« Glossary on migration » – IOM

IOM International Organization for Migration, 2004. « International Migration Law ». 78 p.


Migration is increasingly being acknowledged as an issue that needs a global approach and coordinated responses. States are not only discussing migration issues at the bilateral level, but also regionally and lately in global grenas. A commonly understood language is indispensable for such coordination and international cooperation to be successful. This glossary attempts to serve as a guide to the mire of terms and concepts in the migration field, in an effort to provide a useful tool to the furtherance of such international cooperation.

This glossary has been some lime in the making. Informai drafts were prepared by IOM in the seventies and used by ils staff. A renewed attempt to a consolidation was made in the late eighties by IOM technical cooperation centre in Vienna and ils output was published in 2001 in the « Migration Handbook » edited by P. J. Van Krieken. In the context of IOM’s recent initiative to strengthen and enhance ils involvement in the field of international migration law, the decision was taken to produce this glossary and to consolidate into one definitive text the terminology used in the migration field in order to provide a reliable reference for practitioners, government migration officiais, students and others. The present product cannot be said to be exhaustive and any comments or suggestions for an eventual second, and more complete, edition will be welcome.

When compiling the glossary, it became quickly apparent that definitions in this field are often vague, controversial or contradictory. There is an absence of universally accepted definitions, which stems partially from the fact that migration is something which has traditionally only been addressed at the national level ; the result is that the usage of migration terms varies from country to country. Further, even within a country, terms can vary as to the meaning or implication. Definitions – and this is true of ail terminology, not only that related to migration – may vary according to a given perspective or approach. Migration is of concern to a number of bodies, including governments of both sending and receiving countries, police and border authorities, governmental and non-governmental organizations, migrants themselves. Where there are no universally accepted definitions, the potentiel exists for each croup to decide, formally or informally, on ils own definition, according to its perspective. By way of exemple there was a avide array of definitions for the term « trafficking », which have only recently been consolidated with a definition being provided in a format treaty at the international level ; many other terms have not yet been internationally agreed upon. Within this glossary, care has been taken to provide the international definition where it exists : in other cases, a general definition is provided and mention made of alternative definitions.

Another challenge faced in this compilation was the variety of terms used to describe the saure or similar phenomenon. For example, there may be nuances between the terms « illegal migration », « clandestine migration », « undocumented migration » and « irregular migration » ; however, to a large extent they are used looscly and often interchangeably. To this end, some cross-referencing of terms has been inevitable in order to guide the reader to alternative or interchangeable terms.

Last but not least, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation to Shyla Vohra, Jillyanne Redpath and Katarina Tomolova, my colleagues in Legal Services, who contributed to this endeavour and made it happent their competence, smiling dedication and untiring efforts were instrumental in bringing the glossary to life.

Richard Perruchoud (Ed.)

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