Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership

There is no single agreed definition for the word 'migrant'.  Its meaning varies from survey to survey, policy to policy and even, on occasion, within the same public debate.  At times it is taken to mean anyone who was born abroad; at others it refers to foreign nationals; and at yet others it means anyone who has changed their usual country of residence for a period of at least a year.  The lack of consistency in its use is problematic, both in terms of informing public debate as well as in policy formulation, as each interpretation will present a different picture of the numbers and impact of migration. 

There are also categories of migrant that are often either conflated or carefully separated out when the issue of migration is under the spotlight.  Depending on the speaker or the topic, asylum seekers, refugees, highly skilled non-EU migrants, EU migrants, family members and international students may or may not be included under the term 'migrant'.  In some debates migration may also refer to internal migration, whether that be movement from rural to urban areas, or, as is the case in the UK, across country borders while still remaining in the UK.  In the case of Northern Ireland there is a further question as to whether Irish citizens who have moved up over the border should be included in discussions around migration.  

The Migration Observatory gives a clear overview of the different ways in which 'migrant' can be understood and the implications of using different definitions in its briefing, 'Who Counts as a Migrant? Definitions and Consequences'. 

 

 

Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership