‘Refugee’ has been chosen as Children’s Word of the Year after a dramatic increase in youngsters using the term in their creative writing.
Analysis of the 123,436 entries to BBC Radio 2’s 500 Words short story competition found 339 uses of the word. This is a 368 per cent increase from 2015, when ‘refugee’ cropped up just 67 times.
Researchers from the University of Oxford found that the attitudes towards refugees were generally empathetic and positive. Young writers showed particular sympathy for the plight of their fellow children, with a focus on what it would be like to leave home and undertake a difficult journey.
Issues tackled included the war in Syria, journeys across the Mediterranean, life in refugee camps, lone travellers and the feeling of not being wanted anywhere.
There were also 34 uses of the word migrant, but it was closely linked with refugee, according to the research. Other words to see a rise in usage were also linked with the migrant crisis: boat, camp, dinghy, border, shelter, journey, desperate, safe and trek.
‘Refugee’ may be less controversial than last year’s pick, when the hashtag symbol ‘#’ triumphed as Children’s Word of the Year – despite not being a word.
Picture: Football fans hold a banner reading ‘Refugees Welcome’. (Jonathan Brady/PA).