Regarding how the terms we use frame our perceptions, Mehran Khalili on the terms for people from other places:
Immigration, a lexicon: You’re a ‘migrant’ when you’re very poor; ‘immigrant’ when you’re not so poor; and ‘expat’ when you’re rich.
Semantics matter: the images evoked by the words used to refer to a group of people will, over time, help to define what we think about that group and how we act towards it. And in the case of people migrating to Greece who have in recent years been badly mishandled by the state, the use of neutral language in reporting by international media and NGOs is vital.
Literally speaking, ‘migrants’ and ‘expats’ do indeed have the same meaning. But since practical usage can be something else entirely, feed both terms into Google Images to see how they’re illustrated. ‘Expats’ in Greece are depicted as white; ‘migrants’ as darker-skinned.
Who decides what ethnicity a person should have to be called a migrant? Who decides what socio-economic background, or legal status, qualifies someone for the ‘expat’ label?
Let’s scrap the ‘migrant’ label and call everyone living outside their native country an expat.