Thursday, 18 October 2018

Does anti-trafficking policy protect against forced labour and exploitation or harm? The ban on migration for domestic work in Ethiopia and Ghana

By Priya Deshingkar

Domestic workers who number at least 67 million adults worldwide, according to the International Labour Organization, have been in focus recently as a particularly vulnerable group of workers. These workers are often hidden from the public gaze and not covered adequately by labour laws leaving them vulnerable to abuse. Indeed a number of rights organisations and prominent photographers including Steve McCurry have highlighted the horrendous abuse that they can suffer. The occupation is highly gendered – most migrant domestic workers are female due to stereotypes and cultural norms related to men’s and women’s work and their capabilities in both source and destination societies.

There are now high-level efforts to protect domestic workers against exploitation but our research shows that the outcomes of this protective legislation may not be what was intended. Two of these processes are worth mentioning. First, the focus on domestic work by the UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Urmila Bhoola, in her report to the Human Rights Council highlights the plight of “marginalized women workers in the global domestic economy” (para 11). The same report notes that 11.5 million domestic workers are international migrants, or 17.2% of all domestic workers and 7.7% of all migrant workers worldwide (para. 31). Bhoola notes that the domestic work sector accounted for 24% of all forced labour in 2017 (para 43). Labour market intermediaries or brokers and private employment agencies as well as other parts of the migration industry such as pre-departure training centres, transport companies, travel agencies, medical testing centres and visa offices have also been implicated in creating an “enabling environment for abuse and human rights violations” (para. 58 and 60).

Second, the Trafficking in Persons report of the US Department of State which ranks countries based on their performance in combating trafficking lists domestic work as an occupation to watch. It ranks both Ghana and Ethiopia as tier 2 countries and has pressured them to criminalise migration for domestic work as well as the people who facilitate such migration. Non-compliance carries the threat of withdrawing millions of dollars of aid. Domestic work is mentioned as an occupation requiring action to curb trafficking and forced labour. Both countries had introduced bans on migration for domestic work to the Middle East. While Ethiopia lifted the ban this year, it has replaced that with heavy regulation of employment agencies which still illegalises informal agencies. Both have introduced a number of measures to control trafficking and smuggling: Ethiopia has Anti-Trafficking Task Forces across the country. A number of checkpoints have been set up along the Wollo to Galafi route on the Ethiopia-Djibouti border. Additionally local leaders have been co-opted into forming anti-human trafficking committees to police migrants. Similarly Ghana passed The 2005 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2009, which criminalizes sex and labour trafficking. Here too a number of well-known brokers have been arrested and imprisoned and the business has been driven out of view.

In 2009 the Ethiopian government arranged for the evacuation of 160,000 migrants from Saudi Arabia. Rather than alleviating the hardship and reducing the vulnerabilities of these women, the step appears to have precipitated remigration to the Middle East. As one evacuated migrant observed “Our government, through its embassy in Saudi, was promising to facilitate different things for us. But the promise was not on the ground when we came here. I do not have a job right now; I am using the money I brought from Saudi. If the condition continues like this, and if I do not get any other alternative here, I will migrate again. The government has not given us the working area; the rent for a small shop is very high. I am paying 2,000 birr for a single room to live in.”

Perhaps this is why despite the criminalisation of both the migrants and the people they rely on to make migration possible, it continues unabated. If anything, it has grown and the country that has been named most often for the worst cases of abuse, Saudi Arabia, seems to be the destination of choice. What has changed is that the process has become far more risky.

Agencies and brokers that once traded openly have now become clandestine actors. Routes and travel methods have changed to avoid detection. In Ghana those wishing to travel to the Gulf counties must now travel overland to other West African countries before they fly to their destination. This increases the journey time and costs and can bring new risks if the overland journey is in cramped vehicles through hazardous territory. In Ethiopia large groups do not cross the desert with a broker (a “trafficker” in the popular discourse) as visualised in the popular imagination and instead split up and this can increase risks for women travelling on their own.

Furthermore, the delegitimisation of brokers appears to have spawned smuggling networks with more nefarious practices such as deception related to the terms of employment and placement without ensuring adequate protection; long journeys through virgin territory with few facilities and “safe houses” across the border (or detention centres as they are called in the press) where migrants are kept while they wait for their relatives to transfer money to brokers. Travelling without work permits and papers creates another set of vulnerabilities for migrants as they are often employed informally, without legally recognised contracts. This places them in a situation of hyper-precarity where threats of deportation and imprisonment can be used by employers to extract forced labour.
What is needed is a system of educating aspiring migrants about the possible risks of working without a proper contract, the provision of support services along the way and at destination. Blanket bans and criminalisation will not protect people against forced labour and exploitation. A serious rethink based on research-based evidence is needed.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Child migrants are not always out of education

Dorte Thorsen and Mélanie Jacquemin

Child protection programmes evolve around the idea that education and migration for work are incompatible but the profiles of adolescent migrants are diverse and include multiple forms of education. Research in Senegal under the auspice of MOVIDA’s “terrain partagé” programme moves outside the narrow conceptualisation of education as formal schooling to explore how adolescents see the linkages between migration and education, and how migration exacerbates gender differences and affects their education in practice.

1. Migration to continue education
Children rarely drop out of school because they or their parents have decided they should migrate for work. Common reasons to drop out are school malfunctioning, parents' inability to pay school-related expenses or disillusionment with the effect of school certificates in the labour market. This is increasingly evident at senior secondary level when schooling becomes notably more expensive. Nonetheless, adolescents cherish schooling, and education in a broader sense, and they counter the lack of opportunity in rural areas by leaving for the city.

Many migrate to towns and cities with the objective of continuing education; some aim to save up to return to their previous school once they have the resources, others seek to raise resources to enroll in vocational training. Urban relatives frequently invite adolescents to work for them by promising to pay fees for vocational training instead of a wage. Even when adolescent migrants do not pursue education in the formal sense, their occupational trajectory is often structured by an element of learning that allows them to move from unskilled work to lowly skilled, urban work.

2. Secondary school students’ holiday migration to work
Migration to work during the long school holidays is becoming gradually more common across West Africa, as school enrollment and retention expands into rural areas and includes boys and girls of poorer families. The practice is also common in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. Demographic monitoring data in the Sereer region of Senegal suggests that seasonal labour migration among adolescent girls has declined over the past twenty years and that there has also been a temporal shift. Nowadays the majority of girls who migrate from the region to work as domestic workers in Dakar no longer do so during the dry season but during the school holidays in the wet season to save up to finance their schooling.

A focus group discussion in Ziguinchor, stimulated by mapping student migrants’ migration trajectories, revealed that rural children from the Casamance regions begin to migrate to work during their holidays from the age of 10-13 years. Boys start by doing agricultural or horticultural work in central Senegal and the Senegal River Valley, and then move on to the main cities (Dakar, Thies) to work as street vendors and porters around markets. Those who come to Ziguinchor are attracted by information about the ease with which they can find work compared to in Dakar where the competition for income is much higher. The costs of transportation, food and accommodation are also cheaper outside Dakar. For female student migrants however, the choice is not as free. Rural girls are almost uniquely migrating towards Dakar to engage in domestic work, unless they come from the lower Casamance region or Kolda, in which case they may come to Ziguinchor. In addition to domestic work, female student migrants work in small restaurants or as petty traders in the bus station.

In the minds of these young migrants, holiday migration to work recaps their inferior socio-economic position in that they cannot attend Summer programmes to support their academic achievement, like children of better-off families. The paltry wages that student migrants of both genders can make from the work they can find during the holidays, and the harsh working conditions and the abuse metered out by some employers, add to their frustration but they nevertheless cling to the idea that these efforts gradually lead them towards their future plans to complete schooling, support their parents and achieve a better social and professional status.

3. Adolescent out-of-school migrants: towards other forms of education
Among the adolescent migrants in Ziguinchor, who are out of formal schooling or never were enrolled, quite a few engage in vocational training as tailor apprentices and drivers. The boys also mention typical male occupations such as bricklayer, mechanic and metal welding. Very often apprenticeships are negotiated by close relatives but not all apprentices know what to expect or are sure about the trade. The trajectories of adolescent boys and girls highlight gender and class differences in opportunity and ability to concentrate on their acquisition of a skilled trade. Many of the girls work only part-time in their apprenticeship (a few hours per day in the afternoon), because they are also working part-time as domestic workers, either in paid employment or unpaid for the relative or guardian with whom they live.

Although social norms about gender, work, reproduction and status are changing, and girls are now pursuing different forms of education, the norms about gender and age appropriate work determine their trajectories. Domestic work remains a female domain. The work shouldered by girls of poorer families may emancipate the daughters (and sometimes also the sons) of the families who employ or accommodate migrant domestic workers. Thus, while migration may open the opportunity for learning a trade, the geographical and social distance from their family of origin produced by migration does not guarantee girls the possibility of spending most of their time and energy in a training activity.

The accounts offered by migrant boys of the advice they received before their departure reveal that they were told to focus on an activity and not get diverted by friendships not connected to this work or learning, etc. This guidance highlights the greater social acceptance of migrant boys needing time for training during their migration experience. As this allows them to move away from direct parental demands on their labour (especially for work in the countryside), migration often affords boys space and time to acquire new, specialised skills.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The human face of irregular border crossings

By Dorte Thorsen

“I’m tired of the combat at Tanger” exclaimed a Senegalese friend over the phone from Morocco in July, “I’ve tried to cross four times in these past days but I haven’t had luck! Today 231 migrants were imprisoned. I’m going home!”

In a research project examining the social effects of European migration management, Migrating out of Poverty researcher, Dorte Thorsen, has followed the lives of migrants, refugees, and international students from West and Central Africa who lived in Morocco’s capital, Rabat, in 2012. Ethnographic research then, a follow-up field visit in 2014, and regular contact via phone and social media offers insights into how ideas about opportunity, risk, social standing, and settlement shape the lives of migrants.

What migration statistics tell

The number of irregular sea crossings via the Western route in the Mediterranean Sea has almost tripled since 2017 and, according to Relief Web and IOM, 35 per cent of the migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea are currently travelling via this route. These numbers do not denote a new wave of migration via North Africa. The total number of people entering Europe undocumented by sea is less than half of the numbers recorded in 2017 and a fifth of those recorded in 2016.

Although, the bleak reports of detention, extortion and slavery-like conditions in Libya have triggered a shift in route preference, not all of the migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean are recent arrivals in North Africa. Some are in fact of North African origin, others, like my friend, have lived in North Africa for five-six years or more. This blog examines their experiences to shed light on what makes them decide to invest time and money in the journey to Europe, and how this is linked with the broader effects of migration management and border control.

Politics of transit and settlement

Often Morocco is thought of as a transit country for migrants originating in sub-Saharan Africa, but it is increasingly recognised as a country of settlement and refuge. Some migrants and refugees settle reluctantly because they do not manage to move to the location they had hoped for due to the hardened border control in Europe, others settle to study, work or engage in trade. A study published in 2016 by Mourji,Ferrié, Radi and Alioua reveals that 65 per cent of the migrants from sub-Saharan Africa came to Morocco with the idea of settling there.

The management of Moroccan borders has fluctuated considerably over time with profound bearings on migrants and refugees; from border patrol far away from the physical borders, to exclusion from the labour market, to regularisation of some of the many migrants who were living undocumented in the country. The UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is in charge of registering and processing asylum claims, awaiting a pending Moroccan asylum law. Until the regularisation process, recognised refugees were barred from the labour market and the UNHCR only had funding for allowances to the most vulnerable refugees, pushing the rest into petty-business and illegal work.

In 2012-13 migrants originating in sub-Saharan Africa experienced waves of systematic harassment and deportation to no man’s land between Morocco and Algeria at Oujda or desert regions further to the south. Only after the UNHCR raised concern that asylum-seekers and refugees were among the deported were these categories of migrants spared deportation. Such campaigns have happened sporadically since the mid-2000s, often prompted by negotiations of migration management with the EU and individual European countries (see Migrating out of Poverty Working Paper 54 for a critical account of Afro-European negotiations). While European migration politics play a central role, the indiscriminate targeting of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa also demonstrates deep-seated racism in Morocco.

In 2013, Morocco reacted to pressure from the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and the National Council for Human Rights. A Royal Decree prompted a regularisation process in which around 25,000 irregular migrants, who had lived in the country for years, were given temporary residency in 2014. Another 24,000 migrants are expected to benefit from a second and on-going regularisation process. Furthermore, after the first regularisation process, recognised refugees were also regularised. However, the regularisation of refugees was on hold most of 2017, thereby preventing refugees the necessary documentation for accessing the formal labour market.

With the recent rise of sea crossings over the summer 2018, Morocco has again come under pressure from Europe to patrol its borders better. We are currently seeing an extreme hardening of how migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are treated by the Moroccan state that cannot be attributed to European migration politics alone. The newest wave of systematic and forced movement of migrants - regardless of their legal status - away from the northern cities to small towns and desert areas in the south of the country is the outcome of migration politics and both popular and political resistance to the new forms of heterogeneity that follow immigration. Harassment is not restricted to border regions but spill into big cities across Morocco, destabilising the lives of settled migrants and refugees.

Living in Morocco as a migrant from sub-Saharan Africa

Regardless of their legal status, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa frequently find themselves in a situation circumscribed by structural racism. Each time systematic harassment is welling up, many migrants lie low. Migrants who lived in Rabat in 2005 recounted how they had left their houses to sleep in the open on the outskirts of the neighbourhoods to avoid raids at night. In 2012, they recounted fleeing the police after being rounded up, and a few recounted their journeys back to Rabat after deportation.

“It is strictly prohibited to let apartments to Africans.” Notice stuck on a wall in Morocco (Source: Facebook). Here the allusion to ‘Africans’ signifies the deeply racist distinction made between migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and Moroccans in everyday language use.

When campaigns waned, migrants were still circumscribed by structural racism. Employers got, and still get, away with paying lower wages to migrants than to Moroccan workers without penalties. Landlords can refuse to let to black migrants and they get away with asking rents that are two-three times higher than what Moroccan tenants pay. Many migrants have experienced eviction or the threat of eviction, sometimes for fickle reasons, other times because they are in breach with their tenancy agreement because they are in arrears with the rent due to lack of income, share accommodation or operate home-based businesses. Others are affected by conflicts of ownership and use within landlord families, resulting in eviction and even of having all their belongings destroyed with no recourse to justice or compensation, as happened to another Senegalese friend and his housemates in 2016.

Regardless of their legal status, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are subject to high levels of street violence, especially in the poorer neighbourhoods of large cities where they are seen as competitors for meagre resources and easy targets. A substantial number of migrants described being attacked by groups of Moroccan youths. Asylum seekers and refugees noted that their complaints to the police were shelved immediately and irregular migrants stayed clear of the authorities not to risk detention and deportation, thus they never made complaints.

