Centring migrant voices and perspectives in migration policy and practice
This related project builds on the experience and findings of MEDMIG, and expands the geographical reach significantly. The UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub (MIDEQ) unpacks the complex and multi-dimensional relationships between migration and inequality in the context of the Global South.
Drawing on the experience and expertise of our partners across 12 countries, MIDEQ builds an evidence-based understanding of the relationships between migration, inequality and development. The ultimate aim is to translate this knowledge into concrete policies and practices that improve the lives of migrants, their families and the communities in which they live.
MIDEQ explores South-South migration in six ‘corridors’ that link migrants’ country of origin and destination:
- Burkina Faso-Côte d'Ivoire
- Ethiopia-South Africa
European politicians, policymakers and the media largely represented the arrival of refugees and migrants in 2015 as a ‘crisis’: a coherent flow of people suddenly and unexpectedly pushing at the continent’s Mediterranean borders. Funded by the ESRC as part of the £1m Mediterranean Migration Research Programme, the MEDMIG project team led by Coventry University conducted 500 interviews with refugees and migrants from more than 30 countries arriving in Greece, Italy, Malta and Turkey during the last three months of 2015. In centring the voices and perspectives of refugees and migrants, the research challenged underlying assumptions about the drivers of migration, the nature of migrant decision-making and the nature of people’s journeys to Europe. The research also drew attention to the ways in which knowledge and understanding of migration processes (typically produced in disciplinary silos within institutions in the Global North), reflect, feed into and reinforce dominant political, policy and media narratives. This was evidenced by supplementary analysis of 648 migration-related stories in UK tabloid and broadsheet newspapers undertaken in partnership with Migrant Voice and funded by OSF.
Our key findings include the following:
- The representation of the movement of refugees and migrants as linear, singular uninterrupted journeys or flows of people heading toward Europe is grossly misleading. These simplifications distracted from what were often multiple separate movements which converged in Libya and Turkey: the places to which people initially travelled were often destination rather than ‘transit countries’. Understanding those movements was critical in explaining the arrival of refugees and migrants in Italy and Greece during 2015.
- The production of knowledge on migration is frequently produced in the Global North, driven by the political and policy interests of Europe and ignoring or marginalising the experiences of refugees and migrants prior to their decision to cross the Mediterranean.
- There is often a complex and overlapping relationship between ‘forced’ and ‘economic’ drivers of migration to Europe. Many of those who left their home countries primarily for economic reasons effectively became refugees during their journeys and were forced to continue moving even where they had not originally intended to travel to Europe.
- Border controls create irregularity. Not all participants crossed all borders irregularly (without authorisation and/or the necessary documentation) all of the time. There were significant differences between groups depending on their nationalities, access to documents and other resources.
- Death and violence were a feature of migrant journeys and were exacerbated by immigration controls. More than three quarters (76%) of respondents who were interviewed in Italy and Malta said that they had directly experienced physical violence and nearly a third (29%) had witnessed the death of fellow travellers [R1, R5].
- All participant’s engaged smugglers for at least one leg of their journey to mitigate risks of violence and death from state actors, bandits and dangerous terrain. Smugglers are a symptom, not a cause, of unequal access to legal migration.
- The voices and perspectives of migrants are rarely included in newspaper articles on migration which frequently reply upon ‘victim’ and ‘villain’ stereotypes.
Further information and resources can be found at http://www.medmig.info/