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The International Migration Institute network (IMIn) preserves IMI's legacy while building on its achievements by fostering a network of researchers that is committed to develop new thinking about migration and mobility across the world.
This paper explores processes of migration to and from Bolsward – a small agro-industrial town in the Dutch province of Friesland – with an emphasis on the post-WWII period. While prewar patterns of in- and out-migration were primarily intra-provincial, after 1945 migration became increasingly inter-provincial and, to some extent, international. Out-migrants from Bolsward were partly replaced by unskilled agricultural labourers from surrounding rural areas who lost their employment through agricultural mechanisation and found work in the growing industrial and construction sectors in town. When that labour supply dried up during the 1960s, this led to the recruitment of Turkish ‘guestworkers’. From the late 1950s, a second type of in- migrant, belonging to a high-skilled, often non-Frisian professional class, migrated to Bolsward to fill positions in local government and education. Four interacting social transformation processes explain these changing migration patterns: (1) industrialisation, (2) agricultural mechanisation, (3) state/educational expansion and (4) a broader change in life aspirations and ideas of the ‘good life’. Because of a process of replacement migration from Bolsward’s rural hinterlands, out-migration did not lead to population decline. Concurrently, new economic and educational opportunities arose that matched the life aspirations of town dwellers and agricultural workers from the hinterlands, giving rise to an increase in ‘voluntary immobility’ from the 1960s onwards. This case study highlights the vital ‘linking’ role that small towns and rural areas play in the hierarchical, multi-layered geographical structure of migration systems. It shows that much out-migration from rural areas is directed not to big cities but, rather, to smaller urban areas located in their direct vicinity and that migration from such rural towns is often directed to medium-sized urban settlements rather than to big cities. The analysis also shows that social transformation does not necessarily lead to large-scale out-migration when local opportunities expand simultaneously.
This paper explores how processes of social transformation since the 1980s have impacted on mobility patterns and migration aspirations in Western French Guiana. The French state showed little interest in the development of this scarcely populated region until the arrival of refugees during Suriname’s War of the Interior (1986–1991), which triggered rapid population growth and pressed the state to provide services. With the expansion of formal education, young people’s life aspirations shifted away from rural economic activities and were increasingly mismatched with locally available opportunities. In line with mobility transition theories, these social transformations diversified and expanded mobility patterns: whereas grandparents relied on short-term circular mobility along the Maroni river to perform agricultural activities in the region’s interior, today’s young people engage in permanent rural-urban and overseas migration in order to access educational facilities and economic opportunities. Despite these ‘instrumental’ aspirations for migration, the analysis of 31 interviews revealed that young people have an ‘intrinsic’ preference to stay in Western French Guiana. Many remain closely attached to their familiar socio-cultural environment and families; at the same time, the French state provides basic economic stability which facilitates staying – e.g. through paid professional training and social benefits. In fact, young people find themselves in a situation of ‘in-betweenness’. They cannot achieve their life aspirations locally but do not aspire to migrate. This finding shows that migration aspirations do not automatically increase with levels of ‘development’. Instead, this paper highlights the ambiguous effects of developmental processes, especially state expansion, on people’s migration aspirations.
In December 2018 states adopted two Global Compacts, one on migration and one on refugees, establishing roadmaps for the future of international cooperation relevant to population movements. While often attributed to the “migration crises” of 2015, the Global Compacts are the product of more than one hundred years of institution-building during which the world has evolved tremendously. Challenging linear accounts of the evolution of global migration governance, this paper reviews the main developments relevant to global migration governance from 1919 to 2018. A tension between informality with action, and formality with inaction, has impacted the way that global migration governance has evolved. Proponents of a ‘management’ approach to global migration governance, primarily countries in the Global North, have preferred to keep intergovernmental discussions regarding migration outside of the United Nations (UN) in various state-led fora in different regional and global settings. Conversely, countries in the Global South, along with normative organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), have sought to further a rights-based approach to the governance of migration within the UN. The ‘migration and development’ approach to global migration governance was used by Kofi Annan and Peter Sutherland in the 2000s to bring together states with fundamentally different views concerning the governance of migration. However, the outcome of these efforts is arguably a form of global governance that continues to reflect the preference of states, particularly in the Global North, to organize intergovernmental relations on migration in an informal and non-binding way.
