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

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Gender and generation: understanding the dynamics of migrant households

Conversation initiated by project coordinator Dorte Thorsen, University of Sussex

Last year Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium invited four teams to design a piece of research with us with the purpose of exploring how migration, gender and generation intersect at the household level. Now we are in the beginning of producing empirical evidence in Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and Zimbabwe. We have designed a project to unpack complex and multi-layered household dynamics within the family who remain back home. In addition to understanding household complexities better, we also aim 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). In this blog the four lead researchers explain what they find particularly interesting and what they think will provide new insight to migration scholarship in their respective countries.

The most exciting aspects of the study

Benoît Tine: Migration is in the news constantly and yet there are so many myths surrounding the departure, the journey and the experience of living in another place that the diversity of experiences, norms, reasonings, barriers and opportunities disappear out of view. This is why the comparative aspect of this study really enthuses me.

Vupenyu Dzingirai: To me, the linking of migration and remittances to reciprocity across gender and generation within households and across generations is a beautiful proposition. In Zimbabwean scholarship we have looked at migration as driven by external factors since the 1970s, ignoring the fact that household dynamics could be at play as well. The idea that migrants migrate and send remittances because they are required to do so by custom is so simple but it had got hidden behind structuralist ideas. I look forward to bring it back in play.

Akosua Darkwah: One of the aspects that I find particularly interesting is the interrogation of the generational/gender attitudes towards migration. Much is made in Ghana of age hierarchies and the importance of respect for elders but we are finding that increasingly young people, and particularly young women from Northern Ghana, are undermining the status quo and choosing to move with or without the permission of the patriarch. In some cases, young women receive approval and financial support from mothers to embark on their journeys. Now we want to examine this trend further and explore siblings’ attitudes towards migration. When fathers are disapproving of the migration intentions of their daughters for example, can that also be said of brothers?  And what is the role of sisters?

Adamnesh Bogale: Yes, likewise I’m really excited about exploring intergenerational relationships in much more detail. This is a new angle on migration in Ethiopia. Until now migration research has mostly concentrated on push and pull factors motivating migration and on the plight of migrants. By understanding the situation of young people and children within their household, and in light of intergenerational dynamics, I hope we get more insights into how young people can be empowered.

Akosua Darkwah: There is also the exponential increase in cell phone usage in Africa. This communication tool has fundamentally reshaped communication within and across the continent. Unlike letter writing or its more contemporary alternative, email, which requires literacy often in one of the major languages of the world, cell phones are more accessible. What cell phones have meant for love and sexual intimacies in transnational social fields has been under-explored and the evidence available so far offers conflicting perspectives on what information and communication technologies have meant for long-distance intimate relationships. This project in different countries across the continent allows for a more nuanced investigation of the ways in which information and communication tools can be at once liberating and oppressive.

The impact of migration on young women and men, as migrants and as stayers

Adamnesh Bogale: In Ethiopia, women are deprived of many opportunities because of social structures that make them inferior to men and define them through the domestic and reproductive roles they gradually assume. For some, migration is a route of escape from restraining norms that reduce young women’s safety and success. In my view, migration has a significant impact on women’s empowerment. For stayers, on the other hand, migration of a family member that is dear to the young person can fuel a sense of loss and grief. Practically, they may also be burdened with additional work or responsibility that before was untaken by the migrant.

Benoît Tine: This sense of loss is not just the experience of stayers. When migrants leave their rural homes in search of a future, they leave behind a whole history, a whole part of themselves. But, of course, it is double-sided. The fact that young and dynamic people with the ability to understand development issues disappear from the rural landscape leaves behind a weakened community.

Vupenyu Dzingirai: Well, I don’t think we can fully appreciate what migration is doing until we understand the current position of women. Similar to the situation Adamnesh described in Ethiopia, women in Zimbabwe do not enjoy the same rights as male siblings. In some instances, daughters are considered a waste because they move away from their family upon marriage, so no investment is made in their education and they are not considered deserving of the right of settlement, only sons are. In my view, it is very clear that migration provides opportunities for young people and women to work and raise resources for multiple purposes, most importantly to make a stake in their lineage; to receive the respect of elders and parents; and thus, to negotiate a social position imbued with stronger rights and status.

