Migrants and Citizens

Since March, I’ve been working on a new, in-depth project — the culmination of a cross-country US road trip, and a personal attempt to understand America’s immigration story.  There’s much more to come — including a podcast and a book — but in the meantime, here’s a website from some very talented people at ODI that shares a small part of the story, through long-form essay reflections, photos and audio interviews from some of those we met on the way.


All images: Jessie Parks

    Listen here to my documentary for BBC Radio 4 on the unexpected history of the Passport, first broadcast in May 2017

      Here’s an article I wrote for The Guardian on the unexpected welcome refugees receive in Clarkston, Georgia

        Here’s an article I wrote for The Washington Post on the parallels between Chinese Exclusion and Trump’s Travel Ban

          Citizenship, Migration and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

          Here’s a link to a report I wrote for the Overseas Development Institute (with co-authors Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Elisa Vidal and Amelia Kuch) on the importance of migrants’ access to citizenship in securing the 2030 SDG Agenda.

            Credit Where it’s Due: World Bank report for Talent Beyond Boundaries

            Here’s a link to a report I wrote while working with Talent Beyond Boundaries (funded by the World Bank), on the potential uses of a revolving loan fund system for refugees

              The Sutherland Report

              Here’s a link to the UN Sutherland Report on International Migration, which I worked on as part of the core team of authors and researchers from 2015-2017.

                Here’s a report I wrote with Sarah Rosengaertner for the Migration Policy Institute, first published in October 2016


                The limitations of the current refugee protection system have become painfully evident as the number of refugees and displaced persons passed 65 million by the end of 2015. With little hope of establishing stable lives in first-asylum countries, being resettled, or returning to their countries of origin, many refugees opt to move onward in search of their own solutions, undertaking dangerous journeys to Europe, North America, and elsewhere.

                These journeys are often done via informal and irregular channels. But increasing attention is being paid to the role that legal work and study migration channels could play in the international response, potentially helping to relieve the unequal burden on countries of first asylum, connecting refugees with meaningful opportunities to earn a living and regain stability, and supporting their integration into host societies.

                This report discusses the steps that policymakers can take to open legal mobility and migration opportunities within existing labor and study channels for refugees, while considering the practical and political barriers to such efforts. The authors make clear that such channels will need to operate as a complement to the traditional protection system, in part because only a relatively small share of refugees stand to benefit from gaining access to existing human-capital migration channels.

                  Here’s an article I wrote for The Guardian on the injustices of US H4 visas

                    Rwanda’s first refugees: Tutsi exile and international response 1959–64


                    Pages 211-229 | Received 01 Jun 2011, Published online: 10 May 2012


                    By the time Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in 1962, 200,000 Rwandan Tutsi had left to seek exile in neighbouring states. Drawing on British archives, this article traces international responses to this refugee crisis in Uganda, arguing that the political subtleties of this displacement are often overlooked.

                    British officials’ anxious responses to the Tutsi exodus in 1959 were dominated above all by concern for Ugandan decolonisation. Yet after independence in 1962, the Rwandans were quickly re-imagined by Ugandan actors who had previously supported their right to remain in the territory as a threat to Ugandan national citizenship. This political exclusion of the Tutsi elite prompted increasing refugee militarisation, yet the resulting inyenzi raids only provided further justification for the international community to pursue a humanitarian rather than a political course in responding to the Rwandan crisis.

                    The article concludes that recognising the complexities of this early refugee movement and international responses to the crisis is important. Such study allows a more critical analysis of prevalent narratives around histories of exile and return in Rwanda, and underlines the role that international refugee protection policies may play in creating protracted refugee crises.

                      Early Repatriation Policy: Russian Refugee Return 1922–1924

                      Early Repatriation Policy: Russian Refugee Return 1922–1924

                      Journal of Refugee Studies, Volume 22, Issue 2, 1 June 2009, Pages 133–154


                      The repatriation of Russian refugees from Bulgaria between 1922 and 1924 under League of Nations’ supervision represents the earliest international attempt to organize a co-ordinated refugee return. Drawing on new archival research, this article argues that enhanced understandings of the historical development of repatriation contribute to the contemporary political theorization of repatriation. It demonstrates the long-standing liberal-international commitment to the ethical corollaries of ‘voluntariness’, ‘safety’ and ‘protection’ in repatriation, despite the manipulation of these terms by political émigré groups interested in resisting Soviet state power. This exposes the complex connections between the early 20th-century rise of the sovereign European nation-state and consequent refugee exodus. Repatriation was thus a fundamentally political project concerned with restoring the relations between state, nation and citizen: it ultimately failed in the Russian–Bulgarian case not because of any disagreement over repatriation’s liberal corollaries, but because of disputes between the League of Nations, the Soviet State and the Russian refugees themselves regarding the nature of both inter-state and intra-state sovereignty. The article concludes by suggesting that it is these questions of political community which continue to pose the greatest challenge to repatriation as a durable solution to contemporary refugee crises.

                        In Search of Sanctuary: Border Closures, ‘Safe’ Zones and Refugee Protection

                        In Search of Sanctuary: Border Closures, ‘Safe’ Zones and Refugee Protection, Journal of Refugee Studies, Volume 26, Issue 3, 1 September 2013, Pages 458–476


                        In the past two decades, refugee-hosting states have increasingly chosen to close their borders when confronted with mass refugee influxes. This article examines humanitarian responses to such closures. I argue that, particularly in the post-Cold War period, the international community has increasingly chosen not to condemn but to mitigate such closures, constructing alternative ‘safety’ zones. Yet while border closures that lead to ‘safe zones’ may offer a minimal security and preserve life through humanitarian relief, they cannot offer the full protections of refugee law, or a durable solution to persecution and political exclusion