Migrations and the way they affect the property rental business in Oxford

When the floodgates in Eastern and Central Europe were opened for migrants from migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Irak, property owners didn’t quite think of the effect this could have on the way they rent out their houses or apartments. This is quite normal especially considering the ever-climbing prices of rent in the United Kingdom and the capital London in particular, as well as cities nearby such as Oxford, Reading, St. Albans, etc.

Landlords didn’t think twice when it was time to decide on Brexit either, as things were looking up and the trend of the climbing rents had not changed in the past 20 years or so, but once the hammer dropped and it was decided that our country was going out of the European Union, almost everything took a turn for the worst. This was just the first of many problems that occurred afterwards for people in the property letting business. The property owners felt okay, when the rental prices stopped increasing for a little while, as they were already doing good with the rates, the way they were. The problems were just starting though and here’s a list of the most prominent issues we know of so far.

  1. The rental prices not only in London, but all surrounding cities have stopped climbing, which might not look like much now, but it’ll turn into a problem with continuing inflation and the decrease in the overall economy growth.
  2. The reason most people decided to vote for Brexit was to stop the migrants that were already pouring into Eastern Europe, but most people didn’t even consider that it would take two years at the very least for the borders to be closed and for the UK government to be able to impose any limitations to the people coming into the country.
  3. Now, two years after Brexit and two years after the migration process began, the flow of people coming in from Syria, Irak and Afghanistan as well as many other African nations, has decreased tremendously, which means most of the people that were coming over, are already in the EU and they can move freely inside the borders of the Union, of which we’re still a part of. A recent article in the Telegraph about the refugees causing problems in Sweden  is just one example of what could happen in the United Kingdom in the upcoming one and a half years.
  4. The terms of Brexit and how it’s looking at the moment is one other thing we should strongly consider. Although Brexit is around the corner, for a trade deal to be struck, it appears as if our government will still need to allow free movement of people from across the EU to come in the country and leave as they please. We’re still unsure whether or not that’s going to happen, but it definitely seems so, especially looking into this article posted on the website of the Guardian.
  5. And here’s what this will most likely mean for people living in Oxford and the region. Oxford is a well known and very prestigious city famous throughout the world for it’s academic incline. Once Brexit was initiated, because of the migration crisis in Eastern and Central Europe, people from Oxford weren’t stressed at all, but when the dust from the referendum started settling and we found out how strongly the PM of the country believes in the conservative way of thinking and how bad things were looking for foreign students, the Oxford landlords and property management firms started considering that Brexit might take a toll on them as well.

We’ve recently decided to run a poll on local businesses if they have noticed any changes in the way business is conducted in the city of Oxford and if they are looking into more or less profits and we’ve received some mixed results from it. It appears like cleaning companies offering the well known end of tenancy cleaning in Oxford are having a spike in bookings in the last year, but this could mean two things, one of which is quite unpleasant. Although the UK has managed to once again record an economical growth, it could be the last exhale of our economy before it goes the other way around. Services such as the end of tenancy cleaning business, will most likely record higher profits and number of bookings in the next year or two, before the movement of people stops. London for instance has been the heart of Europe, with people from all over the continent pouring into it and such businesses, as well as the property letting business were thriving, but if this migrating process is stopped, a decline in business is imminent. Oxford and the University of Oxford, will most likely also be affected by the Brexit which was caused by the migrant crisis and the number of people that are going to study in the University in the upcoming years, could also decline, causing problems for the property letting business, the cleaning business, the property management business, etc. The rental prices will most likely not decrease, but won’t increase either, at least not in the foreseeable future. All of those issues are hard to ignore and are really important to consider. Investing in properties in Oxford could also stop, as properties won’t look as appealing as they once did. New properties and buildings which were planned, might not be built, causing economical issues in the construction business as well.

We’ll continue to monitor the business and how it affects all of these related industries, polling different companies to find out how things are looking for them and update the article accordingly to provide further information on how Oxford and the life in Oxford is looking like.

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The politics of belonging: Transnational Korean adoptees in Denmark

By Youngeun Koo, former student, MSc in Migration Studies

This guest post is part of series featuring writing by current and former students of the MSc in Migration Studies programme

In recent years, transnational adoption has become a much-contested area. The long-held belief that transnational adoption is an inherently good and humanitarian action, which benefits both abandoned children and childless couples, has undergone reconsideration. This change is greatly indebted to new adoption scholarship that has highlighted the lopsided nature of transnational adoption flows, through which children (in many cases, of single mothers) from poor countries move into wealthy, white families in the West. The recent debate has shown how global social and economic inequality has enabled the sustained movement of children in the last five decades.

Key players within this shift in perspective are transnational adoptees, particularly those from South Korea who constitute the largest cohort of transnational adoptees.[1] They have led the debate not just as individual scholars and artists, but also through collective critiques of transnational adoption and political mobilisation. For instance, such a case of systematic mobilisation by Korean adoptees emerged in Denmark in the mid-2000s.[2]  My dissertation in MSc in Migration Studies looked at this case, and examined how they became critical towards transnational adoption and what their critiques and mobilisation meant to them. I carried out short fieldwork in Copenhagen, and met eight Korean adoptees, who are involved in mobilisation. My research results suggest that the adoptees’ ‘return’ movement to Korea and birth family search was a crucial stage in developing their critical understanding of transnational adoption. Furthermore, I found that transnational adoptees hold a unique position in Danish society, and this had a great impact on their mobilisation. In this post, I focus on the positionality of Korean adoptees in Denmark and discuss its implications for our understanding of belonging for those who are relocated in a culturally and racially different society.

Trans-national and trans-racial adoption

As the majority of adoptions crossing national borders have taken place between the Global South and the West, trans-national adoption has also meant in most cases trans-racial adoption. This transracial aspect has provoked contrasting receptions in adoptive societies: some celebrate the adoptive family as a symbol of multiculturalism, while others condemn it as uprooting children from their birth culture. And yet, the debate has remained within the realm of the familial, and has not considered what it means for the adoptees themselves to live as transnational, transracial adoptees in Western societies. The conversations I had with Korean adoptees in Denmark, however, made it clear that the issue of race had significantly affected their lives. One of my informants, in his late thirties, related this concisely, when describing his experience at Copenhagen Airport:

‘When I go to the airport, I feel it [my race]. How often are you being stopped at the airport? “What are you going to do in this country?” and I’m like “No, I’m a citizen here.”’

Revisiting the Andersons (2015, video) by Korean adoptee artist Jane Jin Kaisen
(Reproduced with permission of the artist)

This type of questioning, which would not have happened were he an ethnic Dane makes transnational adoptees’ racialised bodies a site of contestation and social stress.[3] While his experience typifies how a narrow, racialised imagination of national belonging excludes certain populations in society, my research further reveals that transnational adoptees occupy a specific position in Danish society, which is somewhat different from that of other ethnic minorities, such as migrants. In order to elaborate this, it is useful to look at how ethnic Danes and migrants are represented in Danish society.

Ethnic Danes, migrants and transnational adoptees

Previous research shows that kinship images, like the concept of ‘the family of Denmark (familien Danmark)’, have been actively used in Denmark to develop a self-conception as a small nation that contains a culturally and ethnically homogeneous population.[4] Rytter expands on this idea of ‘the family of Denmark’ to illuminate different social locations of ethnic Danes and migrants, drawing on Schneider’s two types of family relations.[5] The order of nature refers to family relations created through shared blood, such as the parent and child relationship. Ethnic Dane’s belonging to Denmark is seen to follow this order, as they were born and have lived in Denmark like their ancestors. On the other hand, migrants and their descendants are deemed to follow the order of law, which denotes family relations created through contracts like marriages, as they have come to the country through granted permission. The use of kinship images, therefore, contributes to the creation of a racialised concept of nationhood, and erects ‘invisible fences’ within society to mark out migrants, who are considered not quite ‘real’ Danes.[6]

In these two orders of kinship, transnational Korean adoptees occupy an ambivalent position. This is because transnational adoption uses the order of law, in such instances as the Adoption Act, to create the order of nature, the parent-child relationship between adoptive parents and adoptees. In other words, Korean adoptees’ relationship with Denmark combines and complicates both orders: they have Danish parents and grandparents like other ‘real’ Danes, but their citizenship is one that is acquired through naturalisation like migrants. Therefore, the notion of liminality characterises how Korean adoptees are situated in Danish society. One moment, they co-habit the same space as ‘real’ Danes within the ‘invisible fences’, but the next moment, they find themselves outside the fences.

Liminality and language-less-ness

This liminal position permeates the everyday experience of adult Korean adoptees, as seen in the airport example earlier. While it is important to note that migrants, who are perpetually marked as being outside ‘the invisible fences’, might be subject to even harsher forms of exclusion, what characterises these adoptees’ experience is the co-existence of inclusion and exclusion, which creates a sense of confusion and uncertainty as to where they belong.

In elaborating their experience of exclusion, many of my informants repeatedly used the expression that ‘they did not have a language’ to accurately articulate how they felt. This, what I have called ‘language-less-ness’, emanates from their liminal position in Danish society. That is, despite their foreign origins, the Korean adoptees grew up in white Danish families and their adoptive parents raised them as if they were ethnic Danes. This represents not just their adoptive parents’ effort to incorporate them into their families, but also the wider social perception, which considers turning transnational adoptees into ‘real’ Danes as an act of goodness. Within this context, the adoptees’ cultural and racial backgrounds were largely erased in their upbringing experience. However, despite their adoptive parents’ claim that they are ‘like any other Danes’, the difference in Korean adoptees’ appearance, street-level racism and whiteness in Danish national identity made my informants feel that ‘something was not quite right’.

The politics of belonging

Adoptionspolitisk Forum, adoptee-led organisation in Denmark (Photographed by Mette Kramer Kristensen)

It was first in the mid-2000s that a group of Korean adoptees began to raise critical voices concerning the practice and understanding of transnational adoption in Denmark. This was the time when the Danish government was implementing some of the most restrictive migration policies in Europe and negative attitudes towards migrants were gaining momentum. With regard to transnational adoptees’ liminal position, my research found that the proliferating public debates on migrants created ‘a problematic space’ which the Korean adoptees could move into and utilise, to understand how their previously individualised feelings of exclusion were caused by the structural positioning of certain bodies in Danish society. In this space, the adoptees, who had developed a critical sense of adoption from their journey to Korea, linked their adoption to the experience of inclusion and exclusion in Denmark, against the backdrop of national and global inequality.

The case I have presented here is a telling example of today’s ever-widening disjuncture between national belonging, legal citizenship, and one’s identification with majority society. It shows how those who fall between these gaps can experience the new society into which they have moved, and how multiple that experience can be. Furthermore, the Korean adoptees’ upbringing experience informs us that the oppressiveness in the idea of an equal, colour-blind society lies not just in neglecting their differences, but also in turning a blind eye on the uneven global power structure that continuously affects their lives. Korean adoptees’ mobilisation is therefore a political and social act to engage these issues with the wider public and make their voice heard in Danish society.

[1] It is estimated that globally approximately one million children have been transnationally adopted since 1955, and nearly 200,000 of them have been from South Korea. These figures are obtained from my conversation with adoption expert Tobias Hübinette on 11th June 2015 via email.

[2] It is important to note that only a small proportion of Korean adoptees in Denmark are currently involved in this political mobilisation, and the story I present here does not represent all the voices of Korean adoptees living in Denmark.

[3] Ahmed, S. (2007) ‘A phenomenology of whiteness’, Feminist theory 8(2): 149-168.

[4] For examples, see Olwig, K. F. (2011) ”Integration’: Migrants and refugees between Scandinavian welfare societies and family relations’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 37(2): 179-196. Hedetoft, U. (2006) ‘Denmark: Integration immigrants into a homogeneous welfare state’. Retrieved from Migration Policy Institute website: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/denmark-integrating-immigrants-homogeneous-welfare-state.

[5] Rytter, M. (2011) ”The family of Denmark’ and ‘the aliens’: Kinship images in Danish integration politics’. In K. F. Olwig & K. Paerregaard (Eds.), The Question of Integration: Immigration, Exclusion, and the Danish Welfare State (pp. 54 – 76). Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

[6] Gullestad, M. (2002) ‘Invisible fences: Egalitarianism, nationalism and racism’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 8(1): 45-63.

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Leaving Palestine

By Nick Van Hear, Senior Researcher and Deputy Director

Musa was jailed six times in the course of the first and second intifadas – the Palestinian uprisings in the late 1980s and early 2000s. The longest stretch was three years from 1989, but he had been inside various prisons in Israel and the Palestinian territories in the 1990s and 2000s. He had used the useless time to learn Hebrew and a bit of French.

We were in Musa’s pickup truck, speeding along a back route in the West Bank to the checkpoint that marks entry into Israel, from where Tel Aviv airport was only ten minutes away. Four of us – a Briton, a Norwegian, a Latvian and an African-American – were on our way out of Palestine after participating in a critical geographers’ conference in Ramallah: despite the odd mix, we were all ‘respectable’ nationalities, backed by sound paperwork, unlike many of those who actually live in this land.

A wiry forty-something, with edgy, nervous energy, Musa pointed out places in the West Bank landscape by then familiar to us. ‘You see that Palestinian village, just there the settlers took land’; ‘here they put a road for the settlers so now the locals can’t get to their olive trees’; ‘do you notice how the settlements don’t have black water tanks on their roofs like Palestinian houses? That’s because they are allowed to draw water direct from the ground, which Palestinians cannot do’. We approached the first checkpoint, which had been moved further into Palestinian territory so as to claim just a little bit more land for Israel – the creeping, incremental pattern we had learnt about during our stay. Musa made some faux-friendly gesture to the Israeli military woman standing there and she indifferently waved us through.

Musa has a Jerusalem ID, which allows him to live in that city, but he prefers to live in one of the suburbs that sprawl around Ramallah, and that border Jerusalem but are divided from it by Israel’s separation wall. This is risky because he could be stripped of residence status by either the Palestinian Authority or the Israelis. But it is this liminality that allows him to ply a trade moving people across the many borders and checkpoints that are inscribed on the landscape. His other valuable asset is his Israeli number plates which allow him to cross at this checkpoint, when most Palestinians cannot. Essentially he makes a living from his location in the interstices of interlocking bureaucracies of place.

As easy as ABC

Reproduced with permission from @KarlreMarks

The Oslo accords paved the way for the establishment of a Palestinian quasi-state in the West Bank and Gaza strip, and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to administer it in the first half of the 1990s. However the Oslo deal also included a division of territory which has proved the undoing of any idea of a feasible state for the Palestinians. The West Bank and Jerusalem are subject to a three-fold division of territory. ‘Area C’, representing more than 60% of the West Bank, is under direct control of the Israelis – essentially the security forces. Palestinians are prohibited from building or developing this area and are under constant pressure – including demolition of homes and property – to move out. ‘Area B’ accounts for about 22% of the West Bank and is nominally under joint control: the PA does the civil administration, but Israel controls security. The remaining sliver of territory – ‘Area A’, which stands at 18% or less – is under PA control. As if this were not bad enough, even the land which Palestinians do have some say over is split by filigrees of territory which is increasingly colonised by Jewish settlers.

Settling scores

At the time of my first visit here, twenty years ago in the mid-1990s, there were some 130,000 settlers in the West Bank and around 157,000 in East Jerusalem. By the time of our visit in 2015 there were some 360,000 settlers in 135 ‘official’ settlements and 100 unofficial ‘outposts’ in the West Bank, and another 200,000 settlers in East Jerusalem. The land-grabbing now is relentless and so too other everyday morale-sapping things that Palestinians have to endure – far worse than 20 years ago. The settlements have expanded enormously, and dominate many of the hilltops. They monopolise the ground water and command other infrastructural resources that are out of reach of Palestinians. It sounds hackneyed, but the resilience of the people in the face of this is remarkable. Pent-up anger seethes underneath nevertheless, and explodes among the youth on what seems a daily basis.

We are there at what seems a volatile time – or maybe this is what it is like all the time. On the evening of our arrival in Jerusalem, before the conference, we watch settlers march past the Old City. It is Tisha B’av, the day that Jews mark the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and when hard-core settlers often reassert their presence. Early next morning we stumble upon a small demonstration of about 30 young Palestinian women against Israeli riot police who are blocking their way (we learn later) to Al Aqsa mosque where some settlers have entered to assert their claims on this religious site. There is a mighty stand-off later with tear gas and people dispersed all over the place.

Lana Al-Shami – the Long Way Home
COMPAS photo competition 2014

Things take a grislier turn later in the week, when settlers lob a petrol bomb into a West Bank Palestinian house that contained the parents and two children. The parents and older child got out – though with 60-80% burns. They could not get the toddler out and he burned to death. The house, near Nablus, was daubed with the slogans ‘revenge’, ‘messiah’ and ‘price-tag’: the first and last refer to a (rare) decision by the courts stopping the settlers from grabbing and building on yet more Palestinian land. The outrage sparked yet more unrest among Palestinian youth in both the West Bank and Gaza. Someone remarks that ‘the settlers are Israel’s Daesh’ (Islamic State).

Checking out

At the airport perimeter checkpoint, Musa nervously explained in Hebrew to the military guards why we had been in the West Bank: attending a conference held in Jerusalem and Ramallah, a story which we echo when asked.

At airport check-in we are quizzed again by a nervous, solemn security guard. They are suspicious of us as a group and of our presence in the West Bank. The different passports are passed to a more senior guy for scrutiny: another man in black polyester suit eyes us over. Eventually we are let through – then there is yet another security scan and one of us is singled out for yet more checks. It is an intimidating experience, but nothing approaching the treatment that Palestinians endure daily in their own land.

Three months on from our visit, the situation in Palestine has deteriorated further to the extent that talk of a third intifada gathers pace. Palestinian youth are taking things into their own hands, outside the grip of the PA and the militant groups. For the first time, young women are taking part in significant numbers. As Yasmin, a 15-year old school girl interviewed by the Observer put it, ‘…more girls are participating. We want to protect our country. We are here for one another and to look after each other. This is the first time for us. Everyone has to help and we are here to help the boys – it’s our duty to participate.’

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Refugee crisis, compassion and Eastern Europe

By Dace Dzenovska, Associate Professor in the Anthropology of Migration

Losing Europeanness

Every crisis dismantles and produces Europeanness anew. Greek Europeanness was recently questioned by the financial ‘core of Europe’ led by Germany because Greece refused to behave like a responsible economic subject. In the context of the current refugee crisis, the now moral ‘core of Europe’—once again led by Germany—is juxtaposed to the failed Europeanness of what has emerged as generic ‘Eastern Europe’.

Several Eastern European member states of the European Union objected to the proposed refugee quotas. There were protests in various cities in Eastern Europe against accepting refugees. There were also counter-protests, counter-arguments, and counter-actions. Nevertheless, the liberally inclined print and online media on both sides of the Atlantic quickly filled with commentaries that accused ‘Eastern Europeans’ of lacking compassion and tried to shame them into moral maturity and, by extension, agreeable politics.[1] Some suggested that Eastern Europe was stuck in the rhetoric of suffering, unable to evolve from recipients to providers of assistance. Others wondered whether Eastern Europeans could see the irony in refusing assistance to those in need when they had received so much assistance during the long 20th century. Had they not learned anything from history? Why were Eastern Europeans so racist and xenophobic?

Disagreeable politics and attitudes were traced to moral failures, which amounted to failed Europeanness. Even those who eschewed moralizing began by securing their own Europeanness by distancing from Eastern Europe’s ‘staggering lack of compassion’.[2] In the midst of a spectacular political failure, the moral goodness of the ‘core of Europe’ was reasserted.[3]

Compassion as a political virtue

Compassion deployed in this fashion is not a ‘private sentiment.’[4] It is a political virtue expected to extend to strangers and to inform liberal politics. In this form—as a political virtue with universal value—it has been widely criticized for its depoliticizing and even repressive effects.[5]

According to Hannah Arendt, the private sentiment of compassion risks turning into pity when brought into the public arena, thus preventing engagement with fellow ‘men’ [sic] as political equals.[6] Compassion as a political virtue—not unlike tolerance as a political virtue—does not posit such equality. Instead, it posits a hierarchical relationship between the subjects and objects of compassion.[7] Public compassion is about both fellow feeling and distancing. It can be extended to strangers (they are almost like us!) and to marginalized group members (they are not really like us!). In the midst of refugee crisis, it has also become part of a civilizational discourse extended towards Eastern Europe.

Political opportunity?

Regardless of what one thinks of the asylum politics of Eastern European member states and of the attitudes of their citizens, attributing such politics and attitudes to collective moral failures is a move that needs to be carefully rethought. It is hardly the case that Eastern Europeans are less human in their capacity for compassion than their Western European counterparts. The difference seems to lie in the fact that they either do not use the sentiment of compassion as a basis for politics or limit its application to a particular nation, race or religion.

And yet, Eastern Europeans are grappling with tensions that define Europe beyond particular nation-states: the tension between liberal politics and national states, the tension between the needs of populations impoverished by austerity measures and the needs of refugees, and the tension between proclamations of ‘European values’ and the on-going ghettoization of marginal Europeans and asylum seekers in cities across Europe.

Eastern European members of the public, government officials, border guards, and journalists have been learning about these tensions, especially asylum politics, through the media, trips to Western Europe, and a variety of training and twinning programmes. For example, Latvian border guards and government officials have worked with their Finnish, Swedish, French and Belgian counterparts to implement border controls and asylum instruments. They were good pupils and learned what Didier Fassin has called the ‘common law of repression’, but to qualify as fully European, they are now called upon to learn the ‘redemptive virtue of compassion’.[8]

Should Eastern Europeans be taught to accept compassion as a political virtue to be extended to suffering subjects beyond their immediate circles of kinship? It seems unlikely that embracing public compassion will resolve Europe’s definitive tensions and the concrete problems that arise from them. Perhaps the difference that has emerged between Eastern and Western Europe in the context of the refugee crisis is a political opportunity to address these tensions without obscuring them by a moralizing discourse.

  1. For examples, see: Lyman 2015; Gross 2015; Simecka & Tallis 2015; Rupnik 2015; Komorovskis 2015; Krastev 2015; Sabet-Parry 2015; Hockenos 2015; Gressel 2015; Roland 2015.
  2. See Krastev 2015.
  3. See Böröcz 2006 for an early critique. See also Dzenovska 2013.
  4. Arendt 1990; Canovan 1992.
  5. For examples see Ticktin 2011; Fassin 2005, 2011; Bornstein 2012. See also Weiss 2015 and Feldman 2013 for counter-arguments.
  6. Arendt 1990.
  7. For critical analysis of the political virtue of tolerance, see Brown 2006 & Dzenovska n.d.
  8. Fassin 2005: 375.


  • Arendt, Hannah. 1990 [1965]. On Revolution. Penguin Books.
  • Bornstein, Erika. 2012. Disquieting Gifts: Humanitarianism in New Delhi. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Böröcz, Joseph. 2006. ‘Goodness is Elsewhere: The Rule of European Difference’. Comparative Studies in Society and History 48 (1): 110-137.
  • Brown, Wendy. 2006. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Canovan, Margaret. 1992. Hannah Arendt: A Reinterpretation of Her Political Thought.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Dzenovska, Dace. n.d. Complicit Becoming: Tolerance and Europeanization After Socialism. Manuscript in preparation.
  • Dzenovska, Dace. 2013. ‘Historical Agency and the Coloniality of Power in Postsocialist Europe’. Anthropological Theory 13(4): 394-416.
  • Fassin, Didier. 2012. Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Fassin, Didier. 2005. ‘Compassion and repression: The moral economy of immigration policies in France’, Cultural Anthropology 20(3): 362-387.
  • Feldman, Gregory. 2013. ‘The specific intellectual’s pivotal position: action, compassion and thinking in administrative society, an Arendtian view’. Social Anthropology 21(2): 135-154.
  • Gressel, Gustav. 2015. ‘Understanding Eastern European attitudes on refugees’. European Council on Foreign Relations. September 11.
  • Gross, Jan T. 2015. ‘Eastern Europe’s Crisis of Shame’. Project Syndicate. September 16.
  • Hockenos, Paul. 2015. ‘The Stunning Hypocrisy of Mitteleuropa’. Foreign Policy. September 12.
  • Krastev, Ivan. 2015. ‘Eastern Europe’s Compassion Deficit’. The New York Times. September 8.
  • Komorovskis, Broņislavs. 2015. ‘Cilvēcības vārdā’. Ir. September 18.
  • Lyman, Rick. 2015. ‘Eastern block’s resistance to refugees highlights Europe’s cultural and political divisions’. The New York Times. September 12.
  • Roland, Gerard. 2015. ‘Why the rift between Eastern and Western Europe on the refugee crisis?’ The Berkeley Blog. September 9.
  • Rupnik, Jacques. 2015. ‘The Other Europe’. Eurozine. September 16.
  • Sabet-Parry, Rayyan & Karl Ritter. 2015. ‘Scant sympathy for refugees in Europe’s ex-communist East’. The Business Insider. September 11.
  • Simecka, Michal & Benjamin Tallis. 2015. ‘Fighting the wrong battle: A crisis of liberal democracy, not migration’. openDemocracy. September 16.
  • Smilov, Daniel. 2015. ‘The argument against compassion: Europe and the refugees’. openDemocracy. September 14.
  • Ticktin, Miriam. 2011. Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Weiss, Erica. 2015. ‘Provincializing empathy: Humanitarian sentiment and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. Anthropological Theory 15(3): 275-292.
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Which migration journal has the highest Impact Factor?

By Carlos Vargas-Silva, Associate Professor and Senior Researcher at the Migration Observatory

In March 2013 I joined several friends to launch the Migration Studies journal. We had been working hard on the concept for over a year, but doubts always remained. Would top researchers submit papers to the journal? What about young upcoming scholars? Would they risk submitting their research to a brand new publication? Can a new journal have a significant impact on migration research? It has been over two years since that moment and it is now possible to provide some answers to these questions.

One obvious way to explore the influence of a journal is to see how it compares to other journals in the field. The most popular metric to compare journals is the ISI Impact Factor. This is a measure of the frequency with which the ‘average article’ in the journal has been cited in a given year. It is an imperfect measure, but so are all other available measures.

There are three other journals listed in the ISI ‘Demography’ category with the word ‘migration’ in the title: International Migration (IM), International Migration Review(IMR) and the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (JEMS). Some other listed journals such as Population, Space and Place also publish a lot of migration related research, while others such as the Journal of Refugee Studies focus on a particular type of migration. But these three journals (IMIMR and JEMS) are the ones publishing exclusively on migration and about all types of migration, and all have been in existence for a long time, so we have good data as a basis for comparison (both IM and IMR recently celebrated their 50th anniversaries). These three journals provide the best comparison for Migration Studies.

Figure 1 shows the Impact Factor of these three migration journals since 2010. In the past, IMR had the highest Impact Factor, but has been surpassed by JEMS in recent years. In fact, the gap between these two journals increased over the last year. Meanwhile, IM has being in third place for the whole period and with a noticeable negative trend in its Impact Factor. In that sense, JEMS is the migration journal with the highest official ISI Impact Factor.


As a new journal Migration Studies is currently awaiting its first Social Science Citation Index listing. However, Oxford University Press (OUP) has followed the same methodology to estimate the impact factor of Migration Studies in 2014. As shown in Figure 1, the estimated Impact Factor is way above the other three journals. If Migration Studies were officially listed (currently in process) it would have the highest Impact Factor among these migration journals. Impact Factors go up and down over time, so it is impossible to be certain about future dynamics, but it seems like a great start for a new journal.

For those of you who have not been able to read articles from Migration Studies, here is your chance. For a short period of time OUP has made a large selection of articles from the journal available for FREE. This includes three of my favourites:

What determines attitudes to immigration in European countries? An analysis at the regional level by Yvonni Markaki and Simonetta Longhi

The effect of income and immigration policies on international migration by Francesc Ortega and Giovanni Peri

Happiness and ‘economic migration’: A comparison of Eastern European migrants and stayers by David Bartram


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Immigration and Austerity: Only Connect

By Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship and Deputy Director of COMPAS

There have been two big shifts in British public debate in recent months. The first is the growing discontent with the politics of austerity, most evident in the startling election of Jeremy Corbyn. The second is the popular groundswell of support for refugees. A few months ago, who would have anticipated demonstrations proclaiming “Refugees are welcome here”? However, unless anti-austerity politics addresses migrants’ rights, and support for refugees extends to those marginalised by the cuts to welfare, both movements will be fatally weakened.

It has become commonplace for politicians of all parties to recite standard references to the Huguenots and Jews and Britain’s ‘proud history of welcoming refugees’ as a prelude to introducing ever harsher immigration and asylum laws. Over the summer months, confronted with the deaths, violence and misery at the borders of Europe and the port of Calais, such claims began to increasingly ring hollow. The government has clearly recognised the strength of public sentiment and David Cameron has promised to accept 4,000 refugees a year from camps in Syria. Many local authorities are willing to support this initiative, but they are calling for more money to fund the housing, school places and other local services that this will require. For local authorities are, as we know, extremely hard pressed. We have seen drastic cuts across the board in care provision, libraries and leisure facilities, infrastructure maintenance, community centres and other services. We have also seen dramatic rises in poverty for people living in the UK. Bedroom tax and benefit caps have hit the most vulnerable British residents – the necessary price, we are told, to balance the books.

George Osborne has proposed to redirect money from the foreign aid budget to cover the costs for one year. This is a financial move reminiscent of the Newton Fund, which saw the transfer of 365 million pounds from DfID to BIS to support science and innovation partnerships with researchers from middle income countries, meaning the money could go towards the government target of 0.7% of GDP on international development while also being counted as part of the UK’s science budget. It is, one might argue, an interesting recognition of the relation between development and global mobility.

It is not only the Treasury offering monies. There has been an unprecedented show of public support for new arrivals, and people are promising to open their houses to refugees from Syria in particular. This is an exciting development, but it is possible, though not easy, to live with strangers (who, it may turn out, one does not particularly get on with, and who may be unable to find work, ending up sitting at home all day under stress about their longer term prospects). It is even less easy to live with them as equals. Such generous gestures will require considerable support after the initial wave of enthusiasm has worn off.

Drunk pauper sleeping on a cardboard on a street

But in the genuine wave of support for welcoming refugees there has been a surprising silence about the situation of asylum seekers already in the UK. Some organisations – RAMFEL for example – have been making the connections between refusal of entry to the UK on the one hand, and the deliberate production of a ‘hostile environment’ for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants inside the UK on the other. This began with the Labour Government’s pursuit of ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and has been allowed to gather pace with very little public criticism. Asylum seekers have to wait months or years for the outcome of their asylum claim, during which time they are not allowed to work and are allocated just £5 a day cash or card support.  Those who are refused have access to nothing, even if it is accepted that their country is too dangerous of them to return to. Destitution is a serious problem for these people. New refugees may be welcome, but long-term resident asylum seekers can be found sleeping outside your local supermarket.

Levels of poverty are increasing in the UK, and not only for asylum seekers. How will the promises of support extended to Syrian refugees be perceived by the hundreds of thousands of people who have had their benefits stopped or capped, who are sofa surfing, scraping by on minimum wage salaries, or dependent on working tax credits that are soon to disappear? Or the people on housing lists or going to food banks who see that Syrians are accommodated but not them? If we are to avoid a competition between marginalised and impoverished groups it is necessary to make the argument that better services for Syrian arrivals must mean better services for everybody. This takes supporters of refugees off the terrain of humanitarian responses, and demands they argue for common interests rather than special cases. We can all agree that the current situation needs bold thinking and new paradigms. I would suggest that connecting the discontent with austerity and support for migrants is a critical first step.

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Immigration Acts and health bills

By: Myriam Cherti, Senior Researcher, COMPAS

The Immigration Act 2014 heralds a new ‘crackdown’ on so-called ‘health tourism’ in the UK. The two main changes to health policy that it enacts are designed to control the supposed ‘burden’ that immigrants place on NHS finances by limiting access and recovering costs.

Firstly, the government is changing the definition of ‘ordinarily resident’. This is the status of lawful and proper settlement, previously with no minimum period of residence required, that confers entitlement to an NHS number and, with it, free NHS healthcare. The definition is being restricted to include only those with indefinite leave to remain and to exclude anyone who is subject to immigration control or who has not been in the UK for at least five years.

Secondly, temporary non-European migrants are now expected to pay an obligatory health surcharge of £200 (£150 for students) per year of their stay as part of their visa application process in advance of their arrival in the UK. Some immigrants, such as asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking are exempt from the surcharge.

Doctors though tend to treat everyone who comes through the door, whether of their General Practice (GP) surgery or their hospital’s Accident & Emergency (A&E) wing, as if they have funding in place and they tend not to ask patients about money. Understandably, they view themselves as ‘docs not cops’ and see that potential conflicts of interest loom large between the confidential, patient-centered care they are sworn to deliver and the immigration enforcement activity with which the Home Office wants their help.

Policing healthcare

It is difficult to police immigration in a healthcare setting. Immigrants themselves often do not know what free healthcare they qualify for. One cannot judge someone’s immigration status by external appearance or foreign language use. Doctors receive no mandatory training on issues of immigration status and generally steer clear of involvement in its enforcement. There are no systematic checks on a patient’s immigration status in healthcare settings, although upon initial presentation questions are encouraged about someone’s background if clinically relevant.

Hospitals do have clerical staff in Overseas Offices to whom foreign patients can be referred by clinicians to check on their eligibility for free care, although such referrals are infrequent. Sometimes, by the time a referral is followed up, the patient has been treated and left. It can then be extremely difficult to trace patients who have only been in hospital for a brief time.

In a notable recent development, plain-clothed Home Office immigration staff are now stationed undercover in some hospitals’ A&E departments and maternity wards as part of an initiative to identify patients who may be chargeable for their treatment because of their immigration status. Such initiatives are perhaps more likely in hospitals near to major ports of entry such as Heathrow airport or the St Pancras Eurostar Terminal.

Clearly, there is a danger that, as the government makes healthcare a more hostile and more costly environment for migrants, individual poorly migrants may delay their presentation, skipping primary care altogether and turning up at A&E further down the line when their illness is further progressed. For them, of course, this can have profoundly negative medical implications.

The government may be wielding a cumbersome sledgehammer to crack a tiny nut. Despite certain politicians’ rhetoric, there is little evidence of widespread ‘health tourism’ to the UK, which, according to imprecise government estimates, may cost the country’s health system in the region of £70 million a year – a drop in the £100 billion NHS England ocean. In a survey of migrants visiting Doctors of the World’s specialist clinic in Bethnal Green in east London, fewer than 3 per cent of respondents cited health problems as a reason for their migration to Britain. It seems highly likely that a complex bureaucracy to police immigration status in the NHS would therefore cost more than it might save, especially given the difficulties of recouping costs from those who can’t afford to pay. Moreover, let us not forget that there are Brits too who spend whole lifetimes abroad and then return to the UK in their latter years for free NHS treatment, having paid next to nothing in UK taxes along the way.

The prospect of the government consulting on extending charges for certain migrants further into initial primary care and A&E remains. These services are currently free and provided on the basis of need rather than ability to pay. Very few irregular migrants attend GP surgeries anyway as things stand: one has to register with a GP before seeing a doctor, and it is very hard to register if one is here irregularly. Instead, undocumented migrants tend to wait longer for symptoms to develop and then go straight to hospital, presenting in A&E where their emergency treatment ends up being more expensive to the NHS than preventative interventions would have been earlier in the development of their disease.

The Home Office is intent on enlisting the support of other Whitehall departments in its immigration enforcement work. Health, however, seems to be the public policy area in which the cost-benefit analysis of such an approach is least convincing and where professional cultural resistance is especially strong. Put simply, no doctor swears their Hippocratic oath so that they can help out with border patrol. As for the rest of us, do we really want health checks as checkpoints or médicins comme frontières?

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People move

By: Ben Doherty, Thomson Reuters Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and reporter for Guardian Australia.

The history of humanity is a history of migration.

Since the earliest movement of Homo erectus out of Africa across Eurasia, humankind has had reason and way to move from one place to another. Sometimes that movement is orderly, planned, and peaceful, but, as often, it is harried and desperate, a violent expulsion of large numbers of people fleeing persecution, war, famine or other natural disaster. Throughout history, communities, polities, and civilisations have been destroyed, supplanted, or enriched by inflows of people from foreign cultures and alien ethnic groups.

People have always moved, but now – today – more people are unwillingly displaced from their homes than at any time since the end of World War II. That displacement is sustained: more than three million Syrians remain forced from their homeland by four years of conflict in that country; 130,000 Burmese ethnic minorities perennially huddled in camps on the Thai border, and; more than a million Afghans living, with varying levels of official sanction, in Pakistan, some for more than 30 years.

But two near-concurrent crises in the Mediterranean and the Andaman seas in April and May, followed by the mass migration of tens of thousands across Europe in the past weeks, have brought the issue of asylum seekers from the abstract – a discussion of numbers, of people-smuggling ‘rackets’, and of push-and-pull factors – into the personal.

The sight of stricken boats jammed with desperate Rohingyan asylum seekers pleading to be allowed to land anywhere, vision of a Greek army sergeant rescuing an Eritrean woman from the waves on the rocks off Rhodes, or the plaintive image of the tiny body of Aylan Kurdi washed upon the Turkish shore, has transformed refugees from an anonymous – dismissible – undifferentiated mass, into people.

And these crises’ near-concurrence has emphasised the fact that the issue of irregular migration is not a European problem, nor a Middle Eastern, nor African, nor southeast Asian one. It doesn’t belong to poor countries, or to rich. It is a global issue.

For the ‘media’ – as much as that body can ever be considered a single, monolithic institution  –  the issue of irregular migration is an inherently difficult one on which to report.

The people making these journeys are often coming from warzones, or situations of persecution. Some might be seeking to hide their true motives for moving, for good reason or other. Other times, people are stranded on boats in the ocean, almost inaccessible, or they are incarcerated, or living clandestine existences in the places they have arrived. As a result, often those least heard in the debate around irregular migration are the migrants themselves.

In a global order predicated upon nationality and bounded territoriality, people forcibly displaced from their home are too-regularly disenfranchised in public discourse. Their voices aren’t heard. They are defined, instead, by the language used by others to describe them, and their image – the broader understanding of who they are  – is created not by themselves, but by others. Language is important. Words make worlds, and the language used to describe asylum seekers and refugees has, too often, been characterised by hostility and rejection.

The ‘media’ has a responsibility in how it reports on some of the most vulnerable people in the world, a responsibility not always upheld. There are outliers in the discourse, asylum seekers are baldly condemned by some as “vermin” and “like cockroaches”, sneered at by others as “filthy”, “grubby” or “penniless”. But the rhetorical manipulation exists more subtly too. Over the debate around asylum seekers, governments hold disproportionate influence because often, they hold all the information – how many people have arrived and how, what action has been taken on the high seas. But politicians globally use this control of information to build broader narratives around “illegals”, “queue jumpers”, or “suspected terrorists”, constructions that are often uncritically accepted, reproduced, and disseminated by reporters.

The false dichotomy of the ‘good’ refugee who waits patiently in a camp for the resettlement that might never come, and the ‘bad’ who takes his chances on a boat, amplifies fear of the unknowable interloper. But we have seen, in Europe especially this last week, a popular reaction against the pejorative language used to diminish and dehumanise those seeking protection. How different the sight of thousands of Europeans waiting at train stations singing “refugees are welcome here” to the rhetoric of their governments in the months previous dismissing those same people as “economic migrants who’ve paid criminal gangs”, of leaked EU documents proposing “military operations” to “seek and destroy” refugee boats and “disrupt the migrants smuggling business model”.

At its heart, the inherent tension in the asylum seeker debate is a conflict of competing rights, and of concern over control. Nations have a sovereign right, and governments a responsibility to their citizens, to control their borders. But people facing persecution have a legal right to seek asylum, and the nature of their arrival is mandated in law not to be prejudicial to their claim or treatment. Migration when it is controlled and orderly is far less challenging to politicians and their publics. When it is disordered and chaotic – when it is perceived to be ‘out of control’ – it carries with it the fear of the unknown.

It should not take a tragedy like the deaths of hundreds drowned in the Mediterranean, or a standoff involving boatloads of starving asylum seekers looking for any port that will let them land, to inspire the world to find a long-term solution that might reduce the chances of these things happening again. It should not need tens of thousands literally walking across a continent, or another child’s body found washed up on a beach, to find safer, more ordered ways of enabling people to move.

But if nothing changes, nothing will change, and these calamities will be upon us once more.

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What to do about Calais, in 50 words

By Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship and Deputy Director of COMPAS

Five thousand people in Calais wanting to cross the Channel to the UK has meant my inbox is overflowing with invitations for interviews and top lines on ‘what is to be done’. What is striking about these requests is how many ask for brevity. “Tell us what you would do about Calais in 50 words. Be as specific as possible”, asked one journalist.

The flood of requests (or perhaps I should say ‘swarm’) encapsulates what I find to be a real dilemma working in the field of ‘migration studies’. On the one hand we are fortunate. It is far easier for us to demonstrate ‘impact’, to engage in policy debates and contribute to informing public opinion, than it is for many scholars, and we have plenty of opportunities to step outside the ivory tower. But on the other, we risk different forms of vacuity, shrilly opinionated or tediously technocratic. It is hard to engage with public opinion by starting a sentence with ‘It’s very complicated…’

However, the challenge runs deeper than that, because responding as a migration expert can reinforce unhelpful framings, and the Calais case is a good example of this. For casting this as a ‘migration problem’ is largely missing the point. Rather, the fact that people are stuck in Calais is a symptom, a consequence of foreign policies that have resulted in the proliferation of wars at Europe’s edges, economic systems that render the lives of many people in the world unsustainable and impoverished, colonial histories and post-colonial presents, and the very nature of Europe and the European Union.

Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, recently speaking to the BBC opined: “The gap in standards of living between Europe and Africa means there will always be millions of Africans with the economic motivation to try to get to Europe… So long as there are large numbers of pretty desperate migrants marauding around the area, there always will be a threat to the tunnel security.”

The global inequality gently signified by ‘gap in standards of living’ is not a natural state of affairs. The founding document of the European Union, the Schuman Declaration, proclaimed, ‘With increased resources Europe will be able to pursue the achievement of one of its essential tasks, namely, the development of the African continent’. As Hansen and Jonsson (2011) put it: ‘the origins of the EU cannot be separated from the perceived necessity to preserve and reinvigorate the colonial system’. Seeing this complex interaction of pasts, presents and futures as a problem of ‘migration’ is impossibly limiting.

It also suggests that migrants are the source of the problem. Indeed, the term ‘migrant’ has become toxic in recent months, becoming increasingly equated with ‘illegal’ and ‘bogus asylum seeker’, terms that migration scholars have consistently challenged and rejected. But what are we to do if the term at the very heart of our intellectual engagement becomes a dirty word?

I think we have something to learn here from critical criminologists who have faced this problem for a long time. Like them, those of us who study migration are complicit in the production of certain types of policy subjects, and have to struggle against the institutional mechanisms that encourage us into a purely policy driven agenda. If the differentiation between migrants and citizens is key to many of the challenges faced by migrants, then our engagement makes it difficult not to contribute to the production of relations and subjects that are part of the constitution of the ‘problem’.

One way we can respond to this is by thinking about migration as a lens as well as a subject of study, a lens that offers insights into ‘us’ as well as ‘them’, and enables us to make connections between migrants and citizens rather than reifying their differences. This does not mean that we should withdraw from research that engages with the lived situation of migrants today. Bleating on about colonial history and foreign policy is small comfort to those confronted with the situation in Calais.

So here, in 53 words, are my suggestions for responding to it.

The source of the Calais problem includes wars, global inequality, and people having unsustainable lives. I would:

  • Work with the EU to facilitate ‘burden sharing’
  • Open reception centres in UK and northern France
  • Finance local government and groups to facilitate integration alongside investing in UK people and public services, and changing foreign policy.
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The base: From peasant revolution to labour migration management

By: Biao Xiang, Professor in Social Anthropology

Mao assured his comrades in 1930 that the Chinese socialist revolution would succeed when the red army encountered unprecedented difficulties. The sure victory was not because the revolutionary force was strong and the enemy was weak. On the contrary, it was because the enemies were multiple: the Nationalist government aimed to eradicate warlords, while the warlords were fighting each other; and their foreign imperialist supporters were vying for dominance in China, which in turn was part of ongoing global conflicts. The multiplicity of advisories created power vacuums, especially in remote areas.

In these circumstances, Mao urged, revolutionaries should seize the pockets that arose in gaps between areas of control, develop ‘base communities’ and extend them steadily.[1] In the base, the revolutionaries carried out military training, social reforms and foodstuff production at the same time. Rooted in the soil and mingled with the peasants, the base was self-sustaining, all-round and ‘organic’ (which Al-Qaeda, literally ‘the base’, was lacking). In the base, soldiers were peasants and peasants became soldiers; the embryo of a new Chinese state was born.

Opposite to this type are the military bases pioneered by European colonialists and continued and expanded by the US. The over 1,000 bases run by the US government are distributed across the globe in a such a way that a missile can hit a strategic target within seconds and an aircraft carrier can reach a strategic area within hours.

