On the mainstreaming of EAL provision in England

By: Ole Jensen, Research Officer

The percentage of 5-16 year old pupils in English schools who are recorded in the English as Additional Language (EAL) category more than doubled from 7.6% in 1997 to 16.2% in 2013. Paradoxically perhaps, policy guidelines and local educational authority support structures have been reduced significantly over the past years. Why is that? I’ve had the opportunity to look at this from different perspectives over the past few weeks.

My daughter’s primary school had its Ofsted inspection last month. With 87% EAL children – and the majority of these of Pakistani heritage – the ghost of the Trojan Horse had arrived, and the school management had done their homework on British values. I was one of four governors taking part in a group interview, incidentally illustrating the ethnic diversity of the school: One White British governor, one South Asian-Pakistani, one South Asian-Indian, one White Other. As it happened, all went well, the feared Ofsted inspectors proved entirely agreeable, and we are still ‘Good’.

Looking through the report, I noted the emphasis on data relating to the category of pupils on Free School Meals (FSM), as an indicator of disadvantage, and the work the school did to close the ‘attainment gap’. Despite the high number of EAL children in the school, no specific reference was made to the nature and quality of EAL provision. Whereas the FSM category serves analytical purposes, EAL would appear a purely descriptive one. Not entirely unreasonable perhaps, as the EAL category includes children born and bred in the UK as well as very recent arrivals with very little or no English.

Altogether, this resonates with findings from Upstream, a research project on mainstreaming of integration policies, which we have carried out with partners in France, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the UK, focusing on two policy areas – education and social cohesion – at national, local and neighbourhood levels. The research questions relating to the education policy area addressed the way in which mainstream mechanisms meet the needs of immigrant children, and how policies were developed at national, local authority and school levels (https://projectupstream.wordpress.com/).

In a UK context, it can be suggested that the central mainstream mechanism is still the 1985 Swann Report ‘Education for all’, with a push towards a good command of English, whereas mother tongue provision was not considered a priority of maintained schools. EAL provision was first resourced through Section 11 funding, dating back to the Local Government Act of 1966, but in 1999 replaced by the ring-fenced Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG).

In recent years, EAL provision has been a policy area in decline at national and local level. There has been limited policy lead from the Department for Education, and in 2010 EMAG funding was mainstreamed into the total pot of formula funding managed at school level. One consequence was reductions to most local authority EAL support units, previously supported by EMAG funding.

This was not necessarily bad news at school level. In schools with historically high levels of ethnic diversity, the mainstreaming of EMAG funding only resulted in increased budgetary flexibility without impacting the actual initiatives. In Southwark where diversity has become mainstream, schools had built up considerable EAL expertise, and high EAL figures were no longer something to hide behind – as argued by the Southwark Head of Early Help: ‘I don’t believe that the schools will say to you ”…oh well, 75% of my population have come from overseas, that is the reason why we are not achieving well”. Not now, because it is the norm in Southwark’.  The stats bear her out. EAL attainment in Southwark has, like other London boroughs with high proportions of EAL pupils, increased dramatically in recent years, with EAL students in London achieving higher scores than EAL students in other regions (Strand et al 2015).

What next for EAL support? Recent Ofsted research has identified challenges relating to the support for Roma children, with the large majority of new arrivals not only new to English, but often without previous schooling altogether (Ofsted 2014). But it is perhaps altogether in schools in areas with more recent experiences of immigration that challenges are biggest, even more so as many local authority support structures have faced so significant reductions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Studying Mobility in a Context of Immobility

By: Kareem Rabie, Senior Researcher and Marie Curie Fellow

This term, Dace Dzenovska, Nick Van Hear, and Ben Gidley have organized events around the themes of “shifting powers” and shifting mobilities.” Themes that build upon last term’s sited, urban focus to questions of shifting spatial and political dynamics in “arrival cities.” The central questions they ask are about geopolitical shifts in power, and in social and spatial forms of mobility; and the three are working towards a research agenda on migration attentive to wider contexts of geopolitics and geoeconomics.

As the Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow at COMPAS, I’ve been thinking with and across migration studies. As an anthropologist and human geographer working in Palestine and Israel, the question becomes less about mobility as a general phenomenon, but what it means to talk about mobility in a context of immobility. How specifically is it enabled and disabled? Where, for whom, for what, and at what geographical scale? In an environment that seems at different times, in different places, and at different scales, to be either highly malleable or completely static and circumscribed (not to mention for different authors), what does movement mean?

Capital mobility

In my first project, I studied the emergence of privatized governance in Palestine through one of the marquee developments, Rawabi, a “planned” town being built north of Ramallah for 40,000 “middle class” Palestinians, and costing around $1 billion, mostly from the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Qatar. It is a massive project, physically fixed in place. An official municipality, the new town will maintain industries in IT, outsourcing, and other sectors that require the free movement of capital and information, but not goods or people. Developers aim to engineer not only a new, outward-looking economic sector but, concomitantly cultivate a middle class living and working, and debt financing new homes there.

Capital comes in and is fixed, and types of intra-West Bank and class mobility form around it. In the context of both occupation and global political economy, local industry is deemphasized, and labor and work are increasingly oriented towards those fields that can exist despite restriction on the movement of people and goods. But something is nevertheless emerging.

Capital and information can cross borders, but what kinds of people and goods are mobile?

I am beginning a second project on new geographies of regional and global trade in Palestine, and on the social aspects of commodity chains, that I hope will speak to questions of shifting contexts and forms of mobility. Today there is a close link between businessmen in Hebron—formerly the hub of small production in the West Bank and perhaps the most highly militarized city there today—and factory owners in China. The Hebron Chamber of Commerce monitors this link, but there have been no formal academic or policy studies of it to date. There is, however, plenty of anecdotal evidence, and people talk about it all over the West Bank. News reports on the Hebron industry mention it, but do not elaborate. They describe family businesses destroyed by “cheap Chinese imports” and bemoan the lack of production in Palestine in general, especially of Palestinian heritage items like the kuffieh.

Scraps of information emerge in this handful of stories: a Palestinian importer spends half of his year in China. He says that at first it was uncomfortable, but now there are many Arabs, and “translators and Syrian and Lebanese food.” Another has business cards printed in Mandarin. Chinese diplomats are said to routinely travel from Israel to Hebron to give out visas. A 2008 New York Times piece describes Yiwu, “a buzzing trading spot thanks to the influx of Middle Eastern money…a hub for selling made-in-China Arabic products, like fashion clothing and religious artifacts.” The article quotes the head of Palestinian-Chinese trade relations at the Palestinian embassy in Beijing, who estimates Palestinian imports of Chinese goods at $2 billion annually, through direct trade or through Israel. He also suggests that more than 200 Palestinian businessmen have settled in China over the past decade in addition to thousands of other Palestinian and Arab businessmen who travel there frequently.

In China, official policy since 1978 been geared towards opening China’s labor and consumer markets. Like elsewhere under global capitalism, China seeks new markets. China and Palestine have seen ongoing changes from a revolutionary politics and political economy, to one somewhat less so, and have experienced their own versions of global and transnational historical shifts. From Bandung to neoliberalism, Maoism to “capitalism with Chinese characteristics,” and from the PLO to the PA, this is an example of what south-south ties look like today. Phenomena, links, and histories are cumulative. There are important resonances between Palestinian and Chinese structural and social experiences of change, and the multitude of links between the two is a potentially rich topic for study, and potentially helps illuminate dynamics of movement and global links that may or may not include large numbers of people, but are a fundamental part of the shifting context for global mobility.


In anthropology we are necessarily limited by what we can see, but by following relationships we can connect people and the settings and contexts of which they are a part. In focusing on circulation of capital, goods, and people, on the relationships between money and knowledge, we often cannot see where money goes, to whom, and in what quantities. But we can try to understand the wider processes, ideas, ideologies, practices, and ramifications of circulation; and how they are all materially and immaterially productive.

Capitalism is a process of circulation; not everyone is involved in production, but most everyone is implicated in circulation. Circulation of people, capital, and commodity can help illuminate the human, relational, and social aspects of structural issues and phenomena, on relationships, forms of capital and power that move across and circulate to produce social space.

Transactions and financial relationships link people, institutions, and organizations globally; ethnography can tell us about those links, and about the lived experiences of markets, politics, and economies at multiple geographic scales. And mobility may mean things beyond the movement of people. A focus on political economic links, and explicitly on multiple forms of circulation, may speak directly to questions of migration and mobility by parsing what it means for different types of populations, in terms of different forms of fixity and relationships to home in shifting political and economic contexts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Immigrant Investor Programmes: Navigating Economic and Political Tensions

Immigration policies offering residence rights to wealthy investors have existed for decades. Australia, New Zealand and the United States have all had special programmes admitting immigrant investors for over 25 years. Historically these routes have been small and attracted relatively little attention in policy circles.