Effects of the regularisation processes

Small changes are noticed after the first regularisation process. In Rabat, migrants with residency or refugee status are increasingly moving from the poorest neighbourhoods in the cities to newly built satellite towns on the outskirts, where they rent apartments rather than rooms in traditional residential riads. The better quality of housing is off-set by the time and costs of traveling to city-centres where work can be found more easily and, especially among the petty-traders, not all wish to live far from work and trading places.

The residency permit also enables migrants to take formal employment and thus to enjoy protection of their rights as workers. However, apart from a few niches such as call-centres where Francophone migrants have an advantage, specific factories and the hospitality and care industry, it is still very difficult for migrants to penetrate the Moroccan labour market and earn a regular and fixed income. Female migrants working in domestic service are among the workers who have benefitted most from the regularisation. They appear to increasingly choose a combination of several part-time jobs to reduce the risk of exploitation rather than working full-time as live-in domestics workers at the beg and call of their employer.

The majority of migrants get by doing informal, casual work, petty-trade and a small number of them operate informal restaurants, bars and guesthouses from their homes. People in these trades suffer a diverse range of interventions, which are not uniquely driven by migration politics but also by urban planning. Several of the women, who ran successful restaurants in the past, have closed business due to pressure from their landlords. My Senegalese friend, whose account opened the blog, experienced a series of fluctuations in his street trade linked with campaigns to clear the streets of petty traders, including Moroccan street traders, to campaigns harassing migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, and probably also to competition among the petty-traders as their numbers waxed and waned.

Fluctuation in sea crossings

Several interlinked fluctuations are at play when numbers of detected sea crossings change. For the many migrants who have been in Morocco for a while, the experience of everyday racism among the population in the neighbourhoods where they live is exacerbated by structural racism that allows abuse, exploitation and marginalisation to continue. Lack of integration and economic conditions that allow migrants and refugees to establish themselves and maintain their socio-economic aspirations of social standing, welfare and education of their children, push them to look for other options. Among these options, crossing into Europe figures as one with future potential, as long as it is not safe or economically viable in the long term to return their country of abode prior to journeying to Morocco.

Fluctuations in sea crossings are also related to seasonality and the likelihood of detection before leaving Moroccan waters. It is not only this year but every summer that the number of sea crossings rise as the sea is calmer and warmer. My friend has tried to cross over to Spain almost every summer since 2012, as well as a couple of times during seasonal festivities when the border patrol is perceived to be less vigilant. Over the years he has spent more than £2,000 trying to access the European labour market, and he is certainly not alone in making this sacrifice to reach Europe.

The amount of money spent in aborted attempts to enter Europe, not to speak of the lives lost, would be better spent elsewhere. It is easy to assume that the money could set up business in their countries of origin or even in Morocco. However, it should be clear that currently the political mood in Morocco is not very different to anti-immigration movements in Europe. The conditions are not presently allowing more than a few migrants from sub-Saharan Africa to consolidate themselves in Morocco. Some migrants return to their country of origin. If those who continue trying their luck crossing the Mediterranean Sea thought they could set up viable business or gain durable employment with the resources they pay to the people helping them cross, they have enough economic acumen to do so. As they do not hold this belief, it would perhaps be better if loss of money and lives were prevented by giving temporary access to European labour markets, allowing migrants and refugees to spend the money on their visa and upkeep at the beginning of their stay in Europe.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Exploring the migration industry in Ethiopia

By Alemu Tesfaye

The migration of an individual usually involves a range of actors including their social networks, brokers, border control agencies, training and certification institutions and even NGOs and religious organisations. These entities, collectively are known as the “Migration Industry”. We have been exploring this topic in Ethiopia since September 2017.

The research is being conducted in two regional states – Southern Nations and Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) and Amhara Region – and one city state – Addis Ababa – in Ethiopia. It covers three migration origin sites Addis Ababa, Hadiya and Wollo and three major migration transit sites – border towns of Moyale, Metema and Semera.

Legal and policy frameworks and their effect

The 1998 Overseas Employment Proclamation, issued by the Ethiopian government, led into the establishment of more than 400 Private Employment Agencies (PEAs). This Proclamation enabled the PEAs to send thousands of labour migrants, mainly female domestic workers, to the Middle East (de Regt & Tafesse, 2015; Kubai, 2016). Despite the establishment of these agencies, 60-70% of migrants from Ethiopia are irregular and use different land and sea routes with the facilitation of informal brokers (delaloch) (RMMS, 2014, 2015; Belloni, 2015; Ayalew 2017). The importance of irregular migration and the role of informal brokers, regardless of the presence of the legal agencies, is explained by:

  1. The services of the PEAs put the migrants in the Kafala sponsorship system that confines migrants to specific employers with a fixed salary and contract time duration. This limits their freedom to change jobs. 
  2. Gender selectivity of domestic workers: the agencies had mainly specialized in female domestic workers, which means irregular migration remains a major option for men.  
  3. The official labour deployment by the government was only to the Middle Eastern countries. This again makes irregular migration the major alternative for migrants to South Africa, the Sudan and many other countries. 

In 2013, the Ethiopian government passed comprehensive legislation to Prevent and Suppress Trafficking in Person and Smuggling of Migrants. At the same time, the government also banned the deployment of domestic workers oversees. This move was basically triggered by two incidents. The first incident was in June 2012 where forty migrants from Ethiopia were found dead after they were suffocated inside a truck transporting them in central Tanzania, and the second was the deportation of more than 160,000 undocumented Ethiopians by the Saudi government in 2013. These incidents were followed by an organized campaign against brokers. For example, in two districts we visited: one in Wollo and the other in Hadiya zones fifty and sixty-two brokers respectively were convicted and ended up serving long term prison sentences. This in turn led to a number of changes in the business of brokerage such as in migration facilitation at borders, mechanisms of payment, systems of transportation, communication methods, harboring, etc.

Until 2013, brokers used to openly recruit migrants, collect money, transport and host migrants in their own safe houses. They were also treated as “creators of opportunities” by aspiring migrants and the communities that they come from. In most cases, they were respected both by the communities and officials. They used to operate both at origin and transit places publicly but illegally. After the changes, brokers were forced to go underground and are now operating invisibly. Brokering is done now through telephone and local representatives. Most of the negotiations between a potential migrant and a broker are made by phone. Mechanisms of payment have also changed from making payment in cash or payments at bank to making payments at transit locations or from destinations.

Brokerage has an informal structure comprising of wana dalala (a lead broker), a leqami (recruiters, suppliers), who is under the lead broker, in-country transporters, and ashagari (smugglers who are in charge of border crossings). At the borders there is another structure. Most of the lead brokers used to be merchants before they converted themselves to brokers. Some of them used to operate in the transnational contraband business. They reproduce each other, and graduate from assistantship (recruiting, supplying, transporting) to lead broker. Some of the brokers were themselves former migrants, some were former law enforcement officials who knew the “brokerage business” when they were part of the law enforcement.

Systems of transportation and sheltering 

Following the organized campaign against the brokers, systems of transportation have also changed. Except the route from Wollo to Djibouti border where there is no public transport, transporting migrants en masse using a rented car up to the border has been abandoned. In the Wollo-Afar route, where there are multiple check-points, brokers have established networks with the Afar clan leaders. Ethiopian Afar pastoralists and Djibouti Afar pastoralists, who have the tradition of crossing international borders of Ethiopia and Djibouti for social and economic reasons, are key partners of smuggling networks. In the Ethiopia Djibouti border smuggling migrants follow the practices of the informal cross-border trade. In the remaining two routes, brokers usually advise their clients to arrive at the border towns taking public transports by avoiding going in groups.

