“Hang on they are not tourists”, a UK citizen said to his wife with wide eyes and an expression on his face suggesting this realisation was a big surprise. “They could even be ‘migrants’…couldn’t they?”
This is a question — in this case one I heard in an interview — that has always been complex, but is becoming even more so, in the UK and elsewhere. Time has changed legal and regulatory circumstances, and the demographic of people who come to Britain have also changed.
These changes have generated new migrant categories, typologies and tiers but also new stigmas, phobias and labels.
Who is a migrant? Alas, there is no clear legal or administrative definition of ‘migrant’. A 1953 United Nations recommendation referred to the definition of “permanent immigrants” as non-residents (both nationals and aliens) arriving with the intention to remain for a period exceeding a year and of “permanent emigrants” as residents (nationals and aliens) intending to remain abroad for a period exceeding one year (United Nations, 1953).