Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2014


It is commonplace to speak of those in flight from famine, or otherwise migrating in search of food, as “refugees.” Over the past decade alone, millions of persons have abandoned their homes in countries such as North Korea, Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, and Somalia, hoping that by moving they could find the nourishment needed to survive. In a colloquial sense, these people are refugees: they are on the move not by choice, but rather because their own desperation compels them to pursue a survival strategy away from the desperation confronting their home communities.

The question addressed here is whether persons in flight from famine or otherwise migrating in search of food may claim the benefit of this more constrained but dramatically more empowering legal form of refugee status. Or are they outside that definition, such that they must simply hope that others will come to their aid?


This article is reproduced with permission from the Summer 2014 issue of Social Research (