Systems of sheltering migrants have also changed. Instead of keeping migrants together as it used to be done in the past, brokers now allow migrants to get accommodation/shelter in hotels or other places during their journeys and also at border towns.

Socio-cultural attachments

Brokers are major players in the migration industry in Ethiopia. Brokers have a strong socio-cultural attachment to the community. Most of the brokers at migration source/origin have multiple relations with potential migrants. These relations relate to ethnicity, clan, religion, geography etc.

The brokers are very much aware that they live and operate among the community that entrusts them with their young ones but also the brokers know that their children study with the children of the surrounding community. Hence, they abide by the local rules and norms. For instance, when migrants are deported, they negotiate with the help of elders, religious leaders or traditional authorities on the return of part of the money paid for facilitation. When their clients pass away en route, the brokers visit the family of the deceased and provide financial assistance or some form of support, and usually return the money the deceased migrant paid – that is the quality of good broker.

The success of the brokerage business does not only depend on socio-cultural relations though. Brokerage is a very competitive business. Most brokers believe that if they fail to do their job properly, for instance, if they abuse their clients or even their clients are abused by a third party working for the broker “the source will dry up”. They believe that their success depends on their reputation that has been established as a result of their effectiveness in making sure that the migrant has reached his/her destination. Usually, these success stories are narrated by the community thereby marketing the brokers.

Brokers sometimes do business among themselves. For instance, if a broker has a client but have little knowledge about the routes, borderlands, transportations, payment methods etc. he/she negotiates with another broker. Brokers usually use language of commodity in their daily business. For example, while waiting for an ideal number of migrants, they use phrases like “I have ten sacks of sugar”; “the bag is not full” etc.

Brokers also establish vertical relationships among brokers. This relationship is a loose business relationship. Their networks exist at different places en route all the way sometimes to the destination country. For example, a lead broker in Hadya has a business network with one or several brokers in Moyale, in Nairobi, in Dar es Salaam and in Lilongwe (Malawi) and even in South Africa. The power relations in the network are trust based with no formal responsibility and accountability mechanisms attached to them.

What do the community think?

The brokerage business has a strong backing by the community. We have noticed that there is local support for brokering practices in all the sites of this research. Most of the community does not see brokering and smuggling activities as criminal. Thus, brokering is a socially embedded practice and has become a community economy. Almost all our informants claim that migration has contributed a lot to the boom in the economy of the community in Hadya zone. In small towns in Kombolcha district of Wollo, residents claim that brokers are the economic backbones of the towns. In Metema, it is considered a means of survival for the population of the town, besides contraband. Therefore, it seems that the law enforcement officers, the local administration, the committee making up the taskforce for the prevention of human trafficking and smuggling are all less effective about controlling irregular migration.

Financing systems

Money transfer systems are crucial in the operation of migration industry in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a tight financial system where sending money oversees is very difficult. It is also difficult to access foreign currencies from within the country. Migration facilitators have established dynamic and flexible and adaptable hawala/money transfer systems in all the routes and major places of origin of migration. The differences between the routes depend on the geographical distance and business relations between the source/Ethiopia and the destination countries. For example, money transfer in Wollo is closely integrated into imports from Saudi Arabia and UAE. In the Metema route to Sudan a different migration economy prevails. Several shops engaged in hawala and ‘informal’ money exchange have been established facilitating financial transactions. In Hadya, a complex money transfer system prevails. It involves banks, hawala agents, mobile banking services and the aviation industry. Brokers play a very essential role for money transfer at the border towns and in the sites outside Ethiopia.

The role of information and communication technologies

Migrants, and those who facilitate migration, use various types of technology for communication and other purposes. Mobile phones are the most crucial communication technology in migration. Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber are also are utilized heavily to different degrees. In most cases these technologies are not used while in journey but are extensively used before departure and at transit towns where there is connectivity.

The workings of the migration industry in Ethiopia are very dynamic, complex and interesting. It engages many actors with several enabling and constraining structures. The research is a work in progress.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

‘Stealth’ and re-politicisation: The limits of ‘knowledge-brokering’ as a model to influence migration policy making in South Africa

By Kudakwashe P Vanyoro

South Africa is currently experiencing mixed migration flows from different parts of the Southern African region. For example, Zimbabweans moving into South Africa encounter a double whammy of political displacement and labour migration (economically induced displacement). For this group of people, protections are far and few between. They are forced to choose between the asylum system, which, by design, is bureaucratically inefficient, and the labour migration system, which, among other things is driven by all sorts of xenophobic discourses.

They are met with an immigration and refugee regime that casts a huge net to undermine all sorts of their potential socio-economic and political agency. Just as it is hard to neatly reduce their mobility to any singular policy protection (labour migration or refugee regime), since they are not legally seen by the state as genuine asylum seekers but economic refugees, the policies themselves are juggled to conflate their concerns and needs and undermine their protection. One needs to only look at the Trafficking in Persons Act, Amendment to the Refugees Act and White Paper on International Migration. The three dance together as it were; which even makes it more practically sensible for us to speak of a kind of mobility policy/governance regime.

In other words, their precarity is not experienced within fixed ontological categories; but within multiple, intersecting policy sytems. Indeed, there is a concerted political will by the state to see anti-immigration policies pass, regardless of which policy/governance regime one would like to neatly fit these migrants into.

What does this all mean for doing research uptake and pursuing evidence-based policies through activism and advocacy? Here I will highlight my suggestions that explicitly draw on the work I have published on the issues of ‘unpopular causes’ in South Africa with the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium; and the notion of repoliticising migration narratives I published with colleagues in a Globalisations Special Issue.

Some have insisted on the perrenial need to improve the capacity of policymakers to use evidence and bridge the science-policy interface gap to improve relations between researchers and policymakers, knowledge brokering and capacity building. Yet we know that the reason for the marginalisation of evidence in South Africa is purely philosophical; policymakers expediently choose what version of reality/truth they are willing to accept. Consistent with the knowledge brokering model, albeit in a counterintutitive manner, they form alliances and relationships with their own tribe of researchers pursuing similar interests – a different kind of rationality and political will - which is expedient for them in dealing with ‘unpopular causes’ en masse.

For those of us concerned with influencing policy through the right kinds of evidence, acknowledging this political reality animates space to critically debate what approaches are best and pragmatically suited to improve and sustain activism and research uptake on these kinds of issues.

I would argue that, evidence-based activism for migrants’ right in South Africa is hamstrung by the pathologisation of migration as a whole in policymaking, which has lead to the dominance of ‘alternative facts’ proliferated by actors who are tied together through ‘communities of faith’ that hold steadfast to claims that despite a lack of evidence migration is an extensive problem in South Africa. Therefore, there are limits to the notion of bridging the science-policy gap through knowledge-brokering, at least in the way it has been propounded this far. First, by insisting on notions of capacity building, it works from an inherent assumption that (South) African policymakers lack the capacity to make decisions that are ostensibly rational; since, after all, ‘that is Africa’s perrenial problem’. Second, if anything, the very existence of shoddy relations between science and policy is the reason we find ourselves in this place, that is fraught with the use of problematic bad data in policymaking. There is a sect of science and civil society that has been coopted or ‘gone to bed’ with policymaking as it were.

So why should we still insist on bringing these two worlds together, and in what ways?

With scarce, limited resources, I am less concerned with bringing the worlds of policy and science together in our Southern contexts because I am not convinced this is where we should be channelling our efforts. I am not alone in this endeavour. Migrating out of Poverty research done by the African Centre for Migration & Society in South Africa found that there is little value in even targeting national policies because the local level is where real, actionable change is more likely to happen.

International treaties and national policy frameworks may regulate migration, but it is ultimately a local government matter. After all, ‘At the end of the day, all migrants live in municipalities’. I also speak for others like Kihato and Landau when I say the full protection of migrants and refugees in South Africa demands a shift in both approach and language by activists and researchers. Regarding language, elsewhere, we have argued for the need to re-politicise the language and narratives of migration; to essentially deneutralise and revitalise them. Likewise, in terms of approach, the full protection of migrants and refugees requires activists and researchers to promote rights indirectly to avoid political ire and political backlash through creating ‘back-routes’ and capitalising on ‘windows of opportunity’. Through this kind of stealth advocacy, perhaps activists and researchers ‘may avoid complex and contentious public battles over rights’, instead focusing on building solidarities with ‘local’ constituencies facing similar marginalization.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Forced Displacement and Mixed Migration in the East and Horn of Africa: Current trends and future directions

Call for papers: Key dates
20 July 2018 - Submission of Abstracts
1 August 2018 - Acceptance Notification
1 October 2018 - Submission of full papers
27-29 November 2018 - Conference held in Mombasa

East and Horn of Africa is a region of diverse opportunities but also experiences various challenges that have made human mobility and displacement a reality for a long time. The region experiences conflicts and political instability and also deals with impacts of chronic poverty and extreme climate variability, all of which lead to different forms of mobility and human displacement. The region plays the dual role of origin and host to refugees and asylum seekers as well as migrants. Latest statistics released by UNHCR indicate that by the end of 2017, there were over 3.2 million refugees originating mainly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and South Sudan. In addition, there are 5.76 million internally displaced persons within the countries of Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. Mixed migration is on the rise with many travelling to South Africa, Yemen and the Middle East and northward to Europe. Human trafficking and smuggling of persons have defined migratory movements that are mostly irregular in nature. In the recent past, with the crisis in Yemen, the region has seen what can be termed as reverse migration with thousands of Yemenis seeking safety in the Horn of Africa and hundreds of thousands of mainly labor migrants returned to the region from the Middle East. Efforts to provide life-saving assistance, protection, and related humanitarian activities as well as to find durable solutions to this situation continue to be made by governments, international actors and local interventions.

Forced displacement presents a major development challenge in the East and Horn of Africa Region, accounting for some of the world’s most protracted displacement cases with limited prospects for return or self-reliance. In light of this, the “New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants”, adopted the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) which provides an imperative to overcome the long-held view of refugees and migrants as a burden to societies while calling for increased solidarity and responsibility sharing in addressing displacement and mobility. It is within this context that the IGAD special summit of 2017 adopted the Nairobi Declaration and its accompanying Plan of Action on durable solutions for Somali refugees (with a much broader reach on solutions for refugees and host communities in the sub region) that further reinforces the commitments made by member states at the Leaders’ Summit in September 2016. The Nairobi Declaration is the regional application of the CRRF which seeks a multi-sectoral approach in dealing with displacement and takes cognizance of the development impacts of displacement on host communities and governments.

Despite the joint efforts, the IGAD region continues to experience significant levels of forced displacement and mixed migration flows. Forced displacement continues to exert strains on regional governments and resources, especially when they become protracted. Refugee settlements and camps as well as most of the migratory routes are often found in areas where communities have low levels of access to social services or economic opportunities. The increased numbers of refugees and undocumented migrants arriving in Europe by boats despite the numerous deaths in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert is evidence enough to interrogate refugee protection and assistance as well as other forms of migration in and out of Africa. While intervention measures to mitigate and manage forced migration have been put in place, they however remain insufficient especially since most don’t bear in mind the development impacts and realities of displacement and migration. This insufficiency in mitigation can be partly attributed to weak collaboration between knowledge production, policy formulation and practice in the region. The planned conference is therefore an effort to provide a convergence platform for reflections on forced displacement and related migration especially in light of emerging interest by states and the international community to address displacement and migration in a more humane and sustainable manner for both those displaced and the ones that host them.

The horn and eastern regions of Africa are experiencing various developments in the dynamics of forced displacement and mixed migration flows. While there is a wide range of institutional responses to refugees including protection, humanitarian assistance and search for durable solutions, there are also justifiable concerns on problems associated with forced displacement and migration. These are issues of internal displacement, human trafficking and mixed migration flows.
This conference seeks to address several issues. First, enable a scholarly and policy interrogation of the relationship between forced displacement and other forms of migration (Mixed migration flows). Secondly, assess and analyse new knowledge and developments in migration policies and management in the Horn of Africa and the African continent. Third, discuss how these mixed migrations flows influence and are in turn influenced by the political economy of international migration. In discussing these broad dynamics, the conference aims to help in shaping future directions of the forced displacement and mixed migration discourse, interventions and policy in the Horn and East Africa. This is also important in identifying potential avenues for collaboration between policy makers, researchers, international institutions, practitioners and governments in their pursuit to address issues related to forced migration. This is done with the objective of broadening the discussion in order to come up with much longer-term and multifaceted approaches to addressing issues of forced migration.

The continuous development of an on-going and systematic research agenda to support the emerging thinking around sustainable development approaches to managing mixed migration
and forced displacement impacts will be central to this conference. Developing research and knowledge platforms will require the building of strong partnerships with universities, think tanks and other organizations that are able to champion specific research agenda to promote a culture of learning that also drives policy orientation. The research outputs generated will be instrumental in informing policy options for IGAD Member States and influencing programming for durable and transitional solutions by key actors in the region.

The themes that will be addressed in the conference will include the following:
• Economic and environmental impacts of refugees and IDPs
• Integration of refugees and returnees with host communities
• The economics of forced displacement
• The effects of displacement on the displaced and host communities
• Regional governance and migration
• Negotiating institutional responses to displacement
• Humanitarian space and spaces of protection
• What is a human being worth? Human trafficking and people smuggling today
• Protracted urban displacement: the minefield of needs and interests
• Linking Peace, Security and displacement
• What next? The dynamics of evolving protection space
• Durable solutions to displacement-case studies of good practices for building resilience and sustainable livelihoods for migrants/refugees/returnees
• South-South Vs South-North displacement and migration
• Local, National, Regional and Global perspectives on the rights of forced migrants
• Development Induced Displacement and Resettlement
• Refugee health and Psychosocial issues
• Gender and Migration
• ICT and migration
• The good, bad and ugly of migration in the IGAD region

The conference will have two keynote addresses, presentation of papers and round-table discussions.

Submission, Review Process and Announcement of Acceptance
All papers will be subject to a review process. Papers submitted will be categorized into working papers and full papers.

Please send your abstracts to the addresses below:
Michael Omondi Owiso

Truphena E. Mukuna

School of Strategic and Development Studies (SDSS) – Maseno University/Kenya; the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA); and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) with funding from the World Bank.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Robert Nurick at the Wilderness Festival: The impacts of deportation and forced return on migrant families and communities

What would make you cross borders without papers? Can you imagine living a transient uncertain life with the constant threat of arrest and deportation? Would you leave your children to take up dangerous and low paid jobs? This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of Cambodian migrants in Thailand.
In this thought provoking interactive workshop, we will immerse ourselves in the reality and lived experience of undocumented Cambodian migrants in Thailand. Drawing on interview transcripts we will hear the voices of migrants and their families – their challenges, aspirations and strategies – as they opt for precarious migration to make a better future for themselves and their children.