The bases are separated from the local society but completely reliant on the outside for survival. They perform strictly defined tasks and are deeply connected to other bases globally via the Pentagon. This local disembeddedness and global connectedness made the base a central instrument in maintaining US global dominance without formally infringing sovereignty of other nations—thus a form of ‘new imperialism’ different from European colonialism, which was based on territorial occupation. The US as a global power is the US as ‘an empire of bases’.[2]

The type of base most familiar to us today is probably the production base of multinational corporations (MNCs). Often assuming the form of special economic zones in the developing world, the MNC bases are not deeply embedded, nor are they entirely imposed from above. They are firmly inside the local society, but at the same time operate outside of the purview of the nation-state in terms of how the production is managed, where  investments come from, and where the products go. They ‘jump’ out of the national space. These bases exemplify how globalization consists of processes of ‘scale jumping’ and ‘re-scaling’.[3]

Mao’s base was part of the revolutionary first half of the twentieth century, the US base had its heyday in the Cold War, and the MNC base arguably epitomizes the ‘pluri-territorial, polycentric and multi-scalar geographies’ of globalization.[4]

It is against this historical backdrop that I find a little-known base type interesting. This is the base of recruitment for low-skilled labour migration from China, especially to Japan, Singapore and South Korea, the top three destination countries. In the labour placement intermediary business, jidi (Chinese for ‘base’) means both a place (normally a county) and an intermediary. The base intermediary recruits workers in the base place for companies which receive job orders from overseas. The latter are called ‘window companies’—’windows’ to the world. Most windows follow the ‘one base place, one base intermediary’ principle.

The Chinese government attaches great emphasis on the development of labour bases as a means of regulating and promoting migration. In 2010 the government launched the campaign of ‘upgrading labour bases to Service Platforms’ aimed at making the bases better equipped as well as more effectively controlled. By the end of 2014, 257 Service Platforms had been formally established nationwide.[5]

Why is the base important? And why don’t the windows recruit workers themselves? The main function of the base is not to encourage migration per se, but to discouragespontaneous migration. It was feared that spontaneous migration and the resultant transnational networks would challenge government control in both China and destination countries. The base rules out applicants who have previous migration experience or  overseas relations, because these migrants could be more resourceful and daring. Bases also demand sureties—amounting to about USD 2,500 for Singapore and Japan, and USD 3,750 for South Korea in the late 2000s—which are refunded only after the migrants return to China without delay and without violating any rules.

The base’s position was greatly enhanced in the late 1990s with an important change in the disciplinary method. In a shift that may be described as ‘societalization’, migrants’ financial interests became a less important leverage, while more emphasis was given to social pressure. Thanks to the tightening of regulation by the Chinese government and criticism from the international community, large base intermediaries somewhat reduced monetary bonds, but made it compulsory for would-be migrants to name one or two civil servants as guarantors. The guarantors would be held financially accountable to the base for any wrongdoings the migrant might commit overseas. Civil servants are usually the most influential figures in an extended family, and pressure from them is more powerful in ensuring compliant behaviour than the threat of financial loss. Some civil servants have even been fired under order from county governments keen to protect the credibility of the locality as a base. Another method is lianzuo, or ‘linked seats’, an invention of Emperor Qin around 200 B.C. Intermediaries group migrants who may previously not know each other to form teams of collective punishment. If one misbehaves overseas, everyone would be punished, in particular by having their job contracts prematurely terminated, resulting in repatriation. In order to enforce the guarantorship and ‘linked seats’, connections to local governments, grassroots organizations (such as villagers’ committees) and migrants’ families are essential.

Thus, a base is not simply a given place or a physical space. A base matters because it consists of tight clusters of heterogeneous institutions, including government agencies, public institutes and commercial players. The clustering enables close coordination not only across the public-private divide, but also transcending rigid bureaucratic demarcations. These connections offer base intermediaries both public trust and coercive power, capacities indispensable for both recruiting and disciplining would-be migrants. Base constitutes a scale in its own right in the sense that it is a scope of coordination that generates new capacities for action.

Constituted from below rather than created by top-down commands, the labour base is obviously different from the military base. But unlike the MNC production base, the labour base is ‘stuck’.  Not only can it not upscale itself out of the local and the national, but it is its duty to be stuck—to contain the migrants’ capacity. The contrast between the labour base and the communist base is most striking. While the revolutionary base directly represented the people and therefore served as a basis for subverting the state, in the labour base migrants can rarely leverage their own networks to keep intermediaries in check. Local communities are now thoroughly colonialized by systemic power. Transnational mobilities have been domesticated into the institutional architecture of the nation-state, and in turn transnational connections reinforce state power.

Would-be migrants’ strategies are two-fold. Most of the time they work with base intermediaries. But if a major problem occurs, especially if their advance payment cannot be refunded when a migration project fails, the would-be migrants blame the local government as a whole. If the local government does not respond swiftly, some would-be migrants petition the central state for political interventions. Thus, while the base is stuck, migrants’ politics can ‘burst out’.[6] The sophistication in the administrative containment of transnational mobility makes grassroots politics more ‘jumpy’. It is hard to provide a definite assessment, on either ethical or efficiency grounds, about the base itself, but research may harness the efficacy of  jumpy politics by providing accurate analyses and useful languages.

[1] Mao, Zedong. 1930. ‘A Single Spark Can Start a Prairie Fire‘, last accessed on 01 August 2015.

[2] Chalmers Johnson, one of the most important American public intellectuals of the twentieth century, has developed the notions of ‘new imperialism’ and ‘empire of bases’ in various publications, for an example, see ‘America’s Empire of Bases‘, January 2004, Global Policy Forum. For a latest estimate about the number of US military bases, see Nick Turse, ‘America’s Empire of Bases 2.0′. The Nation, 10 January 2011; both last accessed on 01 August 2015.

[3] There is a enormous literature in human geography that analyses globalization as processes of rescaling. For examples, see Neil Smith. 2002, ‘Remaking scale: competition and cooperation in prenational and postnational Europe’, pp. 227-238 in State/Space: A Reader, eds. Neil Brenner, Bob Jessop, Martin Jones, and Gordon MacLeod. Oxford: Blackwell. Erik Swyngedouw. 1996. Reconstructing citizenship, the re-scaling of the state and the new authoritarianism: Closing the Belgian mine’. Urban Studies 33(8): 1499-1521.

[4] Neil Brenner. 1999. ‘Beyond state-centrism? Space, territoriality, and geographical scale in globalization studies’. Theory and Society 28(1): 39-78. P. 69

[5] Wen Yue. 2015. ’2014 nian zhongguo duiwai laowu hzuo fazhan shuping’ [Summaries and comments on China’s international labor service for 2014]. Guoji Gongchen yu Laowu. [International Project Contracting and Labour Service]. Issue 3: 42-46.

[6] For a detailed account about such a case, see Biao Xiang. ‘You’ve got to rely on yourself…and the state!’ A structural chasm in the Chinese political morality. In Ghost Protocol: Contemporary China and Its Global Footprint. Carols Rojas and Ralph Litzinger eds. Duke University Press. forthcoming.

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