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Voluntary Immobility: A Global Analysis of Staying Preferences
In the last decade, there has been growing interest from both policy and academic communities in understanding why people migrate. The focus, however, remains biased towards understanding mobility, while the structural and personal forces that restrict or resist the drivers of migration, leading to different immobility outcomes, are much less understood. This paper offers the first global analysis of staying preferences, enhancing knowledge about the factors associated with voluntary immobility, defined here as the aspiration to stay in one’s country of residence. We make use of the unique Gallup World Polls which provide information on aspirations to stay (as opposed to migrating abroad) as well as on individual characteristics and opinions for 130 countries worldwide between 2010-2016. Staying aspirations are far more common than migration aspirations, and we uncover important ‘retain factors’ often overlooked in research on migration drivers – related to social ties, local amenities, trust in community institutions, and life satisfaction. Overall, those who aspire to stay tend to be more content, socially supported and live in communities with stronger institutions and better local amenities. We further explore differences in the relative importance of retain factors for countries at different levels of urbanization, and for different population groups, based on gender, education, rural/urban location, migration history, religiosity, and perceived thriving. Our findings contribute to a more holistic understanding of migration decision-making, illuminating the personal, social, economic, and institutional retain factors countering those that push and pull.
Mobilization trajectories as a tool to study migration and protest intentions: An illustration from Morocco
When dissatisfied with socioeconomic and political conditions, why do some people migrate, others protest, and others do neither? While existing literature shows that migration and protest are both responses to discontent, and that migrants and protesters have similar sociodemographic profiles, the initial choice between these two behaviors and their relationship at the individual level need further investigation. In this conceptual paper we introduce mobilization trajectories, an original analytical conceptual device that allows a combined analysis of migration aspirations and protest intentions as alternative, but not always equally available, strategies that individuals can adopt when dissatisfied with socioeconomic and political conditions. We argue that mobilization trajectories as an analytical tool offers three contributions: it (1) uncovers individuals’ negotiations between multiple possible courses of action and inaction, (2) illuminates how intentions are shaped by changing socioeconomic and political conditions at home and abroad, networks, previous experiences with protest or migration, and gender, and by doing so (3) aids our understanding of why aspirations may or may not lead to actual migration. We illustrate the working of mobilization trajectories as an analytic tool for the combined analysis of migration and protest intentions with vignettes from interviews conducted in 2020 and 2021 with Moroccan youth aged 18-35.
Migration aspirations and preferences to stay in a Brazilian frontier town: Tranquility, hope and relative endowment
What happens to migration when a town undergoes economic decline? Do residents migrate or do they stay? And what motivates this decision? This article answers these questions by analyzing the life and migration aspirations of young people – 17-39 age group – in Caracaraí, a large frontier Brazilian town on the edge of the Amazon forest that has experienced economic decline and stagnation since its heyday in the 1970s-80s. The analysis relies on 41 in-depth interviews (17-91 age group) and a survey with 267 respondents in the 17-39 age-group – who are frequently children of migrants who arrived during the economic boom. The article examines their view of the town, their life aspirations and prospects, and their aspirations to stay or to leave Caracaraí. While we observe ‘conditional’ migration aspirations, many young people show a preference to stay. Three interconnected factors shape this preference: life aspirations, the meaning of a ‘good life’, and hope in local development. Life aspirations often entail the pursuit of education within Brazil to take up public sector employment in Caracaraí. A ‘good life’ frequently involves closeness to family, the town’s natural environment and its peacefulness. Many young people also hold hope for the town’s development in the future. This article introduces the concept of relative endowment to describe how young people in Caracaraì feel privileged in relation to their parents’ upbringing and to people in more peripheral areas, in big Brazilian cities and abroad, thus in relation to diverse reference groups. Moreover, relative endowment can be shaped by non-economic factors, such as what is a ‘good life’ and perceptions of development. This might explain why, even in times of economic decline, many young people may prefer to stay, despite the financial gains that migration could provide.
Managing Migration through Detention and Information-Giving Practices: the Case of the Italian Hotspot and Relocation System
The article explores the relation between detention and information-giving practices and investigates its contribution to migration control and (re)bordering processes at the southern European border. By focusing on the case of the hotspot system implemented in Sicily, the paper explores two main issues: a) the role played by detention practices and their relation with processes of migrant selection and migrants’ rights stratification; b) the link between authorities’ detention practices and information-giving practices carried out by intergovernmental organisations such as the UNHCR and the IOM, and the contribution of this relation to processes of migrant differential inclusion. The research methodology is built on ten months of fieldwork carried out in eastern Sicily between 2017 and 2018, on document analysis and on semi-structured interviews conducted with seventeen key informants. The article argues that the intergovernmental organisations information-giving practices about asylum, identification and relocation procedures a) contributed to perpetuating subtle and indirect forms of migration control and b) were linked, more or less directly, to detention practices carried out by authorities, and this relation contributed to reinforcing the stratification of migrants’ access to mobility and rights.
