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Global Development Institute

Migration, refugees and asylum

Migration, refugees and asylum

‘Migration is at the heart of who we are – it is the process of action, of learning. Migration is a natural celebration of human nature’ Lemn Sissay

The challenge:

The movement of people has always been part of the human condition and a vital process for all human societies bringing change, solving some social challenges and introducing others.

The contemporary world is characterised by a high degree of mobility, making the different and often overlapping categories of people on the move important political and developmental actors.

This movement of people relates back to conceptual philosophical questions about the absence of universal rights in actual political space and notions of citizenship and belonging, as well as to important global development agendas, such as remittances and other more intangible transfers of people on the move, which make a major contribution to global development.

How we are addressing it:

Throughout 2017 we have been bringing our innovative research agendas into greater focus through the Manchester Migration Lab . This culminated in the International Conference World on the Move held in Manchester in October/November 2017.

Subsequently, through major research grants key themes under investigation have been pursued that include:

  • Contesting the politics of border-zones, borderscapes, encampment and containment through the lens of the post-colonial hegemonic world order.
  • Examining the journey – challenging the characterisation of migration from one place to another and exploring the significance of the adventure, trauma, transit and sojourn in shaping movement and its outcomes.
  • Investigating theoretical understandings of social transformation through empirical analysis of history, social relations and generations.
  • Examining changing notions of home and belonging in relation to geographical place and transnational social spaces.
  • Challenging top-down neoliberal economic approaches to migration through an exploration of agency and solidarity from below that includes entrepreneurship, rights and citizenship claims.

Researching the impact of Covid-19

Covid-19 and its implications go to the heart of many key themes the research group engages with, and here are the first snapshots of how some of our members connect this to our ongoing and future research:

Uma Kothari is following the plight of seafarers globally many of whom have found themselves stuck on board their ships and working beyond their contracts. Due to the current ban on air travel they are unable to return home, while others are adrift at sea because of port closures. Confined on tankers and container ships, many are experiencing mental health issues and financial difficulties. These mobile workers are some of the most vulnerable and, working at sea they are often an invisible workforce. 

Tanja Müller is engaging with Covid-19 and how it affects broader dynamics of solidarity and inequality and has written a number of Covid-19 blogs on these themes. She also currently works on a contribution to a Covid-19 publication with her colleague Dr Linda Oucho from the African Migration and Development Policy Centre in Nairobi, that compares dynamics of internal and regional migration, entitled: Migration and Mobility in the Era of Covid-19: Comparative Perspectives from Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.

Tanja Bastia is exploring how Covid-19 is changing transnational care practices, particularly across different socio-economic groups; and how migrants in informal settlements in Latin American cities are experiencing and dealing with Covid-19.

Madeleine Reeves is investigating how Covid-19 is playing out in the Russian and post-Soviet contexts, particularly with regards to impacts for migrant workers in major Russian cities and the impacts for remittance transfers to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Specific thematic issues she is interested in include: the particular kinds of epidemic threat faced by migrant workers living in dormitory/hostel accommodation; how illegality/undocumentedness shape migrants’ experiences of lockdown; the economic impacts of Covid-19 on remittance transfers and domestic economies in sending countries; and how Covid-19 is playing into nationalist/anti-immigrant discourses.

Fazila Bhimji is focusing on refugee issues. Specifically she is thinking about the challenges existing refugee support networks in Germany face – how to continue to support refugees while maintaining physical distancing. She also investigates what some of the new issues that arise in the context of Covid-19 are with respect to refugee rights, and how activism and protests can continue during this period. 

Research Projects

Our teaching agenda:

People and publications:

Click on the names below to read their latest publications or read the latest publications from the Global Development Institute.

There are several non-GDI colleagues who are also involved in the migration, refugees and asylum research group

Honorary Research Fellows 

GDI PhD Researchers and Post-Doctoral Fellows

  • Matthew Walsham - Internal migration and social pensions in Uganda: The Senior Citizens Grant and its effects on intra-household dynamics and well-being in ‘multi-local households’
  • Mesghina Abraha - Research Associate
  • Maria del Pilar Bohada Rodriguez - Conflict-induced displacement, aspirations and “the capacity to aspire”
  • Malte Skov - Nepal-Malaysia migration: Gender and Inequality
  • Andreina Carillo Espinoza - In-between nations. The transnational agenda of the Venezuelan diaspora in Spain, and Democratic Legitimacy.

The migration, refugees and asylum group also works closely with PhD researchers and post-doctoral fellows from other departments. 

News and insights: