Migration stories are not simple, nor are they all the same, nor do they affect only one generation. Migration is a burden that is borne for years, that has thousands of edges and that can influence the life of a person who has always been born, raised and lived within the borders of the same country. Migrating is not just crossing a border.

Therefore, it never hurts to explain that no, expressions such as "immigrants", "foreigners", "people of foreign origin", or "people of foreign origin" do not mean the same thing. That each of them refers to a different situation, even if they always have their origin in a migration.

It so happens that Spain is one of the European Union countries with the highest proportion of the population that acknowledges not being well informed about immigration or related issues: the percentage is 74%, compared to 61% of the European average.

Based on this situation, in Echeverria Abogados we have detected the need to advance in the dissemination of objective data on the migratory reality in Spain. The lack of accurate information is a breeding ground for the manipulation and propagation of xenophobic ideas, a phenomenon that we are witnessing today in several countries around the world.

Below, as one of our small contributions to the subject, we present some of the definitions of international law used by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). A little bit of information that may help to better understand the world of migrants.

1— Migration

Migration is any movement of population to the territory of another State, or within the same State, regardless of its size, composition or causes. The concept of migration includes migration of refugees, displaced persons, uprooted persons and economic migrants.

2— Migrant

There is no universally accepted definition of the term migrant. Normally, migrant is a concept that encompasses all those cases in which the decision to migrate is taken freely for "reasons of personal convenience", without the intervention of external factors that compel it. Thus, it applies to individuals and their families who go to another country or region with a view to improving their social and material conditions, and/or their life prospects and those of their families.

3— Emigration

The act of leaving one state for the purpose of settling in another. International human rights law establishes the right of every person to leave any country, including his or her own. Only in certain circumstances may the state impose restrictions on this right.

4— Immigration

The act by which non-nationals enter a country for the purpose of settling in it.

5— Migratory flow

Number of migrants moving from (or to) a country to gain access to employment, or to settle for a given period of time.

6— Irregular migration

Irregular migration is understood as all migration carried out outside the rules of the States of departure, transit or reception. Beyond that, there is no universally accepted and sufficiently clear definition of irregular migration. From the point of view of destination countries, illegal migration can be understood as entry, stay or work. In other words, anything for which the migrant does not have the necessary authorization or the required documents. From the point of view of sending countries, irregularity can be observed in cases where the person in question crosses an international border without travel documents or a valid passport.

7— Labor migration

Migratory movement with a labor purpose. In general, labor migration is regulated in the migration legislation of the States. Some countries even take an active role in seeking work opportunities abroad for their nationals.

8— Nationality

Legal bond between an individual and a state, defined in numerous international legal treaties. According to the International Court of Justice, nationality is "a legal bond based on a social fact of relationship, an effective solidarity of existence, interests and feelings together with reciprocity of rights and obligations", which implies that "the individual, on whom it is conferred directly by law or as a result of an act of the authorities, is, in fact, more closely linked to the population of the State which confers nationality than to that of any other State". The right to nationality is universally recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.

9— Foreign

A person who is not a national of a given State.


Stateless person is any person who is not considered a national by any State. As such, the stateless person does not have the rights attributable to nationality. For example, the diplomatic protection that only a state can exercise in favor of its nationals, or the rights inherent to the condition of legal and habitual resident in a state, or the right to return.

11— Freedom of movement

The right to freedom of movement, present in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, is based on three fundamental elements: freedom of movement within the territory of a State, the right to leave, and the right to return to one's own country.

12— Family reunification

Process by which members of a family group, whether separated by forced or voluntary migration, are reunited in a country other than the country of origin. Admission is discretionary on the part of the receiving state.

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