The Wilderness Festival will take place from the 2-5 August 2018 in Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire, UK. You can purchase tickets here. Robert's talk will take place at 13.30 on 4 August 2018.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Visiting Research Fellowships offered

The Migrating out of Poverty research programme consortium announces a call for applications from scholars who wish to pursue research on migration and development at the University of Sussex.
Successful applicants will receive Visiting Research Fellow status at the University of Sussex, be based in the Sussex Centre for Migration Research in the School of Global Studies and will work closely with researchers from Migrating out of Poverty.

The University of Sussex is ranked first in the world for development studies.
"Sussex’ world-leading reputation for international development gives us much to celebrate. It's thanks to the concentration of expertise that spans the University and brings us together with our close colleagues and partners, the Institute of Development Studies. Our critical, engaged research on the global issues of our times infuses our teaching in the School of Global Studies, from our undergraduate programmes in International Development to a dynamic portfolio of postgraduate degrees that include long-standing and new cross-campus collaborations with IDS, SPRU, CIE and Brighton and Sussex Medical School. We’re really pleased to be recognised in this way.”  - Head of School, Andrea Cornwall

Our aim is for fellows to participate in and contribute to the broader research objectives of Migrating out of Poverty, addressing research and/or policy issues related to migration, gender, poverty and development in the Global South. Our team is global with researchers based in Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the UK. We welcome applicants working in our countries of focus or with similar research themes to ours, described below, but will also consider original themes that provide new angles on migration and development related issues in the Global South.

Our research themes

Income and Remittances

Our research examines the impact of migration on the welfare of households by exploring patterns of remittance sending and their use, livelihood activities and outcomes such as poverty, consumption, asset ownership and living standards. We are building longitudinal rural household surveys for Ghana, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe that allow us to explore changes over time between households with and without migrants, and how these differences vary by important characteristics of the migrants and their families, such as destination and duration of migration, age, gender and skills of the migrant, and initial welfare standards of the household.  Our surveys also provide useful profiles of migrants and their remittance sending behaviour

Gender and Generation
Little is known about how migration, gender and generation intersect at the household level or how economic, social and cultural changes impact on these relations. Our research explores complex and multi-layered household dynamics within the family who remain back home in rural communities in Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe. An additional aim is to discern whether there are marked differences between migration to places that are accessible, low-cost and often linked with low financial return (internal/cross-border migration) and migration to places with higher entry barriers, high costs and expectations of high financial returns (international migration). We build evidence for gender-responsive approaches to policy-making and programming.

Migration Industry
The migration of an individual usually involves a range of actors including their own social networks, brokers, border control agencies, training and     certification institutions and even NGOs and religious organisations. These entities, collectively known as the “migration industry”, have grown due to the tightening of restrictions on legal options for migration and their increasingly complex procedures. This has different impacts on the welfare, rights, freedom and economic status of migrants and the research on this theme aims to gain deeper insights into these dynamics in different cultural contexts. An improved understanding of the infrastructure that facilitates migration enables us to make suggestions to reduce exploitation and maximise benefits.

Our digital spaces

Who can apply?
We welcome applications from early career academics and more established academics employed by another Higher Education Institution, as well as from professionals working for local, national and international government and non-governmental organisations. We particularly encourage applicants from the Global South.

English is the principal working language of Migrating out of Poverty. For both academic and practical purposes, applicants should have fluency in English. 

How long are the fellowships?
Fellowships will usually be for a duration of between 4 and 12 weeks during normal term time, although longer periods may be possible (dependent on the ability to self-fund).

Facilities and practicalities:
The Migrating out of Poverty research consortium will provide office space and access to university services including computing, meeting rooms and the library. We encourage applicants that have funding for their visit via their institutions, but we may be able to reimburse travel and living expenses for those not able to secure funding.

Visiting Research Fellows are subject to UK Home Office immigration regulations. Visitors from outside the European Economic Area must ensure that they obtain an appropriate visa to carry out research in the University prior to arrival in the UK.

To begin an application, please first send an abbreviated CV, a 1000-word outline of proposed research (including signalling any specific links to our research themes), duration of intended stay, and desired/expected output(s). Please include details with web links of your current institution and position and the level of financial support you have. If shortlisted, we will ask for two references.
Send an initial application or informal inquiries to with the subject line: ‘Visiting Research Fellow application’

Migrating out of Poverty, specifically the research theme leaders: Priya Deshingkar, Dorte Thorsen and Julie Litchfield, will review the applications.

For further information, please read the School of Global Studies web page on Visiting Research Fellows:
Once selected for a fellowship by Migrating out of Poverty, the candidate will receive further instructions similar to the procedures in the link above, however please send all application related communication or queries to

Deadline for applications:

31 July 2018  
(for anyone wishing to visit in the Fall 2018 term)
31 October 2018
(for anyone wishing to visit in the Spring 2019 term)

Thursday, 24 May 2018

New Perspectives on Human Mobility in East Africa: Identifying Research Priorities

Call for Workshop Applicants
Organized by the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in
Africa (SIHMA) and the Organisation for Social Science
Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA)

Eastern Africa is associated with a complexity of movements involving different groups of
people within and outside the region. Conflicts and violence have generated a large
number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people (IDPs). According to
the UNHCR, at the end of 2017, countries such as Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania
hosted more than 3 million refugees and over 5 million IDPs. Domestic and regional labour
mobility, as well as movements of workers outside the continent, are also an important
aspect of migration within the Eastern African region. Over the past years, movements of
skilled and unskilled migrants to the Gulf States have increased due to geographical
proximity and the presence of labour agreements. These mixed migration flows are driven
by multiple socio-economic, political and environmental factors and in many case involve a
high number of irregular migrants who are trafficked to countries in the Middle East,
Europe and Southern Africa. Victims of trafficking are particularly vulnerable to human
rights violations and physical abuses and are of great concern for government in the East
Africa region. All the aforementioned aspects make it imperative to gain insight into the
fundamental nature of the migration challenges in the Eastern Africa region. It is therefore
necessary to review current knowledge about migration in East Africa, identify priority
areas for future research and work toward the establishment of a research network to
support policymaking.

This workshop will take place on 20 September 2018 at OSSREA, in Addis Ababa, and
plans to create a starting point for a research agenda and strong research questions with
regard to migration research in East Africa. It also seeks to promote a greater
understanding of the migration phenomena in the region through a coordinated, synergistic
and broad-spectrum depth of research.

Selected applicants will be expected to submit a paper related to New Perspectives on
Human Mobility in East Africa and present it at the workshop. It is envisaged that a number
of selected papers will be published on the third 2018 annual issue of African Human
Mobility Review (AHMR). AHMR is an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed on-line journal
published by the Scalabrini Institute for Human Mobility in Africa and created to encourage
and facilitate the study of all aspects of human mobility in Africa.

We rely on applicants outside Addis Ababa to draw upon their resources to fund their
travels because of our limited budget. Authors of selected paper will receive an honorarium
of $ 500 upon completion of the editorial process.

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Interested authors should submit the following
- Full Name
- Academic/Institutional Affiliation
- CV
- A 300 word Abstract to describe the ideas and arguments for the paper.

Applicants are expected to submit a full paper (maximum 8000 words) before attending the
workshop. The work should be original and not have been published or presented

Applications should be sent to Sergio Carciotto at by June 18, 2018

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Migrating out of Poverty in the news

We are delighted that the launch of the new phase of Migrating out of Poverty was covered by the Ethiopian Reporter. Here’s an English translation so you can see what they had to say.

More than 11 million Birr budget is allocated for the study
A study that investigates why citizens from different Ethiopian regions - who migrate to be house maids or for other jobs in Addis Ababa, other cities, to the Middle East and other countries - prefer illegal routes instead of the legal means was launched.

The study is to be conducted by the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA) and is to be carried out by scholars recruited from Addis Ababa University and other areas and organised into three teams. A budget of more than eleven million Ethiopian Birr has been allocated for the study.   

The study is entitled, “Migrating out of Poverty” with three themes namely, Migration Industry, Gender and Generations and Income and Remittances in Ethiopia.

Fekadu Adugna (PhD) from Addis Ababa University is the coordinator and researcher of the team that studies the “Migration Industry in Ethiopia”. He informed the Reporter that the main aim of the study is to find out why citizens migrating within country from regions to Addis Ababa and from Ethiopia to other countries prefer illegal migration routes. He explained that the study is an attempt to understand why migrants prefer non-legal brokers even though over four hundred legal agencies are available and how the non-legal brokers are able to recruit migrants for illegal migration.   

According to his explanation it has been seen and well known for many years that children can get money from their farming families who, without any hesitation and suspicion, provide their illegally migrating children with money by selling their oxen and any available assets and who are easily convinced by the persuasion of non-legal brokers.

The researcher pointed out that not only the journey of the family member but also understanding how the non-legal brokers create migrant route networks from Ethiopia until they arrive in the Middle East is a part of the study and explained that this kind of process is referred to as “Migration Industry” or “Migration Infrastructure”.

He reported that OSSREA, which was established 37 years ago by African scholars, has accomplished many projects. They have started to work on migration of citizens in Ethiopia. He pointed out that the funds for the study were obtained from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through Sussex University.

The researcher argues, “If we call migration illegal, it is difficult to rectify the problem”. He emphasises that beyond saying “they are not governed by rules” and accusing and criminalizing their act, the study is important to understand the problem thoroughly and advise them on how problem could be resolved and present findings to policy makers as part of the solution.

Trying to rectify the problem by accusing and criminalizing brokers by calling them “illegal brokers”, when it is known that double the amount of legal migrants leave the country through illegal routes every day, makes the problem more hidden, secret and disastrous.  As a result, he stressed that better results would be achieved, and the problem could be alleviated, by coming together and working together towards rectifying the problem.

Do migrants chose illegal brokers because the brokers only ask for a small sum of money; because they do not require additional criteria for migration; or is it because the brokers are uneducated and do not care much about their citizens? He added that the major task of the research team is to present recommendations to the government from results drawn from the migrants’ families at grassroots level and non-legal brokers.

He commented that instead of calling non-legal brokers ‘criminals’ which makes them hide themselves, his team started the study to create the necessary knowledge and find answers by asking them what they think should be done, if they need support, how they should be supported, and how to support them and teach them before formulating policy. He pointed out that even though the government has banned these types of journeys for the last four years because of the disasters that have happened to Ethiopian citizens in Saudi Arabia and other places, illegal migration has continued just like formal migration. Because it is necessary to correct the problems through concerted efforts, the team is trying to come up with comprehensive findings which would help to rectify the problem. He underlined that the study tries to present other study results in the area to the government and thereby to facilitate the alleviation of the problem.  

Another researcher in the team is studying the changes to the families of those who go from the regions to Addis Ababa, to other cities, and abroad. Adamnesh Atnafu (PhD) explained the underlying basis of this study is to understand family perspectives on the benefits of female and male migration.  

She added that the team studies identify whether it is the father or the mother who puts into utilisation the remittance sent by the migrant. Particularly it examines how they utilise the money to send female children to school and family and children negotiate on to bring about change in their lives.

The third research theme compares the lives of families whose members have not migrated with that of whose family members have migrated and studies the importance of remittances and the changes they bring to families. They will make an in-depth study of the family members of those who legally or illegally migrate, identify the advantages and disadvantages, and present the outcome to the government to be considered in relevant policies.   

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Migrating out of Poverty UK team meets with the Department for International Development

Migrating out of Poverty has received funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) for several years. On the 24 April a team of staff visited our team at the University of Sussex to catch up on cutting edge research and share information on policy formulation.

We were able to provide feedback on the next phase of our work, including:
  • Understanding the nuances and changes within social relations in migrant families and analysing the responsibilities and freedoms involved for both migrants and those staying behind in terms of gender and generation.
  • Examining the range of informal actors involved in the migration industry and how these actors impact on the welfare, rights, freedom and economic status of migrants and their families. This work is generating evidence that can be utilised by DFID in their “whole of route” approaches to reduce migrant vulnerability.
  • Sharing ways to promote safe and regular migration into Thailand from neighbouring countries.
  • Looking at (forced) migration to and evictions between low-income areas of cities, with a focus on trapped populations in Bangladesh, Somaliland, Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka.
  • Thinking through the significance of informal, under the radar and peer-to-peer community-based responses that support migrants in destination countries.
  • The potential of temporary migration schemes and their developmental impact in post-Brexit Britain.

DFID shared information on their work to help shape the Global Compact on Migration, action on modern slavery, policy formulation to address internally displaced people’s needs, the role of social networks in shaping migration flows, the protection of people taking dangerous migration routes, maximising the socio-economic benefits of migration, particularly in relation to remittances.

Priya Deshingkar, the Research Director for Migrating out of Poverty, reflected: “This was a valuable opportunity for us to better understand policy priorities within DFID and where the evidence gaps are as well as how our research could contribute to filling these gaps.”

Monday, 7 May 2018

Peter Evans from the Department for International Development (DFID) visits the Migrating Out of Poverty Ghana team

By Emmanuel Quarshie

On the 1 May 2018 Peter Evans, Team Leader - Governance, Conflict & Social Development (GCSD) Research Team, DFID Research and Evidence Division at the UK Department for International Development visited the Migrating Out of Poverty research team in Ghana based at the Centre for Migration Studies (CMS), University of Ghana. The May Day visit enabled discussions around the work that the team have been doing on migration and poverty over the last few years.

Professor Mariama Awumbila, the principal investigator gave a briefing on the setting up of CMS and its role in teaching, research, and policy development. She gave an overview of the three phases of the research so far, focusing especially on the phase three research projects which were just beginning, on gender and generation, income and remittances and the migration industry. Professor Joseph Teye, the current director of the Centre, summarized some of the key findings from Ghana, for example:
  • While poor households find it difficult to embark on international migration, they are able to access destinations within Ghana and other African countries.
  • Internal migration is contributing positively to the well being of migrant’s households through remittances. We therefore need to incorporate internal migration into development policy in Ghana.  
  • The majority of migrants live in informal settlements – despite it being a harsh environment, with little social protection. They perceive that their overall well-being has been enhanced by migration.
  • Movements into informal settlements might be associated with reduction in overall poverty and improvements in general well-being. Informal settlements are not places of despair, they offer poor migrants business opportunities that are not available at the place where they come from. 
  • Neglecting informal urban communities would not simply deter rural-urban migrants from settling in these areas. Slum upgrading is a better policy choice.
  • Female migration and the remittances that they send are gradually changing power relations and gender roles in the household.
  • Although there are clear cases of exploitation, brokers sometimes work in the interests of migrants, thereby increasing the latter’s bargaining power, enhancing the realisation of their self-development and allowing them to exercise agency in highly unequal power relations with employers.
  • Uncritically labeling recruitment agencies and brokers purely as agents of exploitation, and migrant domestic workers as victims without any agency, does not reflect the entire situation.
  • The migration industry is made up of different types of recruiters with different interests, clients, practices, and recruiting for different employers. One common strategy/policy will not be efficient for regulating all actors in the industry.

