International migration has become a ‘mega trend’ of our times, with more than 260 million migrants living outside their country of origin in 2017. Some people move in search of better livelihood opportunities, others flee conflict, environmental degradation or natural disasters, and yet others are deceived or coerced into exploitative work. The categories developed by the international community for people on the move – such as smuggled migrants, refugees, or trafficked persons – are increasingly inadequate to capture today’s complex migration flows. Yet, the label that a person is given by authorities can mean the difference between assistance and protection, or arrest and deportation.
This special issue of the Anti-Trafficking Review examines migratory categories, their use among authorities and humanitarian actors, and – most importantly – the impact they have on migrants themselves. In the first article, Giorgia Serughetti uses the concepts of ‘agency’ and ‘vulnerability’ to discuss the role of gendered and racialised stereotyping in determining labels and treatment for Nigerian women asylum-seekers in Italy. Drawing on feminist political philosophy and philosophy of law, Serughetti calls for a refocus of attention from people’s motives for moving to their protection needs. The next four papers – by Benny Hari Juliawan, Jade Anderson and Annie Li, Cécile Blouin and Emily Button, and Katherine Soltis and Rebecca Walters – scrutinise different labels applied to migrants, such as irregular migrants, refugees, smuggled migrants, and trafficked persons, and their potential overlaps, in Malaysia/Indonesia, Hong Kong SAR, Peru and the United States, respectively. A common theme in these papers is the inability, or unwillingness, of states to provide human rights protections to non-citizens on their territories. In some locations, no label grants any meaningful protection and assistance; in others, authorities tend to apply that offering least protection. Another common theme is the need to listen to migrants’ stories and examine their individual situations with greater attention. In the final thematic article, Gabriella Sanchez draws on the perspectives of children engaged in migrant smuggling across the US-Mexico border to call for a more nuanced understanding of their experiences as embedded in socio-political inequalities on both sides of the border. She concludes that narratives portraying young people exclusively as victims of criminals risk reinforcing security-oriented responses such as migration control, which in turn increase children’s socio-economic vulnerabilities.
In the debate section, four authors – Katharine T. Weatherhead, Marika McAdam, Pia Oberoi and Sarah Elliott – discuss the statement ‘It is important and necessary to make clear distinctions between (irregular) migrants, refugees and trafficked persons’. Agreeing with it to different degrees, they collectively emphasise the need to uphold human rights protections for all people on the move, regardless of their particular conditions and motivations for migrating.
Ultimately, the contributions to this Special Issue show that policy responses to migrants must rise to the challenges posed by today’s patterns of mobility, resisting temptations of reductionist or static categorisations. Rights – especially human rights – must be put up front in this endeavour.…
Regular migration is often seen as the safest and most beneficial means of migrating for work. Little empirical work, however, has been conducted comparing the experiences of regular and irregular migrant workers, and assessing the associated migration outcomes.
The report What’s the incentive? Comparing regular and irregular migrant work experiences from the Lao People’s Democratic Republic to Thailand, informed by two surveys, considers the relative experiences of regular and irregular migrant workers travelling from Lao PDR to Thailand.
It outlines the regulatory framework for labour migration between the two countries, evaluates regular migrant workers’ experiences, and compares these with conditions faced by irregular migrant workers. The study covers respondents’ backgrounds and pre-departure conditions; recruitment; working and living conditions in Thailand; and return to Lao PDR.
Overall, it finds that regular labour migration has yielded more positive migrant work outcomes than irregular channels, though both regular and irregular migrant workers report numerous and varied challenges and decent work deficits during their migrant work experience.
We have published the latest blog, ‘A Turning Point on Migration’.
In this piece, Owen Shumba, Team Leader of UNDP’s Livelihoods and Economic Recovery Group, discusses the positive development impact of migration, how the Global Compact for Migration may further boost this, and UNDP’s contribution in the area.
You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.
What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on the Global Compact for Migration?
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