HomeModule KindertransportStage 1: Getting Started

Stage 1: Getting Started

This stage acts as an introduction to the modul. Core question: How do language and terms used by the media effect and influence our perception of refugees?

Participants are requested to:

Think about the term “unaccompanied minors”. What do you associate with this term?

The facilitator gives short information on the term and adds new associations if necessary, and raises the next question.

„Unaccompanied Minor“ (definition by the United Nations General Assembly, August 7, 1997)

The term „unaccompanied minors“ is used both by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and by UNHCR* to refer to persons who are under 18 years of age or under a country’s legal age of majority, are separated from both parents, and are not with and being cared for by a guardian or other adult who by law or custom is responsible for them.

*UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organisation dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.

What kind of other terms for refugees (adults and/or minors) do you know?

Also here, the facilitator can add terms that were not mentioned by the participants. Participants are asked to look at all the terms, now visually in front of them, and to consider whether they are „positive”, „negative” or „neutral“ terms.

Additional terms for refugees (adults and/ or minors)

Refugee, migrant, immigrant, undocumented, sin papeles, illegal, foreigner, fugitive, new comer (in German: Neuankömmlinge), work migrant, infiltrator (in the Israeli discourse), asylum seeker, Geflüchtete (translates to someone who had fled, in a process that is over, but connected to a new one that had begun).

On the labels used and their meanings:

What labels are used to describe refugees?

The German media is unusual in that it overwhelmingly uses the terms „refugee“ and „asylum seeker“ in its coverage. Whether tabloid or quality newspaper, right-wing or left of centre, all newspapers use these labels approximately 90% of the time. More neutral or pejorative labels such as „immigrant“ „illegal“ or „foreigner“ are much more rarely used. The terms Wirtschaftsflüchtling (Economic Refugee) or Wirtschaftsmigrant (Economic Migrant) are very occasionally used in relation to people from Africa or the Balkans.

Labels by German newspapers (each label as a proportion of total labels in each publication)

Bild Süddeutsche Zeitung Die Welt German Average
Flüchtling(e) (Refugee) 77.0% 70.0% 70.1% 70.3%

Asylbewerber (Asylum Seeker)

15.8% 21.2% 19.4% 20.2%
Migrant(en) (Migrant) 4.6% 5.3% 3.4% 4.6%


Zuwanderer(in) (Immigrant)

2.6% 2.6% 4.1% 3.1%

(Economic Refugee)

0% 0.5% 1.1% 0.7%
Illegale(r) (Illegal) 0.0% 0.6% 0.7% 0.6%

(Economic Migrant)

0% 0% 0.9% 0.3%
Ausländer (Foreigner) 0.0% 0.1% 0.3% 0.1%
Total Numbers 152 1264 705 2121

Source: Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries. Report prepared for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (December 2015)

Participants receive a worksheet with information on media coverage on Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi.

Worksheet - Aylan Kurdi

Questions for Discussions

Why do children turn into icons of historical events? Why is it easier to create sympathy for children? (Also here the facilitator can add reasons that were not named by the participants.)

Can you think of other photos of children that had turn iconic for a specific historical event?

Why is it perhaps easier to speak of child refugees rather than of adult refugees?

Examples of photos of children that had turned iconic for a specific historical event

  • Anne Frank,
  • The boy from the Warsaw Ghetto,
  • Naked girl fleeing from a napalm cloud during the Vietnam War (1972). The girl, Kim Phúk, will always be 9 years old and wailing “Too hot! Too hot!” as she runs down the road away from her burning Vietnamese village, in an image that turned into a symbol of the Vietnam War,

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