Akosua Darkwah: The importance of exploring gender differences cannot be underestimated but I think we need to take an intersectional approach and incorporate a class dimension to this discussion. If we compare young migrants from middle and upper middle-income homes and from low-income homes, the outcome of migration is very different. The former group often migrate to further their education in areas of specialization that may or may not necessarily exist in their home countries. Increasingly, such migrants either become transmigrants or return migrants. The impact of their migration on both themselves and those left behind is fundamentally different, in my opinion, from the situation of low-income migrants. They might be better able to improve their circumstances when migrating than would have been the case if they had stayed at home. However, it is unclear just how much of a positive impact their migrant status makes, especially if we think about the social costs of migration in terms of the social remittances that stayers have to send to migrants.

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

Friday, 16 March 2018

Migrating out of Poverty Ethiopia inception workshop

By Alemu Tesfaye

The Migrating out of Poverty Ethiopia project inception workshop was held at Soramba Hotel on the 20 February 2018. The focus of the workshop was to bring together stakeholders composed of academia, civil society, policy makers, international organizations, private consultants and the media to discuss the three research themes of Migrating out of Poverty research project in Ethiopia. The workshop was attended by representatives from the bureau of immigration affairs, EU-Ethiopia, IOM-Ethiopia, CCRDA (Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Agency), International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Fana Broadcasting Corporation (the largest private broadcaster in Ethiopia), Reach Consult PLC, ORBIS-Ethiopia and scholars from the Addis Ababa University.

The workshop was opened by the Executive Director of OSSREA, Dr. Truphena Mukuna with a welcoming speech and a brief history about OSSREA. Following that the floor was open for introduction of participants. In order to give a wider view and better understanding for participants about the Migrating out of Poverty project, a short video on the three research themes of Migrating out of Poverty by the theme leaders, Dr. Priya Deshingkar, Dr. Dorte Thorsen and Dr. Julie Litchfield was shown.

Dr. Fekadu Adugna, research lead for the Migration Industry theme and Dr. Tekalign Ayalew, senior researcher, highlighted that recently migration and cross-border human mobility has become one of the top global concerns in development and security agendas. To discuss these issues in view of ethnic, gender and religious dimensions, the researchers indicated that the study focuses on brokerage and infrastructure that shape migration. Furthermore, they indicated that the study also investigates the interplay between different private – formal and informal brokers – humanitarian and state actors and institutions, including social networks and technologies that inform, facilitate and condition the migration process.

In their presentation they explained that Ethiopia is a source, transit and destination country for international migrants. The research project will explore the role of the migration industry in organizing migratory departures from Ethiopia and in cross border mobility. Even more, by going beyond the victimization, individualizing and criminalizing tendencies, they indicated that the research study will highlight the context in which the practices of brokering and smuggling emerge and work. The researchers will investigate how selected government organizations, brokers and private employment agencies engage in the recruitment, mobility and placement of migrants in the Middle East as well as overland and stepwise migratory journeys towards South Africa and Europe. 

Dr. Adamnesh Bogale, the research lead of Gender and Generation theme of the Migrating out of Poverty project in Ethiopia, explained that migration experiences vary across genders and generations. There are complexities surrounding norms and practices guiding the responsibilities of different household members, dependencies and interdependencies within families. She indicated that up until now there has been little evidence generation on the impact of migration on the household and the dynamics of the household on migration processes and decisions.  By exploring the nature of the participants’ experiences and their perceptions and attitudes about gendered and generational relations through the lens of migration, it will be possible to understand intra-household dynamics for analysis to help researchers and policy makers to understand the concerns surrounding the issues.  

The last session was presented by Dr. Asmelash Haile, lead for the Income and Remittances theme in Ethiopia. The overall objective of this theme is to understand whether, and to what extent, migrant-sending households benefit from migration by explicitly identifying the counterfactual scenario. He described how the research will explore the welfare levels that might have been enjoyed by the households if they had not experienced any migration. The study will also try to find out the importance of remittances in ensuring benefits to migrant-sending households and drivers of migrant intentions. 

The final session of the workshop was for discussion, questions, comments and reflections by participants on the three research themes. Participants expressed their positive reception and willingness to work with the research team indicating that the issues raised were timely and relevant. They also indicated that a mixed methods approach would have been a better approach to address some of the research questions.  In addition to this, participants informed the research teams of the importance of sharing information and data with other research organizations which work on related issues. The participants also pointed out the importance of working with community-based organizations.

Finally, the research theme leaders thanked the participants for their inputs in the form of questions and comments. Confirming to some of the comments the team ensured participants that they will try to accommodate the inputs that they got from the workshop and also informed the participants that they will engage with them periodically throughout the lifetime of the project. The research team also acknowledged that the workshop gave them a great opportunity to bring together various stakeholders on migration issues to help them fill the gap on the three research themes.