Migrants and Citizens

Push-pull plus: reconsidering the drivers of migration

Special Issue: Aspiration, Desire and the Drivers of Migration
Push-pull plus: reconsidering the drivers of migration
Nicholas Van Hear, Oliver Bakewell & Katy Long
Pages 1-18 | Published online: 18 Oct 2017


Drivers can be understood as forces leading to the inception of migration and the perpetuation of movement. This article considers key drivers of migration and explores different ways that they may be configured. We modify existing explanations of migration to generate a framework which we call push-pull plus. To understand migration flows better, analysts could usefully distinguish between predisposing, proximate, precipitating and mediating drivers. Combinations of such drivers shape the conditions, circumstances and environment within which people choose to move or stay put, or have that decision thrust upon them. In any one migration flow, several driver complexes may interconnect to shape the eventual direction and nature of movement. The challenge is to establish when and why some drivers are more important than others, which combinations are more potent than others, and which are more susceptible to change through external intervention. Drawing on Afghan and Somali movements featuring ‘mixed migration’, the article concludes that proximate and mediating drivers, rather than those in the structural and precipitating spheres, appear to offer greater potential for intervention. To be effective, though, migration policy should be understood not simply as a stand-alone lever, but within the wider political economy.

    When Refugees Stopped Being Migrants

    When refugees stopped being migrants: Movement, labour and humanitarian protection
    Migration Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, 1 March 2013, Pages 4–26
    Published: 25 January 2013


    States and refugee advocates often insist that ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ are separate distinct categories, despite ample evidence that these labels blur in practice. However, little attention is paid to the fact that in the past refugees were considered as migrants, with international attention focusing on securing their access to existing migration channels. This article traces this tangled history of refugee and migrant identities through the 1920s to the 1950s, when ‘refugee’ and ‘migrant’ categories were separated. The article argues that treating refugees as migrants in the 1920s and 1930s failed to ensure their protection from persecution because their admission was entirely dependent upon economic criteria. Separating refugees from migrants in the 1950s—by providing refugees with an exceptional right to cross borders and claim asylum—helped to address this protection gap. However, the article shows that in creating a special route for admission deliberately set apart from migration, the humanitarian discourse that protects refugees from harm actually prevents refugees from finding durable solutions, which depend upon securing an economic livelihood and not just receiving humanitarian assistance. The article concludes that, in the interests of refugee solutions, the extent of separation between refugee protection and access to migration should be reversed. Refugee advocates should reconsider the many innovative lessons both from the Nansen era and the decade of experimentation that preceded the establishment of today’s contemporary refugee protection framework in 1951. While asylum and the ‘refugee’ category perform essential roles in admitting those in need of international protection, asylum alone—unlike migration—cannot meet long-term needs. Reconfiguring understandings of on-going refugee protection to facilitate movement and prioritize the securing of sustainable livelihoods would both better reflect the reality of people’s movements in conflict and crisis and offer more opportunities for durable solutions to protracted crises.


      An early start this morning to talk about refugee crises and what the private sector can do to help end political paralysis in Europe on CNN: watch it here

        If you’ve not got time to read about migration, how about listening to this instead?  On this BBC Radio 4 podcast, first broadcast 29 July 2015, I talk about what it means when citizenship itself is for sale.  Are there some things that money shouldn’t buy?

          MPI PaperRefugee protection—both asylum in the country of first refuge and resettlement to a third country—is a humanitarian endeavor, distinct from economic or labor migration. As victims of persecution, under international law refugees are entitled to specific protections, above all from forcible return, and the humanitarian nature of refugee protection is fundamental. However, what is less clear is the degree to which the right to move freely both within and beyond a country of first asylum can or should be encompassed within the international community’s understanding of what refugee protection involves.

          Over the years, there has been growing international recognition that continued movement and migration often play an important role in shaping refugees’ lives after their initial flight, even without the formal legal channels to do so. The economic restrictions placed on refugees in many countries—including prohibitions on the right to work and limitations on movement away from camps—lead many individuals to pursue irregular secondary migration after being granted refugee status, in search of economic opportunity and sometimes even basic physical security. In light of this reality, pursuing labor mobility policies for refugees may make sense for both political and humanitarian reasons, offering the chance to enhance refugee protection while reducing the many costs associated with long-term refugee crises.

          This report considers the extent to which labor migration is being used—or could be used in the future—to strengthen the international refugee protection regime and facilitate durable solutions for more refugees. The report also outlines two possible ways that policymakers could facilitate refugees’ freedom of movement: initiatives that take advantage of existing migration pathways and regional freedom-of-movement protocols, and development of temporary and permanent refugee-focused labor migration programs.