Le mythe de l’invasion: Migration irrégulière d’Afrique de l’Ouest au Maghreb et en Union européenne
Les médias et les discours de politique générale prédominants véhiculent l'image apocalyptique d'un exode massif et croissant d'Africains désespérés fuyant la pauvreté et la guerre qui sévissent chez eux pour essayer d’entrer dans l’insaisissable « El Dorado » européen, entassés dans des bateaux de fortune flottant à peine (Pastore et al, 2006). Les migrants eux-mêmes sont généralement décrits comme des victimes de trafiquants et de passeurs « impitoyables » et « sans scrupules ». Si bien que les solutions politiques préconisées – qui se résument invariablement à réfréner la migration – se concentrent sur la « lutte » et le « combat » contre l’immigration irrégulière en intensifiant les contrôles aux frontières et en prenant des mesures énergiques contre la traite et le passage en fraude lié à la criminalité. Malgré une augmentation incontestable de la migration régulière et irrégulière d’Afrique de l’ouest en Europe au cours des dix dernières années, les données empiriques disponibles viennent dissiper la plupart de ces suppositions.
Media and dominant policy discourses convey an apocalyptic image of an increasingly massive exodus of desperate Africans fleeing poverty and war at home trying to enter the elusive European ‘El Dorado’ crammed in long-worn ships barely staying afloat (Pastore et al 2006). The migrants themselves are commonly depicted as victims recruited by “merciless” and “unscrupulous” traffickers and smugglers. Hence, the perceived policy solutions – which invariably boil down to curbing migration –focus on “fighting” or “combating” illegal migration through intensifying border controls and cracking down on trafficking and smuggling related crime. Although there has been an incontestable increase in regular and irregular West African migration to Europe over the past decade, available empirical evidence dispels most of these assumptions.
This book based on IMI research presents a range of innovative and creative methods which have recently been developed in the conduct of migration research in several African countries. It is edited by Mohamed Berriane and Hein de Haas. While migration out of Africa has become the subject of growing interest and concern, there has been much less research into patterns of international migration within the continent, only a small fraction of which may result in journeys to Europe, North America and beyond. This dearth of research has been due to limited institutional capacity, the short-term policy agendas of international organisations, and the absence or poor nature of official statistics. This book goes some way towards addressing this gap by showcasing the sheer diversity of African migration patterns and the various ways they can be approached empirically. The chapters show how a variety of less conventional and often cost-effective methodologies can greatly contribute to mapping African migration, and how they can help to obtain valuable empirical data in contexts where appropriate sampling frames are often absent, migrant populations are difficult to identify or approach and resources are limited. The book also addresses the more fundamental methodological and epistemological questions underpinning the different methods of data collection. The contributors cover key methodological issues including methods for random and non-random sampling drawing on a variety of data sources; single-sited, multi-sited, matched and ‘on-the-move’ methods for data collection; the use of spatial samples; and the use of non-conventional data sources such as marriage registers and information obtained through NGOs working with migrants. Several chapters present innovative methodologies based on studying vulnerable or difficult-to-approach migrant populations that traditional methodologies have difficulties capturing, such as undocumented migrants, child migrants, refugees and migrants who are ‘in transit’. Two chapters focus on methodologies that allow us to measure the enforcement of migration policy and the role of corruption officials in migration processes. The book also critically considers the need for representativity and shows different ways in which multi-method approaches and data triangulation can generate valuable knowledge on migration. The book addresses crucial ethical and safety issues which are particularly important when conducting research among vulnerable populations. Besides appealing to an academic audience including migration specialists, Africanists and students, the volume will also be useful to a broader readership of researchers, practitioners, NGOs and governments involved in migration research and/or interested in research methods and methodologies. The chapters present techniques that can be applied in constrained research contexts not only in Africa but also in other parts of the world.
Over centuries past, human societies have been through fundamental changes often defined as ‘modernisation’. Despite huge advances in knowledge, social science has struggled to conceptualise the nature of these changes and to integrate insights from across different disciplines into a single framework. Disciplinary fragmentation and methodological parochialism as well as a postmodern aversion to ‘grand theory’ have impeded theoretical synthesis. To overcome this impasse, we introduce social transformation as a meta-theoretical conceptual framework for studying ‘big change’. Defining social transformation as a fundamental change in the way that societies are organised and resources are distributed, we distinguish five interconnected dimensions – the political, the economic, the technological, the demographic and the cultural – which together constitute the ‘social realm’. Studied simultaneously, these dimensions are able to capture ‘big change’ in its universal aspects while keeping sight of the diversity of its concrete manifestations. We apply this framework to explore how the ‘modern transformation’ has reshaped societies and to show how the interplay of the various political, economic, technological, demographic and cultural transitions have transformed social life around the globe in strikingly similar ways – notwithstanding the varied, unique ways in which this ‘modern transformation’ has concretely manifested itself across societies and over different periods.
