Academic Conference with UN-ACT on Irregular Migration, Asylum and Human Trafficking

December 12, 2016
UN-ACT

UN-ACT is partnering with the Social Science Division and the Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies at Mahidol University for an academic conference to be held in Bangkok in June 2017. The theme of the event is Irregular Migrants, Refugees or Victims of Human-Trafficking? Analysis, Advocacy and Assistance between Categorizations and (Self-)Identifications.

Migration, displacement and human trafficking have become staples of headline news. Reactions range – and sometimes change – from outrage over abuse and sympathy for individuals and groups seen as victims, to open hostility towards those perceived as alien intruders or threats to security, political, cultural and business interests.

Where international instruments of varying age and origin provide a set of at times overlapping categorizations, policy-makers and public discourse often look for clear classifications and impose mutually exclusive labels on groups and individuals, whose circumstances are complex, diverse and not always well understood. Such categorical overlaps, however, may be exploited at the expense of the individuals concerned. It is hardly surprising then that persons caught in this legal and conceptual web prove at times wary of the labels offered to or imposed upon them.

Further, aid agencies and organizations working in the areas of migration, displacement, and human trafficking cannot avoid the contest over categorizations and classifications either. Legal definitions help shape opportunities for and conditions of assistance while public perceptions associated with different terms impact on available funds. Donors of aid programs expect accountability, which requires clear classifications of those provided with assistance. But actual needs for assistance may cut across rigid differentiations between economic migrants, refugees or victims of human-trafficking.

Finally, in receiving communities these people may face hostility because they are seen as illegal migrants, economic refugees, or queue jumpers.

The response to migration, displacement, and human trafficking is thus in part contingent upon conceptual schemes and classifications and at the same time impacts upon them. It is this interdependence and the challenges resulting from it that are the focus of the workshop. We invite:

  • conceptual studies,
  • reports on empirical research,
  • and reflection papers by practitioners

in the areas of migration, displacement, human-trafficking and related forms of exploitation in the wider Southeast Asian region.

Papers may address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How do individuals respond to labels such as migrant, refugee, victim of human trafficking or slave applied or available to them? What motivates these responses?
  • How and to what extent can individuals assert their own agency and express their own views of their circumstances in the face of categorizations and classifications by public discourse, state authorities, or aid agencies?
  • How are public perceptions shaped and articulated in relation to these labels?
  • How are government and non-government service providers impacted by such categories in their ability and willingness to extend services to different populations?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, are advocacy and assistance efforts shaped, enhanced or limited by categories in international and national law, or the labels – and changes therein – dominant in public discourse?
  • How do problems of, and contests over, classifications impact the compilation of data on migration, displacement, human trafficking and related forms of exploitation?

Proposals including paper abstracts and the CVs of presenters are due by 31 March 2017. More information is here: https://sites.google.com/a/mahidol.edu/trafficking-seminar/. For any questions, please contact UN-ACT’s Sebastian Boll at sebastian.boll@undp.org.

We look forward to your submissions and seeing you at the conference!

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