            Refugee and Forced Migration Studies has grown from being a concern of a relatively small number of scholars and policy researchers in the 1980s to a global field of interest with thousands of students worldwide studying displacement either from traditional disciplinary perspectives or as a core component of newer programmes across the Humanities and Social and Political Sciences. Today the field encompasses both rigorous academic research which may or may not ultimately inform policy and practice, as well as action-research focused on advocating in favour of refugees’ needs and rights.Oxford Handbook

            This authoritative Handbook critically evaluates the birth and development of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, and analyses the key contemporary and future challenges faced by academics and practitioners working with and for forcibly displaced populations around the world. The 52 state-of-the-art chapters, written by leading academics, practitioners, and policymakers working in universities, research centres, think tanks, NGOs and international organizations, provide a comprehensive and cutting-edge overview of the key intellectual, political, social and institutional challenges arising from mass displacement in the world today. The chapters vividly illustrate the vibrant and engaging debates that characterize this rapidly expanding field of research and practice.

              This policy overview was prepared as part of an RSC’s joint research and policy project on ‘Unlocking crises of protracted displacement for refugees and internally displaced persons’ with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. This paper considers how international actors should frame protracted displacements and the search for ‘solutions’ to such crises. It draws on the findings of three case studies (Central America during the 1980s and 1990s and contemporary displacements in Somalia and Iraq) as well as wider research on protracted refugee situations and the politics of refugee ‘solutions’.

              The paper suggests a number of innovative strategies which might better match international policy to the needs of those trapped in protracted displacement. Based on the evidence assessed, the paper concludes that ensuring the quality of asylum, opening up migration routes and adopting a more flexible approach to residency and citizenship rights are all key to unlocking protracted displacements.

              This project was generously supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

                In the past twenty years, over 25 million refugees have returned ‘home’. These refugee repatriations are considered by the international community to be the only real means of solving mass refugee crises. Yet despite the importance placed on repatriation—both in principle and practice—there has been very little exploration of the political controversies that have framed refugee return. Several questions remain unresolved: do refugees have a right to refuse return? How can you remake citizenship after exile? Is ‘home’ a place or a community? How should the liberal principles be balanced against nationalist state order?

                The Point of No Return: Rights, Refugees and Repatriation sets out to answer these questions and to examine the fundamental tensions between liberalism and nationalism that repatriation exposes. It makes clear that repatriation cannot be considered as a mere act of border-crossing, a physical moment of ‘return’. Instead, repatriation must be recognised to be a complex political process, involving the remaking of a relationship between citizen and state, the recreation of a social contract.

                A comprehensive and highly original analysis of refugee repatriation from a historical, political and philosophical perspective. Essential reading for policymakers, practitioners and academics with an interest in humanitarian action.

                Dr Jeff Crisp, Senior Director for Policy and Advocacy, Refugees International


                  Now Available in Paperback Too!

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                  Politicians from all sides compete to convince us they can fix our immigration “problem”. Apparently, if we want less inequality at home, we need less immigration from abroad. But what if this assumption is wrong?

                  What if the drive to restrict migration isn’t reducing poverty here, but creating a migration system that is actually exacerbating local inequality?

                  The Huddled Masses: Immigration and Inequality shows why we need to rethink the relationship between immigration and inequality, and avoid pursuing policies that pit poor immigrants against poor workers at the expense of both groups. It is short, accessible, and available as an e-book now.

                  • Understanding the fear factor: challenging distorted views on migration
                  • Ethics: working out what ‘fair’ migration means
                  • European migration: open doors or Fortress Europe?
                  • The Migration Industry: who profits from migration?
                  • Asylum: exposing the limits of humanitarianism
                  • Immigration and employment: do migrants take our jobs?
                  • The social state: migration and welfare
                  • Moving forward: the case for positive immigration policies

                  Drawing on cutting-edge research, Long offers an incisive analysis of our migration system that shows how our efforts to restrict immigration are actually widening the gap between wealthy corporation and ordinary citizens. She exposes how companies like G4S and Serco profit from a billion-dollar migration industry while locking their own workers into a low-wage, low-skill economy; how stringent minimum income requirements mean half of Britons no longer have the right to marry a foreigner and bring their spouse to live with them in the UK; and how the UK Government – despite being a vocal opponent of EU freedom of movement – has repeatedly refused to assist the EU in efforts to crack down on the exploitation of cheap “posted” migrant labour, citing the need to protect British “competitiveness”.

                  The Huddled Masses assesses the real contribution that migrants make to the economy, exploding the myth that migrants “take our jobs”. The data presented makes clear that immigration plays a critical role – both in terms of human capital and tax revenue – in sustaining the social institutions that offer citizens real protection against widening social and economic inequality.

                  The migration debate is usually presented as a national problem: but as Long makes clear, we need to recognize migration is also a class issue. And this isn’t just about the immigrants: it’s about us too. The Huddled Masses concludes by outlining a number of pragmatic, progressive migration policies – from a new agricultural workers’ scheme to an expanded refugee resettlement programme – that could form the basis for a new, positive post-2015 migration consensus.