Renewing the Migration Debate: Building disciplinary and geographical bridges to explain global migration
On 16-18 October 2019, the International Migration Institute hosted an Academy Colloquium, entitled "Renewing Migration Debate: building disciplinary and geographical bridges to explain global migration" at the Trippenhuis in Amsterdam. The Colloquium brought together 35 renowned and early-career migration researchers from around the world to discuss various topics around the following guiding question: "How can we use the wealth of existing empirical and theoretical research to advance our generalized understanding of migration?" For each session, the panel chair provided an Input Statement which introduced the theme of the session and proposed critical questions to provide background and stimulus for the speakers. The speakers were requested to prepare brief Research Notes and the discussants were requested to prepare written Discussion Comments reflecting upon the speakers’ research notes. These contributions are now published as the Academy Compendium. These notes aim to stimulate discussion and encourage conceptual and methodological innovation in future migration research.
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State expansion, development imaginaries and mobility in a peripheral frontier: the case of Caracaraí, Brazil
This article examines social transformation and mobility dynamics in Caracaraí, a rural frontier town in the State of Roraima, Brazil, from the 1950s to the 1990s. During this short period, we observe a rapid diversification of migration in Caracaraí: from non-migratory mobility tied to the micro-scale extraction of local products to more-permanent settlement in town, rapid shifts in the direction of internal migration patterns and back to non-migratory mobility patterns again. Drawing from frontier migration studies and mobility transition theories, this paper adopts a social transformation perspective to explore the relation between social change and these mobility transitions. The changing role of the state, from a promoter of infrastructure to a provider of services and public employment, the restructuring of the local economic fabric and its reorientation towards more secondary and tertiary activities, and inhabitants’ imaginaries of the development potential of Caracaraí all explain the shift in migration processes. Investigating these processes, we observe that (i) the state promoted new opportunities, leading to a decline in traditional circular mobility, alongside the growth of temporal workers and spontaneous migrants; (ii) infrastructure advancements encouraged non-migratory mobility patterns between Caracaraí and Boa Vista, the capital city of the State of Roraima; (iii) the provision of public employment intensified internal rural-urban and urban-rural migration patterns, from communities in the interior of the State of Roraima to Caracaraí and vice versa, and (iv) development imaginaries – the perception of how Caracaraí should and could be in the near future – prevented voluminous emigration, during periods of socio-economic slowdown. This research highlights the meaningful role of the state in altering livelihoods and migration decision-making processes. In particular, it shows how state expansion framed cultural imaginaries of the ‘good life’, favouring the desire to stay put in periods of high economic uncertainty, even when life aspirations were not being met by local opportunities.
Social Transformation, Resistance and Migration in the Italian Peninsula over the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
This paper studies the evolution of internal and international migration in Italy over the mid-nineteenth to the late-twentieth centuries. Notwithstanding Italy’s large international emigration flows, most Italian migration has been inter-regional, with rural-rural, rural-urban and urban-urban migration systems expanding in geographical scope and complexity over time. This paper analyses the interplay between internal and international migration, revealing four distinct patterns of (i) regions where internal migration always dominated and that turned into the destinations of internal migrants in the early-nineteenth century; (ii) regions that were initially characterised by strong international emigration before evolving into important destinations for internal migrants, (iii) regions that transitioned gradually from sources of to destinations for international and internal migrants and (iv) regions that largely remained sources of international and internal migration. Overall, these patterns reflect Italy’s social transformation from a feudal system in agricultural production to a modern welfare state with an industrial economy, a transformation which affected regions in strikingly different ways. More specifically, these ways are linked to state (re)formation, urbanisation, the rise of agricultural and industrial capitalism and the peripherisation of the South. These profound transformative processes altered the social structure and people’s livelihoods, engendering new opportunities in some regions and greater uncertainty in others. Rather than poverty, it was the combination of these transformative processes that encouraged many Italians to pursue migration. Because the social transformation unfolded unevenly across the Italian peninsula, it engendered inequalities and the (re)framing of central and more peripheral areas, which explains the different internal and international migration patterns.
Migration drivers are structural elements that have the potential to facilitate, enable, constrain, and trigger migration processes. Migration drivers might increase or decrease the salience of migration, the likelihood of certain migration routes, and the desirability of different destinations. Migration drivers affect migration directly but also, sometimes even more importantly, indirectly as part of a configured migration driver environment. In our assessment of the migration literature we broadly distinguish between nine migration driver dimensions (demographic, economic, environmental, human development, individual, politicoinstitutional, security, socio-cultural, and supranational) and 24 migration driving factors. The circumstances, ways and modes, but also the extent to which a set of driving factors may influence migration (decision-making) processes are dependent on the functionality of migration drivers, which is a central aspect in understanding the specific role single or combinations of migration drivers may play in migration. We propose to distinguish between predisposing, mediating, proximate, and triggering migration drivers, and beyond the degree of immediacy, drivers of migration can also be characterised by their temporality, elasticity, selectivity, and geography.
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This paper studies return aspirations and current return movements of Syrian refugees residing in Turkey and Lebanon to understand who aspires to return after the end of the war, and why and when refugees return with the conflict still ongoing. To do so, we embed future return aspirations into refugees’ broader life aspirations and study how these interact with perceived opportunities (capabilities) in the home and host countries in shaping those aspirations to return. Drawing on 757 survey interviews we present, first, quantitative analyses of the factors underlying current return reflections and future return aspirations. They differ significantly across individuals, and more refugees residing in Lebanon consider to return currently and in the future. Second, we analyse information from 41 in-depth interviews and show how life aspirations (i) are a crucial element in shaping return aspirations and (ii) interact particularly with social, professional and political aspects in home and host countries in shaping return aspirations. The paper also highlights that while most refugees retain a profound belief in return, there is a strong mismatch between aspiring to return and realising it. While return after the war’s end is driven by a wish to realise broader life goals, current return migration is driven by legal, medical and financial vulnerability, family obligations and discrimination in the host country.
This article studies immobility aspirations – or aspirations to stay – among individuals with high migration propensities (aged 16 to 23) in Ethiopia, India, Peru, and Vietnam. Assuming that aspirations to stay are not simply the absence of migration aspirations, we explore which individual and household factors determine who aspires to stay and why, using unique survey data collected for the Young Lives project. We find that the majority of young people surveyed – between 61 percent (Ethiopia) and 82 percent (Vietnam) – aspire to stay in their home country. Between 32 percent (Ethiopia) and 57 percent (Vietnam) of young people aspired to stay at their current location, meaning they aspired to move neither internally nor internationally. Across country contexts, aspirations to stay were most often highest among the poorest. Further, the desire to stay decreases with higher levels of education, which suggests that widening access to formal schooling is an important driver of internal and international migration aspirations. Finally, respondents most often mentioned family-related reasons as the main motivation to stay in place. These findings contribute to a broader debate about the relationship between development and migration by challenging the linear relationship between poverty levels and migration aspirations that conventional migration theories implicitly or explicitly assume. Moreover, our findings on family reasons driving the aspiration to stay highlight the importance of non-economic factors in migration decision-making.
Using or Inducing Return Aspirations? On the role of return counsellors in the implementation of ‘assisted voluntary return’ policies in Austria and the Netherlands
In this paper, we investigate how state and non-state provides of return counselling try to influence aspirations for return among (rejected) asylum seekers. Existing literature has highlighted both the importance and malleability of migration aspirations in a wide range of migratory trajectories. Yet, it paid little attention to the situation of people who at some stage of their asylum procedure are confronted with the prospect of eventually having to return to their country of citizenship. This confrontation is institutionalised in the form of state or NGOled ‘return counselling’, which helps the returning state to uphold the fine line between forced and allegedly ‘voluntary’ returns. Building on Carling’s aspirations/ability model and using qualitative data from Austria and the Netherlands, we identify three ways in which return counsellors try to obtain the departure of (rejected) asylum seekers. Firstly, by identifying existing aspirations among potential returnees who for personal reasons decided to return but lack the ability to do so. Secondly, by merely obtaining informed consent to return ‘voluntarily’ in the absence of aspirations to return. And thirdly, by actively inducing the wish to return with the aim of aligning migrants’ own aspirations with the requirements of restrictive migration law. We argue that this distinction is important to better understand the critical role and everyday workings of ‘migration aspirations management’ (Carling and Collins 2018) within contemporary migration governance in Europe.
