flee often have a fear of a specific threat and therefore wind up folding their tents. But out of what concrete reasons do people put themselves in danger and leave their homes and families? There are many reasons for migrational movements, which can be categorized in terms of push-and-pull factors. 

From Badghis to Frankfurt Oder

Push factors are reasons that force people to abandon their homes. When war breaks out, for example, many people have no other choice but to take on the burdens of fleeing in the hopes of finding safety. Other reasons include poverty, unemployment, hunger, natural disasters, and persecution out of either political or religious reasons.

The same thing happened to Basir Ahmad, a 22-year-old Afghan who tried to help other people as an activist in his homeland. Basir was a member of the organisation Owj-e-Barter, which he himself founded in the Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan. To finance it, he relied on American aid. Because extremist groups like the Taliban refused contact with what they considered to be “infidel” Americans, Basir Ahmad was in danger. “Fleeing to Germany wasn't any worse than my life in Afghanistan”. Today he’s happy he was able to make it to a country where he can feel safe. 

Once an Activist, Always an Activist

By contrast, the pull factors are often rooted in industrial nations whose living standards are incomparable to those of other nations. Aside from safety, there are better professional and personal opportunities that don't exist in many people's homelands. Many people turn their backs on their homes in order to profit from better education systems. One pull factor for others is higher wages.

In Germany, Basir Ahmad has made himself new goals in the hopes of a better future. He doesn't want to be distracted from his past, because it was the very reason he fled. “What I experienced doesn't keep me from helping others, even if that might be dangerous for me”, he says. The way things go for Ahmad isn't much different for other activists, such as his friend Mahdi Farhat, who just managed to flee to the United States.

Basi Ahmad’s story is a good example of push-and-pull factors that force refugees and immigrants to abandon their homes. Some people have managed, like Basir Ahmad, to achieve their goals. Others aren't as lucky, because they they either die along the way to their destinations, or they're captured and then executed by those who pursue them.

You can read more here about the current situation in Afghanistan. 

Hamdi Abdelmoula
24 years old, Gabes
. . . travelled from Tunisia to Germany – but didn't flee.