The Atlantic

Letters: How Should We Talk About Migration Policy?

Readers respond to an article on Germany’s effort to distinguish refugees from economic migrants.
Source: Stefanie Loos / Reuters

The Refugee Detectives

In The Atlantic’s April issue, Graeme Wood wrote about Germany’s high-stakes effort to sort people fleeing death from opportunists and pretenders.


I research refugee flows in the Middle East and teach courses about refugees and human rights at Johns Hopkins, and I found Graeme Wood’s recent article to have some important problems that I wish to draw your attention to.

Wood appears to be on a mission to create an exciting story of liars being caught, but he’s missing some important context in some places, while in other places his account is stigmatizing and misleading.

Allow me to be more specific.

Midway through the article, Mr. Wood talks about asylum-seekers who burn their fingertips because they may, he argues, be “villains” or else seek to escape “villains” in their home countries. This mystified me. The tone and word choice strike me as a shallow attempt to drum up drama. But more importantly, he’s leaving out or covering up the key reason asylum-seekers actually do this, which is to avoid being registered on the system that, under the, and I wonder why Mr. Wood didn’t address it.  His account is misleading at best and deceptive at worst.  

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