This paper reviews key trends in migration patterns within and from Ethiopia over the last century, with a particular focus on 1960 onwards when more national-level data is available. It shows that both gradual and dramatic shifts characterize Ethiopia’s migration history. Regarding gradual shifts in the movement of populations within the country, Ethiopia shows a two-fold process of sedentarization of nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyles alongside a slow but steady urbanization of internal migration trajectories. Alongside this, rising levels of international migration have diversified in terms of the composition and destinations of Ethiopian emigrants. Ethiopia’s history also shows more punctuated and dramatic shifts in population movements over relatively short periods – a consequence of political conflict, famine, conscription, resettlement schemes, and/or development-induced displacement. At the same time that Ethiopians left their country in times of distress, Ethiopia was also an important destination for hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa. This paper provides evidence for these trends, and considers how they relate to other processes of social change. In particular, it applies a social transformation framework to show how different dimensions of social change – the political, economic, cultural, technological and demographic – impacted population movements over time. We distinguish between ‘deep’ drivers of migration transitions (e.g. the expansion of formal education, infrastructure development and industrialization) and the (often) stateled policy interventions (and failures) that can suddenly affect the movements of large segments of the population (e.g. resettlement programs, development-induced displacement, political conflict, or famine). We ultimately argue that while migration driven by the latter can be addressed and mediated through policy-interventions, overarching migration transitions driven by the former are part and parcel of development strategies in the modern period, and are thus unlikely to be significantly affected by policies aimed at stemming migration’s ‘root causes.’
Migration, Development and the Urbanization of the Good Life: Mobility Transitions in Rural Ethiopia
This paper examines how Ethiopia’s “development” over the last century impacted the mobility patterns of a traditionally seminomadic peoples in the central lowlands of Oromia. Using original survey data, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic methods, this research uncovers how, within just four generations, one village experienced two mobility transitions: from seminomadic pastoralism into settled agriculture, and then from rural agriculture into more mobile, urban-centric lives. To explain these transitions, this paper advances a social transformation framework to explore how different dimensions of social change — the political, economic, demographic, technological, and cultural — impact aspirations and capabilities to migrate or stay. It finds, first, that the sedentarisation of seminomadic lifestyles was an integral part of modern nation-state building in Ethiopia. The integration of this once peripheral region into a centralised, hierarchical state disrupted traditional patterns of socioeconomic organisation with the effect of tying people to places. Second, it finds that rural out-migration among younger generations — whether to neighbouring towns or to the Middle East — is primarily driven by rising access to formal education, growing rural-urban connectivity, and the expansion of the market economy. In Ethiopia, where most analyses of rural out-migration focus on the factors that “force” young people to abandon agriculture and rural lives, this case study shows why rising rural out-migration is part and parcel of “development” as it is practiced today. Rather than alleviating the need to migrate, this research suggests that development often creates the need to migrate.
This paper examines the social transformation processes that led to a mobility transition in Cisternino, a small agricultural town in Southern Italy. This transition entailed a shift from seasonal regional mobility in the 1940s to migration towards long-distance national and international destinations from the 1950s and to regional commuting and return migration from the 1970s. Building on mobility transition theories and the social transformation framework, the analysis examines the relation between the profound social change that affected this small agricultural town in the post-World War II period and shifts in migration. A combination of three broad processes explains the changing migration patterns: the expansion and consolidation of the state, the reshaping of the local economy and cultural transitions. By analysing the interplay and sequencing of these processes, we observe that, firstly, long-distance migration initially increased largely in reaction to deep cultural and political-economic shifts that altered local livelihoods; however, long-distance migration subsequently decreased as it was substituted by commuting in association with local economic growth and the expansion of state-driven sectors and safety net provisions that bore fruit in the 1960s. The article reveals the powerful and varied ways in which, in crucial moments of transition, the state affects local livelihoods and the population’s decision to either adapt locally or migrate.
This paper argues why and how migration should be conceptualised as an intrinsic part of broader processes of development and social change instead of as the antithesis of development, as dominant discourses hold. When societies go through the various economic, cultural, technological, political and demographic transitions associated with ‘development’, this leads to increasing levels of internal and international out-migration. Low-income societies generally have lower emigration levels because poverty tends to constrain people’s movements. Development leads to more instead of less migration because it increases people’s capabilities and aspirations to move. The paradox of development-driven emigration hikes shows the inability of conventional push–pull and neoclassical models to explain migration as well as the need for a new vision of migration as part of broader development. Migration is shaped by development in both origin and destination societies and also contributes to further change in its own right. However, the embeddedness of migration in broader processes of social transformation and development also means that its potential to affect structural change is fundamentally limited. This shows the logical fallacy of narratives that cast development as a ‘solution’ for perceived migration problems or that cast migration and remittances as panaceas with which to solve fundamental development problems.