semantical distinction. The journalists who are using that terms are
demonstrating a lack of understanding that has precedent in international law
dating back at least to World War II.
The evacuees from New Orleans are not refugees and it’s more than a matter of semantics. Refugees are individuals who have fled their home countries and crossed an international boundary under well-founded belief that their lives are in danger and they would face persecution if they returned. (Thanks to Stephen Drachler for this url that makes it clear: http://www.answers.com/topic/refugee )
This is a fundamental definition that has decades of precedent in international law. To call the evacuees from New Orleans refugees is simply wrong, insulting and, however innocent, bad journalism.
Refugees have rights granted by international treaties that extend beyond those of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Refugees can appeal for asylum. Asylum seekers are yet another well-defined group in international law.
Why is it important? First, because the legal definition of refugees must be protected and not muddled by careless usage. Lives depend upon maintaining the legal sanctions that are written into international treaties. Tyrants around the world are continuously attempting to circumvent this definition in order to do harm to people they would like to get at.
Secondly, it’s an insult to U.S. citizens to classify them as stateless. The citizens of New Orleans are not stateless. They have been neglected, abused and treated horribly by our government, but they are none-the-less citizens of the United States with all the constitutional guarantees that citizenship provides. To claim anything less is just adding insult to injury.