The National Migration Policy and MENOM

The DFID team acknowledged the instrumental role CMS has played in facilitating  the development of Ghana’s National Migration Policy as well as the draft Diaspora Engagement Policy. Professor Awumbila noted that some of the key findings of the Migrating out of Poverty research had been fed into the National Migration Policy including an expansion of the focus to include internal and intra-regional migration. 

Also, she highlighted the Centre’s role in innovative research uptake activities, including facilitating the establishment and development of the Media Network on Migration (MENOM), which has been very instrumental in the dissemination of key research findings as well as providing of updates on key activities carried out by the Centre.   She recounted that although historically, there has been some reporting on migration issues in Ghana, the little rapportage focused more on the negative effects of migration. As a result, CMS saw it as a great opportunity to train journalists as part of its research uptake activities. Currently, a case study is being developed on MENOM which may serve as a useful guide for other organisations to adopt.

The DFID team complimented the Migrating out of Poverty Ghana research team at CMS for their contributions to influence the migration research agenda in Ghana and particularly on efforts to ensure research uptake by various stakeholders as well as their instrumental role within the policy environment in Ghana and Africa. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

We study migration but we want people working in development to listen

Conversation initiated by project coordinator Dorte Thorsen, University of Sussex

Grasping the impact of changing migration flows and earning prospects of migrants on the family members who remain at home is important for development planning, youth-oriented initiatives, targeted programming for the empowerment of women and girls, and migration management. The lead researchers in our comparative study focusing on gender and generation dynamics at the household level outline how they hope the research in Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe can inform programming, advocacy and policy. They discuss the fresh insights the study will provide into how gender, age and migration intersect.

Mainstreaming gender into local authorities’ understanding of migration outcomes

Akosua Darkwah: In looking at the impacts of migration for both young men and women who move as well as those who stay behind, this research will provide law and policy makers with a more fine-grained understanding of the impacts of migration on male/female migrants as well as family and community members left behind.

Vupenyu Dzingirai: In Zimbabwe law makers remain ambivalent about what migration can do or bring. Sometimes they regard migration as harmful to societies, and at other times they regard it as a tainted benefit that requires control. In my view, communicating to these authorities, plainly and through popular formats, that the empowering and disempowering practices of migration to those women who stay behind and those who are at destinations outside Zimbabwe may go a long way to preparing them to make better decisions about migration and its outcomes. Hopefully, this will result in a relaxation of regulation of mobility of people and goods across borders.

Benoît Tine: In Senegal, there is no real migration policy* even though migration peaked at the end of the 2000s in a context of scarce employment, impoverishment and the decline of agriculture in rural areas. Local authorities tend to see migration as the domain of men, and it is a fact that male migrants are often the majority but other categories of migrants have become part of the scene. Women migrate, as do adolescents and even younger children. In Casamance, we also have the effect of the conflict which has provoked a change in social roles with a physical or symbolic absence of men. A better understanding of migration in its gendered dimension will certainly broaden the field of vision and lead decision-makers to take this gender reality into account in their policies.

Adamnesh Bogale: Ethiopian authorities are highly aware of the risks associated with migration being gendered but I think it is germane to raise their awareness of how the roles, expectations and obligations of the two sexes determine the processes of migration. They also need to have a more nuanced understanding of the outcomes of migration, for example of how remittances are used and who makes decisions about them.

Akosua Darkwah: In Ghana, we will focus on the Brong Ahafo Region, which is well known for a long tradition of young male migration to Libya.  Given the current situation in Libya, migration to this country is precarious and yet the aspiration to go there persists. This project allows us to explore what migration in contemporary times means for communities in Brong Ahafo given the turmoil in their long-standing country of choice.

Development planning, social protection and programming

Akosua Darkwah: Actors working in the development industry can draw on the knowledge about migration and household dynamics in a number of ways.  First and foremost, it can inform their programming in terms of social protection for household members who may not necessarily be benefitting from the migration of family members.  Secondly, for those who are benefitting from migration, development workers can work in collaboration with both the stayers benefitting from migration and the migrants providing the benefits to offer development projects in the communities of origin.  Increasingly, scholars are looking at the ways in which the diaspora plays a role in development projects.  Our comparative project can add to that knowledge by documenting the links between members of the diaspora and specific family members in the communities of origin. Such knowledge can be useful for development workers as they seek sources of development funds.  This is particularly true in the context of Ghana which has been declared lower middle income and thus lost some external funding sources.

Vupenyu Dzingirai: On the issue of social protection current thinking is that people, and particularly the older generation, remaining at home are left more exposed by migration. They remain without labour or people to look after them, resulting in poverty. This project jolts us into thinking about why such mobility emerges in the first place and how this is fundamentally linked to ensuring social protection across generations. I think that this project can help us appreciate, in Zimbabwe at least, that the migration we see across frontiers is in fact linked to social protection in an environment where the state has abdicated its welfare function.

Benoît Tine: Yes, this is a pertinent point. Ever since the Structural Adjustment Plans of the 1980s, people have increasingly been left to their own devices. This project will highlight the alternatives people have sought in the absence of the state and it will be a pretext to discuss migratory strategies on a local or even a national scale. It will provide the necessary data to discuss social protection, the needs of areas that are important hubs of migration and the impact of the temporality of migration and distance on the household.

Vupenyu Dzingirai: Exactly. Temporality matters. Migrants who stay connected to their communities know what current needs are and what is required to be done. Such migration provides a lens into what requires further care in contexts of state neglect.

Adamnesh Bogale: Social protection issues include child protection, improvement of livelihood, productive safety net, etc. Current social policies do not respond adequately to vulnerabilities of migrants. In Ethiopia, attention has mostly been paid to the situation of international migrants, especially in connection with smuggling, trafficking and the worst forms of abuse. This has been at the expense of providing social protection for internal migrants who also suffer marginalization and violence.

Akosua Darkwah: Yes, it brings up the point that on the surface communities with high rates of migration might seem to need more social protection. Not all stayers are burdened to the same level by migration. Migrants who end up in decent paying jobs are often more able to assist family members than those who do not. Similarly, return migrants who returned because of the inability to eke out a living in destination countries return to families who are accommodating of them.  These families may need more social protection than others. I think this project will provide a more nuanced understanding of the extent to which all types of migrant households should be treated in the same way and as having the same needs.

*A National Migration Policy was developed in the autumn 2017 and was launched in March 2018, however it is not readily available. Interventions in accordance with the policy have not yet been implemented. We hope to engage with policy-makers and programmers to share insights from this research.

The research project is coordinated by Dorte Thorsen, Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium, University of Sussex. 

The lead researchers are:
Adamnesh Bogale, School of Social Work/OSSREA, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia
Akosua Darkwah, Department of Sociology/CMS, University of Ghana
Benoît Tine, Département de Sociologie de l’Université Assane Seck de Ziguinchor, Senegal
Vupenyu Dzingirai, Centre for Applied Social Sciences / ACMS, University of Zimbabwe