But over the last few years, the investor immigration field has become rather active. The US EB-5 investor programme, a little used immigration route until the mid-2000s, suddenly took off in 2008 and is now for the first time bumping against its 10,000-person cap. Several EU countries have started to offer temporary residence permits in return for investments in property or other assets. Most controversially, “citizenship by investment”—previously the terrain of a handful of Caribbean islands taking cash donations in return for passports—arrived in the European Union with a programme announced by Malta in 2013.

Despite the new enthusiasm for immigrant investor programmes, designing an economically beneficial and politically popular policy is harder than it might seem. Governments tackling this task must resolve a host of technical, operational, and conceptual questions. 

Why are investor programmes difficult to design?

First, governments must decide “who is an investor”? Is the goal of the programme to admit people with actual business expertise? Or is it OK for a wealthy businessman to give his son or daughter £2m to qualify for the programme? Does it matter if people invest borrowed money rather than the profits of previous successful business ventures? Many countries (including the UK) have no requirement for business expertise, in part because it is difficult to assess on an application form—while some, like Australia, have selection criteria that include a “successful” track record of business experience.

Second, policymakers must decide what types of investment their programme should reward. Some have favoured simple transactions that are easy for officials to verify, such as paying cash or buying government bonds. But cash payments are extremely controversial (more on this below). And there is little reason to believe that getting investors to buy interest-bearing government bonds will bring appreciable benefits, as a Migration Advisory Committee report last year eloquently described.

As a result, other governments have chosen programmes that reward private-sector investment activities that they hope will create jobs and boost productivity. The major challenge these programmes face is compliance—how to ensure that investors are really following the rules.

Encouraging compliance

One reason for this is that the interests of government and the interests of investors are not necessarily aligned. Investors want programmes that are not too expensive, not too much hassle, and not too risky (that is, where there is little chance they will either lose their money or fail to get the desired immigration status, such as permanent residence or citizenship). Policymakers, on the other hand, may prefer programs with high investment thresholds and complicated conditions designed to ensure that the investment is genuine, that the investor is actively involved, and/or that the right kind of jobs are being created.

Because government officials are not well placed to judge an economically beneficial investment activity, such criteria may simply become bureaucratic hurdles for investors to meet on paper rather than in spirit. In the United States, for example, an industry of intermediaries has arisen to help investors ensure they will create the programme’s requisite 10 jobs with as little risk and cost as possible—apparently encouraging investment in low-skill intensive industries with no guarantee that the jobs will last longer than the 2 years the programme requires.

All told, creating an investor programme with tangible economic benefits has been a challenge, and long-standing models in several countries have fallen short of expectations. Canada finally terminated its investor route in 2014 due to a concern that it brought limited economic benefits and that investors entering under the program did not fare particularly well in the labour market. Latvia sharply increased its investment threshold from EUR70, 000 to EUR250,000 following concerns about the large numbers of applicants. The Hong Kong chief executive announced the end of the city’s programme at the beginning of 2015, arguing that Hong Kong did not need these capital inflows.

Why are some investor programmes more controversial than others?

Questions about the ethics of selling citizenship or admitting people because of their wealth apply, in theory, to all types of investor programmes. In practice, these questions are much more visible in some models than in others, however.

There are two main ingredients to a controversial programme: accepting cash payments from investors, and not requiring them to live in the country for very long before they can get citizenship. On one hand, accepting cash in return for immediate citizenship visibly strips the interaction between the host country and the investor down to a mere financial transaction. Treating citizenship like an economic commodity makes those who care about the political and symbolic roles of citizenship uncomfortable. So does giving citizenship to people who haven’t lived in the country and may not even intend to (one reason people buy citizenship in Caribbean countries, for example, is not to live there but to access visa-free travel in Europe).

The simple transparency of the investor programme that Malta initially proposed in late 2013 came with both of these ingredients: a payment of EUR650, 000, in return for immediate citizenship. The announcement prompted outcry among Malta’s domestic political opposition, as well as pushback from the European Union, where the new Maltese citizens would be entitled to travel and work.

Interestingly, an existing programme in Cyprus that offered citizenship up front but in return for various other investments—but not cash—attracted relatively little attention. Other jurisdictions, such as Hungary and Ireland, have masked cash payments in the form of zero-interest government bonds designed especially for immigrant investors; in this case, the applicant does not make a lump-sum donation but instead loses their money gradually over a period of several years.

After negotiations with the European Union, Malta agreed to detoxify its investor programme while keeping the core of it—the cash payment—in place. It did this by adding some extra requirements (such as owning property in Malta) and agreeing to a 12-month “residence requirement” that might more accurately be described as a “waiting period” since there is no minimum number of days the investor must spend in the country as a temporary resident.

Tensions between economics and politics?

Empirical evidence on the impacts of investor immigration and on which programmes are most likely to bring economic benefits is relatively limited. Governments have designed their policies largely in the absence of hard evidence (although evaluations conducted in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK have generated some useful information).

In the absence of empirical evidence, cash-based programmes have some appeal from an economic perspective, since they provide tangible financial contributions while raising relatively few compliance problems. But cash-based programmes are also the most controversial by some distance. As governments navigate the tensions between political and economic objectives in the future, should we expect the balance to tip from transparency to complexity?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Foreign fighters: time to recognise and study a new type of migration

By: Franck Düvell, Associate Professor and Senior Researcher

On 30 October 2014, the Washington Post reported the flow of over 15,000 foreigner fighters to Syria and probably also to Iraq. They suggested that each month around 1,000 people travel to Syria, mostly with the intention to join the fights, and thus to join the killing. A map shows the countries where these people have been coming from and their numbers: Tunisia (3,000), Saudia Arabia (2,500), Jordan (2,089), Morocco (1,500), Lebanon (890), (Russia (800), Libya (556), UK (488), France (412), Turkey (400), Egypt (358), Pakistan (330), Belgium (296), Algeria (250), Australia (250), Germany (240) (Washington Post). About 5,000 came from the Middle East, another 5,000 from Northern Africa and 3,200 from Western and Northern countries. In total, 53 countries are listed, suggesting a global phenomenon.

This information is based on sources from the CIA, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and the Soufan Group research (2014). How accurate these figures are is certainly disputable, national estimates are sometimes higher. For instance, German sources refer to ‘at least 600’ (Der Stern 16/1/2015), and French sources to 930, people who went to Syria and Iraq (RFLRL 25/1/2015). A related feature is the return of fighters to the countries where they have been coming from. The returnees may be disillusioned and they may be traumatised but they may also be radicalised and aiming at taking the fight back to the perceived enemy countries in the west. In the UK ‘about 250 are believed to have returned’ (BBC News, 14/11/2014), in Germany, their number is put at 200 (Der Stern 16/1/2015).

However, foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are not isolated occurrences; foreigners also join fights in other parts of the world. Most notably, in Ukraine, Russians and other nationalities are joining the separatists to fight against the Ukrainian central government (BBC News 1/9/2014). Foreign fighters are also reported from the conflicts in Libya (All Africa 6/1/2015). The current situation is not new.,In the recent past volunteers have joined foreign guerrillas and fights in other countries, like in the 1980s and 1990 in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Palestine and Kurdistan, and more recently in Afghanistan and Chechnya. For instance, some German leftists joined the PLO or PFLP, the PKK or the Sandinistas and FMLN and others. Most of these, however, were individual cases and there was no large scale trend. Historically there are numerous cases of volunteers and mercenaries joining fights like French and Germans who joined the American independence forces.

Ideologies and drivers

Past and present volunteers, and this does not include mercenaries, usually joined forces they considered in one way or another anti-establishment, anti-western, anti-imperialist, revolutionary and often nationalist, and saw them as liberating countries from dominant powers of either foreign origin, foreign backed and/or illegitimate national elites. In any case they claim(ed) that they are practicing international solidarity and join(ed) a just cause. However, the volunteers of the past seemed to have been rather driven by ideals of equality, freedom, modernity and progress whereas the volunteers of today are driven by ideals of gender inequality, repression of other religions and of nostalgia, retreat and radical conservatism (see El-Mafaalani’s study on the motives of youth joining Salafist movements, Die Sueddeutsche 24/1/2015, also see the Soufan Group 2014 report). This implies that the purpose of these foreign fighters – supporting a community/movement/country under attack and/or joining the fighting – may have been similar whereas the motives and ideals – joining liberal versus joining illiberal causes – seem rather different. In this context, the rise of the number of mostly young people from western countries joining this cause indicates some failure of humanitarian and liberal education.

Staying the trend

The impact on the affected countries, the countries of origin and return, the countries of destination and potentially also transit countries is significant. The foreign fighters are radicalised in the countries of origin, their journeys are facilitated in transit countries where they possibly have supporters, and their contribution to the fighting and to suicide bombings but also to propaganda and infrastructure seems significant given their sheer numbers, whereas their return to the countries of origin can pose significant risks. The measures discussed so far are to improve border controls in all three types of countries: to introduce watch lists and prevent people from entering transit countries (so far, 1,300 were refused entry to Turkey, interview with Turkish official), remove the passports of people who are suspected to wanting to join IS in order to prevent them from travelling in the first place or to ban them from returning (The Guardian, 14/11/2014) and to criminalise recruiting, training, funding and travelling for the purpose of fighting abroad (see Council of Europe’s Committee on Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Related Issues, 22/1/2015). There are, however, legal and normative challenges to all of these as the Guardian article suggests (as above).

