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Here are snippets of insights from my research, points that I am fascinated by and care about, and would like to elaborate upon with new knowledge. In a summary like this, nuances and qualifications are lost. Follow the links to the relevant publications for the full picture. Some of this research is undertaken together with colleagues, which is reflected in the author information for the publications.

We live in an age of involuntary immobility

migration_aspirations_120x120Migration is about people moving. But the idea of migration is much more widespread than migration itself: for every international migrant in the world, there are roughly four other people who wish to migrate. For many of them, that wish remains unfulfilled; they are in the situation that I’ve called involuntary immobility. When poor countries become wealthier, their inhabitants’ expectations typically rise at a faster rate than their opportunities expand. Awareness of migration has spread rapidly, while the rise in actual migration has been modest. [More…]

Migration affects development, but the effects can’t be summed up

8035396680_mikecogh_120x120Migration-development links are high on academic and policy agendas. As researchers in the field, we are often expected to conclude about the true, overall effects of migration on the societies that migrants leave behind. This is an impossible task, however, even for the best researchers equipped with the best data. Why? Because migration produces diverse effects that can’t be added together in a net result. Saying what is good and what is bad is not a scientific challenge, but a political one. [More…]

Transnational social fields are spaces of solidarity, but also of tension

file0001440452984_120x120As a result of migration, family ties and and social relationships have been stretched out across the world. These virtual spaces of interaction are known as transnational social fields. We sometimes marvel at the way in which space is conquered, through technology and otherwise, and overlook the tensions and ruptures that persist. In many migration contexts, there is a fundamental divide between the people who have left and the people who have been left behind, reflected, for instance, in the difference between sending and receiving remittances. [More…]

Intercepting migrants at sea is a seductive policy measure

file000161615760_120x120European authorities are grappling with unauthorized migration from Africa. Policies are influenced by competing ‘policy narratives’ — claims about the nature of the problem and how it can be solved — which fall under three headings: migration as a security threat, the necessity of cooperation with countries of origin, and the need to protect vulnerable migrants. Paradoxically, intercepting migrants at sea before they reach Europe is a measure that resonnates with all three narratives and has therefore gained credit, even though it is ineffective and questionable. [More…]

‘Altruism versus self-interest’ hampers understanding of remittances

file000187746493_120x120For the past thirty years, research on migrant remittances has been focused on understanding whether transfers are motivated by altruism or self-interest. The research that originally inspired this framework was nuanced and insightful, but subsequent studies have repeated the exercise without yielding much in terms of new insights. What we need instead are studies that consider the variation in norms and value systems, family and household structures and the demographic processes behind remitting. [More…]