THE BLOG
01/10/2015 07:46 BST | Updated 30/09/2016 06:12 BST

Immigrants and Ex-Pats: How Your Colour Defines Your Foreign Status

Media terminology demonstrates that language has power. A single headline in popular national newspapers such as The Sun can make or break political candidates, or set the tone for how the public view issues such as the current refugee crisis, or the fate of the European Union.

Media terminology demonstrates that language has power. A single headline in popular national newspapers such as The Sun can make or break political candidates, or set the tone for how the public view issues such as the current refugee crisis, or the fate of the European Union.

Both the current refugee crisis and migration from outsider countries into the UK and the EU generally demonstrate the difference in language that we tend to give white people compared to their BME counterparts. People travelling from countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh in order to improve their financial prospects are deemed 'economic migrants'. According to the Independent, this term generally refers to unskilled and semi-skilled workers from impoverished countries, and interestingly notes that these workers are from the 'global South'. Read: not white.

Meanwhile, when British people are living in foreign countries, no matter what the profession - if they even have one, they tend to be defined as 'ex-pats'. Ex-pat, short for expatriate, literally means a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country not of their original citizenship. So in this sense, there is no difference between 'ex-pats' and 'economic migrants', or even refugees, other than the meaning that we have given it. The Independent defines the contemporary meaning of expatriate as being 'highly skilled professionals' and 'investors', who are 'considered desirable migrants'.

But clearly this isn't always to do with the person is question being 'a highly skilled professional' - many white British people have retired to countries like Spain - therefore contributing nothing professional - and are still not seen as 'immigrants.' The implication here is that economic migrants from the 'global South' - BME people who don't necessarily fit in with Western cultural standards - are undesirable, no matter what they offer to our economy.

This extends to the way we consider immigrant communities. In many foreign countries, there are huge 'ex-pat' communities, who reside together in compounds, socialise with only each other, practice their native culture, speak their native language, and generally tend to keep themselves to themselves.

When that same behaviour is seen with 'immigrant' communities in the UK? Disgust is stirred up by the right-wing media about these immigrant's 'refusal to assimilate' and 'accept British values'. Don't speak great English? 'Deport them!', they cry, despite a huge percentage of 'ex-pats' living abroad who probably never even bother to learn the language, as English is considered superior.

The blatant difference here is that if you're white and British, you experience the privilege of being viewed as an 'ex-pat', a notion that pre-dates to 19th century colonial times, where the British set up camp in colonised nations and imposed their supposedly superior culture onto native people. But if you're an ethnic minority, you're either an immigrant, a migrant, or a just a 'foreigner', and no matter whether you totally assimilate with Western values or not, the message is clear from many right-wing media outlets that you are not wanted.