Current projects

making migration and migration policy decisions amidst societal transformations (PACES)

How do changes in society, individual life experiences and migration policy shape decisions to stay or to migrate over time and across countries? And how can this knowledge inform future migration policies and governance? In the last few decades migration has been framed as a challenge for the EU and its Member States. EU and national migration policymakers have become preoccupied with predicting and controlling migration to the continent, leading to the proliferation of financial instruments, strategies and initiatives. This reactive approach fails to consider a set of emerging social changes, such as population aging and economic transformations that are likely to shape future migration drivers, and the need for migration policies to be forward-looking rather than reactive. Moreover, these policy interventions are often not based on research evidence on how people make migration decisions. Instead, narratives and policies follow general assumptions that migration is essentially driven by poverty, inequality or conflict. Such simplifications reduce the complexity of migration decision-making. While research from across the social sciences has greatly advanced insights in the nature, causes and impacts of migration processes over the last decades, migration policymaking often makes scarce use of this knowledge. To fill this gap, PACES examines the interplay between societal change, individual life experiences and migration policies in shaping decisions to stay or migrate in origin communities and in places of transit and destination. It then studies the mechanisms that underpin migration policies and explores alternative approaches to migration policies that better account for the realities of migrants’ decision-making processes. Concentrating empirically on African migrations to Europe, the focus of many EU and national migration policy interventions, PACES innovates academic and policy debates by studying migration and migration policy decision-making as interlinked rather than separate processes.

Collaborators: Simona Vezzoli (PI), Thea Hilhorst, Hein de Haas, Dominique Jolivet, Antoine Pécoud, Oliver Bakewell, Ralitza Dimova, Lucia Mýtna Kurekov, Anne-Marie Jeannet, Juan David Sempere Souvannavong, Maria Jesus Cabezon Fernandez, Kerilyn Schewel, Jana Papcunová, Miroslav Štefánik, Hervé Nicolle, Hanne Beirens, Jasmijn Slootjes, Ravenna Sohst, Camille Le Coz, Belen Zanzuchi, Miriam Boudraa, Roberto Forin Jane Linekar, Miriama Bošelová and Marta Králiková.

Funded by: Horizon Europe Grant

attitudes towards Venezuelan migrants among the Ecuadorian youth: challenging the criminalization of immigrants

What drives anti-immigrant sentiment, and what policies are most effective to counter it? Focusing on adolescents’ attitudes towards Venezuelan migrants in Ecuador, this project provides generalizable insights into the factors associated with anti-migrant attitudes and the policies that can counter migrants’ criminalization. Ecuador is the third-largest receiver of Venezuelan migrants, and these are subject to widespread xenophobia and criminalization. Through surveys of final year secondary school students, we will investigate the characteristics of adolescents most negative towards migrants and compare the effects of cognitive and affective policy interventions to elicit empathy with Venezuelan immigrants. The project seeks to advance and complement the vast literature on anti-xenophobia policy interventions in Western contexts by advancing insights on migrant stigmatization and integration in the Global South.

Collaborators: Diana Davila Gordillo, Leila Demarest, Juan Masullo Jimenez, Paolo Moncagatta

Funded by: Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) LATAM Regional Hub Small Grants Fund

artificial intelligence as a governance tool in Morocco

How are existing modes of public governance in Morocco influenced and shaped by AI technologies? AI and facial recognition technologies are increasingly common as tools of governance in the global north and global south. Due to technological advances around artificial intelligence (AI) such a computer vision, technology as a tool of governance is becoming cheaper and easier to use in everyday contexts. Many governments in the Middle East/North Africa region, the Gulf, East Asia, and South/Central Asia are procuring advanced analytic systems, facial recognition cameras, and sophisticated monitoring capabilities. The usage of AI offers governments two major novel capabilities. First, it allows governments to automate many tracking and monitoring functions formerly delegated to human operators, which brings cost efficiencies, decreases reliance on security forces, and overrides potential principal-agent problems. Second, as AI systems never tire or fatigue, AI technology can help govern more effectively across large groups of the populations. To better understand how AI reshapes existing modes of public governance, we investigate the use of AI in Morocco to govern (i) urban spaces and (ii) borders.

Collaborators: Sylvia Bergh, Ben Wagner, Francesco Ragazzi

Funded by: Hague University Centre of Expertise on Global Governance Seed Grant

technologies of migration governance

In what ways do technologies at the border shape practices of migration governance? Technological advances have an impact on our daily lives. They have also been employed by governments to manage border security, especially at controversial border crossings. Fences, heat sensors, heat cameras, drones and other hi-tech equipment collectively produce an security apparatus which imagines, profiles and prevents migration in specific ways. Our project seeks to understand how these technologies shape the dynamics of power and interactions between border security personnel, the local population and the migrants along these borders. Through ethnographically and comparatively studying three different borders – the Spain-Morocco border, India-Bangladesh border and South Africa-Zimbabwe border – we aim to understand the regimes of technology that govern global migration today.

Collaborators: Beatrix Futák-Campbell, Vineet Thakur

Funded by: Leiden University Global Transformations and Governance Challenges Seed Grant

Past projects

immigration politics in Morocco and Tunisia

In my PhD, It is often assumed that there is a fundamental difference between immigration policymaking in democracies and autocracies, with democracies associated to liberal immigration regimes and autocracies to migrants’ rights restrictions. But what if we start to look for similarities in immigration policymaking across political regimes? In my PhD, I explored the contrasting cases of Morocco and Tunisia. Based on extensive fieldwork, semi-structured interviewing and archival research, I showed that in Tunisia, democratization dynamics have ultimately fostered restrictive immigration policies; while in Morocco, immigration liberalization was central to the monarchy’s authoritarian consolidation strategy. The empirical analysis of immigration policy drivers and dynamics allowed me to specify the extent of a ‘regime effect’ in immigration politics and to tease out similarities in policymaking across the ‘democracy/autocracy’ divide. Hereby, I sought to advance theorizing on the role of political regimes in immigration policymaking and to demonstrate the value of immigration policy research for political sociology and comparative politics debates on modern statehood.

Supervisors: Hein de Haas, Hélène Thiollet and Rainer Bauböck

migration as development (MADE)

How do processes of development and social transformation shape human migration? More specifically, how does development affect the geographical orientation, timing, composition and volume of both internal and international migration? The relation between development and human mobility is highly contested. While economic development in poor countries and areas is usually seen as the most effective way to reduce migration, other studies suggest that development actually increases migration. This project developed new theoretical and empirical approaches to gain a fundamental understanding of the relation between development processes and human migration. While prior analyses focused on a limited number of economic and demographic ‘predictor’ variables, this project applied a broader concept of development to examine how internal and international migration trends and patterns are shaped by wider social, economic, technological and political transformations.

PI: Hein de Haas

Other team members: Simona Vezzoli, Sonja Fransen, Kerilyn Schewel.

Funded by: ERC Consolidator Grant

determinants of international migration project (DEMIG)

PI: Hein de Haas

Other team members: Mathias Czaika, Simona Vezzoli, Marie-Laurence Flahaux, Maria Villares-Varela, Edo Mahendra.

Funded by: ERC Starting Grant