Although the general public often uses the terms “refugee” and “migrant” interchangeably, it is important to understand the key distinctions that separate these two groups. For the purpose of this discussion, we will be utilizing the United Nations’ interpretation of each term.

The first term, “refugee,” is defined as “persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.” [1] Whereas a “migrant” – though there is no formal definition – is considered to be “someone who changes his or her country of usual residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status.”[2] In both cases, it involves the relocation of a person or a group of people from their home country to a foreign state, often facing numerous challenging and even life-threatening situations.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, in December 2015, “more than 911,000 refugees and migrants had arrived on European shores since the year began and some 3,550 lives had been lost during the journey.” [3] The number of dead and missing persons in the Mediterranean region continued to rise into 2016, as the number increased to 5,096, compared with the 363,400 that arrived safely. [4]

The refugee crisis has displayed the highest level of humanitarian need since the outbreak of World War II. [5] The statistics and tragedies connected to the crisis has spurred an international response, calling for unity and collaborative efforts to improve the migration process.

The United Nations has since mobilized to help combat this crisis by raising funds, organizing the first World Humanitarian Summit, and holding numerous assemblies to formulate plans and create solutions.

However, now that it has been more than three years since the refugee crisis began, countries are beginning to pull away – closing borders, turning away refugees and enforcing immigration policies. Germany is a prime example of this process, as it initiated an “open border” policy in 2015 at the height of the refugee crisis, admitting over 890,000 refugees and accepting 476,649 asylum seeker applications. [6] One year later, Germany reinstated its border policy after dealing with issues over integration and assimilation, reducing the number of refugees it permitted to 280,000. [7]

This trend continued as the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, faced political backlash from the increase in crime associated with the influx of refugees and the strain on German resources. Now, Germany is taking a firmer stance on immigration and in 2018 deported its highest number of refugees – 8,658 – to other EU states, following the EU’s Dublin III rule, stating that applications must first be processed in the first country of arrival. [8]

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the United States has been experiencing similar changes toward immigration policy.

For decades, North America, and more specifically the United States, has been a global destination for migration flows. Celebrated as a “nation of immigrants” and a “land of opportunity,” immigration is widely considered to be in the national interest. However, unauthorized migration has become a main policy concern for the United States, reaching its peak in 2007 at 12.2 million. [9]

Since then, the influx of unauthorized immigrants entering the U.S. has gradually decreased, coinciding with the fact that U.S. federal law enforcement apprehensions of Central Americans attempting to cross the southern border remains at its lowest level since 1972. [10]

Despite these decreasing numbers, attention to immigration policy has increased within the U.S., as it has become one of the forefront policies within President Trump’s administration. Already within the first two years of his term, the U.S. has seen the restriction of travel and work visas to certain countries, challenges to DACA, the curbing of legal immigration and an increase to the screening of refugees. Time can only tell what the last two years of his term will hold and what it will mean for U.S. immigration policy.

[1] “Definitions,” Refugees and Migrants, United Nations, accessed February 21, 2019,
[2] Ibid.
[3] Spindler, William, “2015: The Year of Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” UNHCR Tracks, December 8, 2015,
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Refugees and Migrants: 2016 Global Response,” United Nations, accessed February 20, 2019,
[6] Trines, Stefan,”Lessons From Germany’s Refugee Crisis: Integration, Costs, and Benefits,” World Education News and Reviews, May 2, 2017,
[7] Ibid
[8] “Germany Deports Record Number of Refugees to Other EU States,” Deutsche Welle, accessed February 28, 2019,
[9] Del Real, Jose A. “The Number of Undocumented Immigrants in the U.S. Has Dropped, a Study Says. Here Are 5 Takeaways.” New York Times. Nov. 27, 2018.
[10] “Southwest Border Sectors: Total Illegal Alien Apprehensions by Fiscal Year,” United States Border Patrol, accessed February 21, 2019,


Your SWAC leader will prompt you with questions concerning this idea: Global migration and refugee numbers have increased over the last decade due to a variety of factors, particularly in Europe and the United States. Acknowledging both the pros and cons of immigration, how would you respond to a large influx of migrants and refugees trying to enter your country if you were the President of the United States or a head of state in Europe?

Express your thoughts and contribute to discussion with your SWAC peers! (Write your thoughts.)

Kahoot! Introductory Quiz

Kahoot! is an online Quiz platform. This small four-question quiz is to test the student’s prior knowledge of refugees and global migration, introducing them to the discussion to come. The quiz does not require the proctor to have a Kahoot! account in order to start. Students will use an electronic device in order to answer. The link is below; click START NOW and select Classic mode. After the Game PIN is generated, students will be able to join the session by accessing on their computer or mobile device. Begin the quiz once all students have joined! This activity should take no more than 10 minutes.


Lesson Handout

Now is when the handouts should be passed out to students. This handout will cover an analysis of global migration and the refugee crisis in both Europe and the United States. It is recommended that the handout be read aloud as a group rather than individually. Take some time after the reading to cover the material with the students and make sure that it’s been generally understood. Ask questions to students; get them to summarize what they’ve read and make sure that the students are engaged and understanding. The reading should take no more than 20 minutes.


Video Resources

The following video resources will present the current events portion of the handout. One video focuses on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and the other on Central American migration to the United States. Each video clip is between 2 and 5 minutes; coupled with questions, this segment should take no more than 15 minutes.

Syrian Refugees: A Human Crisis Revealed in a Powerful Short Film


This 2-minute short film by National Geographic showcases the harrowing landing of a group of Syrian people on the coast of Greece.

  • Why do you think this video concentrates on the refugees’ journey crossing the Mediterranean Sea rather than the chaos they’re escaping in their homeland, or the troubles they’ll face in the foreign country?
  • Who is the intended audience for this video and why?

The Killer – “Land of the Free”


This is a music video of The Killers’ song “Land of the Free,” directed by Spike Lee. The video tells the story and progression of a Central American caravan to the United States’ southern border. The song lyrics touch on a variety of issues within the United States from incarceration to discrimination.

  • Why do you think the video itself focuses on migration?
  • What does “land of the free” mean to you and what implications does it have in this video? Additional resource for lyric analysis:


  • Both videos focus on migration – what are some similarities and differences that you can discern? What impact does the music have in each (i.e.: lyrics, mood, and tempo)?
  • What do you think are the main messages that these videos try to convey? Discuss the closing images in each video (Syrian Crisis: “People of Nowhere” and The Killers: the upside-down U.S. flag).
  • After reading the lesson handout and watching these two videos, do you believe that the refugee crisis is also a humanitarian crisis? Did your decision of how you would respond to a large influx of migrants and refugees trying to enter your country – if you were a head of state – change?

(This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes – total estimated meeting time: no more than 1 hour.)


Brendan Sasso, “Report: China hacked Obama, McCain campaigns in 2008,” The Hill, June 7, 2013,

Ted Julian, “Defining Moments in the History of Cyber-Security and the Rise of Incident Response,” Info Security Group, December 2014,