| Hellenic Foundation for European & Foreign Policy

Unravelling the Mediterranean Migration Crisis (MEDMIG)

migration photoIn the first six months of 2015 more than 100,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean, arriving at the shores of southern Europe in search of protection or a better life. In the same period more than 1,800 people lost their lives, drowning as overloaded and often unseaworthy boats sank into the sea. In this context, the research project aims to better understand the dynamics of migration in the Mediterranean region by providing the first large-scale, systematic and comparative study of the backgrounds, experiences, aspirations and routes of migrants in four European countries (Italy, Greece, Malta and Turkey) who have recently arrived. The research project pushes the theoretical and conceptual boundaries of migration studies. It encourages critical reflexive dialogue and practice by opening new and inclusive spaces for questioning and challenging established ways of categorising and thinking about the Mediterranean migration crisis. In so doing, it will create opportunities for increased policy dialogue and academic collaboration between the case study countries – and across the EU more generally – around the evidence gathered.

Existing research in this area is uneven in quality and scope and rarely based on systematic and comparative data collection across countries of origin or arrival, or between types of migration (forced/voluntary, primary/secondary) or migrant groups (by nationality, gender, age, religion). The research project will be grounded within existing frameworks for understanding migrant journeys and transit, secondary, mixed and irregular migration including the political and policy contexts within which this migration takes place. At the same time, it will explore the structural determinants of migration at the meso-level, focusing on both the opportunities and constraints that shape migration (migration environment, social networks and information flows). The research project will also take account of the cognitive and behavioural processes that shape migration at the micro-level. This multi-layered comparative approach will enable the analysis of the complex and dynamic forces that underpin the very rapid changes in migration patterns currently being seen in the Mediterranean region.

The main project objectives are:

  • To better understand the dynamics (determinants, drivers and infrastructures) behind the recent unprecedented levels of migration across, and loss of life in, the Mediterranean;
  • To map the interaction of migrants with a multitude of non-state actors (for example ‘smugglers’ and civil society organisations) and state actors (for example navy / coastguard);
  • To explore the relevant opportunities and constraints in countries of origin and refuge/transit; and
  • To provide a robust evidence base to inform the development of policy responses by governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental actors.

The main activities of the project:

  • The research will be undertaken at 12 sites in four countries: Italy and Malta (Central Mediterranean route) and Greece and Turkey (Eastern Mediterranean route).
  • A total of 550 interviews with migrants will be conducted. The majority of these interviews will be with migrants who have crossed the Mediterranean within the preceding month, 225 each in Italy and Greece (the two countries that have received by far the largest proportion of migrants since January 2015) and 50 inMalta, a country in which migrants have effectively become ‘stuck’. A further 50 interviews will be conducted with migrants in Turkey (prospective, failed and returned) to facilitate a better understanding of the transit context.
  • Around 100 interviews with governmental, non-governmental and civil society organisations will be conducted, in order to gather broader insights into the experiences and journeys of the migrants with whom they come into contact.
  • The research will generate a large data set within a very short period of time (three months) which will be analysed using NVivo. This will enable the project team to draw out both qualitative and quantitative findings within and across countries, different groups of migrants and according to demographic and other variables (nationality, age, gender, religion), and to undertake a systematic thematic and comparative analysis of the factors shaping migrant journeys across the Mediterranean.

Project partners:

Coventry University, UK (Coordinator);

University of Oxford, UK;

University of Birmingham, UK;

Yasar University, Turkey;

Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), Greece;

International and European Forum of Migration Research (FIERI), Italy;

The People for Change Foundation, Malta.

Project duration 12 months (from September 2015 until August 2016). Project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the United Kingdom, under the ESRC Strategic Urgency Grants scheme.

For more information, you can contact:

Dia Anagnostou (Anagnostou.eliamep@gmail.com)

Dimitris Skleparis (skleparis.eliamep@gmail.com)

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