A Transnational Social Contract: How the South Indian State of Kerala justifies Social Protection Policies towards Non-Resident Keralites
The migration process raises a set of migration-related risks and vulnerabilities that governments first need to recognize as collective problems before formulating public policy responses. The South Indian state of Kerala is among the first subnational states globally to institutionalise various social protection policies towards emigrants and returned migrants, specifically through the department of Non-Resident Keralites' Affairs (NORKA) and its implementation agency, NORKA ROOTS. This article focuses on Kerala to investigate why migrant-origin states assume collective social responsibility for emigrants and include them in social protection policies. By drawing on original data, the analysis shows that (returned) emigrants' access to social protection schemes is built on the state government's understandings of deservingness. Kerala bases deservingness on a combination of instrumentalist and ideational rationales that are rooted in the state's specific developmental and identity discourse. These findings contribute to debates on the social policy-migration nexus, and particularly transnational social protection, in two ways. First, Kerala's approach highlights migration's role in welfare-state expansion and shows that positive discourses on migration can facilitate policy change, especially compared to negative discourses and welfare retrenchment in European destination countries in recent years. Second, the Kerala example underlines the importance of studying subnational governments to understand how transnational labour migration and social policies are made and how these subnational governments shape emigrants' access to social protection.
MADE Policy Brief (no. 1)
Research suggests that rising levels of ‘development’ lead to rising levels of migration. However, little is known about large variations in the way development has shaped human mobility across different societies and periods. To improve understanding on the drivers of migration, the MADE project explored: How do processes of development and social transformation shape human migration? More specifically, how does fundamental societal change affect the direction, timing, selection, and volumes of internal and international migration? To answer these questions, MADE elaborated new theoretical and empirical approaches for migration research. While prior analyses focused on how a limited number of economic and demographic factors affect short-term fluctuations in international migration, we examined how political, economic, technological, demographic and cultural change shape long-term trends and patterns of internal and international mobility.
Social Transformations and Migrations in Morocco
This paper analyses how fundamental transformations of Moroccan society over the past century have shaped Morocco’s mobility complex and how migration has affected and accelerated these transformation processes in its own right. Economic transitions and the concomitant demise of subsistence-based agrarian livelihoods, urbanization processes and demographic transitions, increasing education and rapid cultural change have increased all forms of migratory and non-migratory mobility within and from Morocco, particularly through large-scale rural-to-urban migration as well as rapidly increasing emigration to Europe. While earlier patterns seem largely consistent with mobility transition theory, the predicted decrease in emigration levels has not occurred, as, since the 1990s, Morocco has entered a migration plateau of persistently high emigration despite significant increases in living standards, a slowing down of internal migration and increasing immigration. Continuously high levels of emigration can be explained by a growing disjuncture between sluggish and uneven economic development that has mainly benefitted certain regions and economic elites on the one hand, and fast sociocultural change across all social classes and regions on the other. This disjuncture has rapidly increased youth’s aspirations for lifestyles and freedoms that they find difficult to imagine in Morocco, but at the same time reshapes Morocco’s internal mobility patterns and attracts growing numbers of immigrants.
Welfare and Migration: Unfulfilled Aspirations to “Have Rights” in the South- Moroccan Todgha Valley
This paper examines how migration is influenced by changing ideas about welfare provisions and how communities envision the role of the state as welfare provider. It does so through a case study of the Todgha Valley, an oasis in South Morocco where, after 60 years of migration history, a culture of migration emerged. The paper explores the meso- and macrolevel political and cultural transformations that shaped the valley’s welfare-related cultural repertoires and explain the changing ways in which welfare provisions drive migration over time in a particular place. To probe such transformations, the paper combines three theoretical components: Inglehart’s postmaterialism theory, the social transformations framework, and Zelinsky’s mobility transition theory. The paper draws on a literature review, empirical qualitative and quantitative data collected over 22 years, and secondary data. It shows that the meaning of migration has changed over time and is currently understood as a possible remedy to persistently unfulfilled aspirations to have rights. The paper contributes to debates on the links between welfare and migration in two ways. First, it broadens the scope of analysis of welfare as a driver of migration. Second, it highlights how migration feedbacks and changes in welfare policies shape perceptions and expectations of how much the state should provide. Migration tends to be a more individualistic and longer-term project than in the past, and intrinsic aspirations to access social rights have become more explicit. The paper also shows that once cultures of migration emerge, they are not fixed even if they persist; the underlying forces sustaining migration aspirations might shift with other social transformations and more cyclical changes.
Migration and Social Transformation in a Small Frisian Town: The Case of Bolsward, the Netherlands
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.
State Expansion, Mobility and the Aspiration to Stay in Western French Guiana
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.
A History of Global Migration Governance: Challenging Linearity
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.
Irregular Migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European Union
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.
African Migrations Research: Innovative Methods and Methodologies
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.
Quick Access to All IMI Working Papers
This document provides an overview of all IMI publications by author. Click on the title and you will be directed to the article.
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.
Drivers of migration: A synthesis of knowledge
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.