Integration into the migration debate

The above is not isolated but can be found in other historical and contemporary contexts. It is of seemingly increasing scale and of significant social and political impact. It is already explored by war studies, such as at the King’s College’s Department of War Studies, but should also be recognised by migration studies as a separate type of mobility and migration that requires research along the conventional lines exploring drivers, scale, modes, intersection with other types of mobility, impact and governance. I would like to encourage readers to contribute to this debate and get back to me with comments and suggestions for a research agenda.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Life of a Multiple Migrant

By: Ayumi Takenaka, Research Officer

As immigration has grown in volume, so has its complexity. Today, people do not simply move once and settle. They increasingly keep on moving, twice or more, not just between their country of origin and destination, but to multiple destinations. This onward migration, or multiple migration, is supposedly on the increase, according to the burgeoning research on the subject.

Why multiple migration may have grown

In theory, it makes sense. Once one migrates, subsequent movements become easier (just like learning new languages). Networks established through initial migration reduce the risk of re-migrating, while newly acquired experience provides more options to venture out further. Financial and legal resources  gained through initial migration also help.  This may particularly be true when initial migration is directed from poor countries to richer ones. Acquiring citizenship in the initial rich country opens up possibilities to move on to other (rich) countries, as does familiarity with labor market practices in the “First World.” Since more and more destinations adopt stricter immigration policies favoring the skilled and educated, this also facilitates the multiple movements of the resourceful.  Resource-constrained migrants, on the other hand, may also find it necessary to navigate the systems of multiple countries to reach their preferred destinations.

The volume of multiple migration

In practice, however, it is challenging to estimate, and quantify the volume of onward migration. This is because most countries, primarily concerned about who and how many should come in, do not collect emigration data on who leaves and for where.  There is also a challenge in the very definition of onward migration (how long one should stay in each country to qualify as an onward migrant, for instance?).  And it is next to impossible to determine when migration actually stops. Today’s “destination” may actually become tomorrow’s “origin” country.

In my earlier studies using the US Census and other data, I have nevertheless estimated that 10-13% of migrants arrived in the US via a third country, other than a country of their birth. The government of New Zealand recently reported that 25% of its skilled migrants re-migrate out of the country within five years of taking up residence (Krassoi-Peach 2013). Emigration of immigrants from the UK has been a “growing phenomenon” (Finch et al. 2009: 6). Canada is also concerned about “immigrant brain drain,” as it loses many skilled and educated migrants to the US (Boudarbat and Connolly 2013).

The reasons for moving on

Why do some people keep on moving, while others migrate just once, return home, or do not move at all?  This is a lingering question and a research agenda of my own, ever since I stumbled upon immigrants moving, or aspiring to move, on from Japan to the US. Why do they move on from one rich country to another, and what do they gain, and fail to gain, from each country? Interviewing multiple migrants in Japan and the US, I have found that an important factor lies in the process of “capital” accumulation in the initial migration.  That is, how their skills are utilized and valued, and what kind of knowledge and resources are acquired in migrating to Japan.

The portability of capital may be particularly crucial. Migrants who acquire globally portable skills in Japan, rather than Japan-specific skills, are more likely to move on to another country, such as the US. A talented Chinese businessman aspired to move to the US after having acquired multi-lingual proficiency and global business know-how in Tokyo’s financial district.  A Korean engineering student, enrolled in a newly established “global English program” at a prominent Japanese university, told me during an interview that he aspired to move on to the US before “assimilating too much to the Japanese system” which he regarded as parochial and a hindrance to further movements.  A series of globalization policies, implemented to attract and retain global talent in Japan, therefore, may actually result in reinforcing the country’s role as a stepping-stone to other (Western English-speaking) countries.

The life of a multiple migrant

I am a “multiple migrant” myself. Born in Japan, I received much of my higher education and academic career in the US before moving on to the UK. I have also lived or studied in Peru and Spain for over six months each. And if I shorten the length of stay required in each country, I may add Mexico and Germany to my list.  Why do I keep moving?  It is partly because I have acquired the taste for novelty, and partly because it has become habitual, as if it were my “job” to migrate. But most of all, I moved on, because I had the option, and the privilege, not only to move to, but also to exit and to return to a previous country.

In an age of growing human mobility, immigration research, as well as policy-making, continues to assume that there is one country of origin and one destination. Yet, it is important to build a multi-country framework, as migrants today increasingly assess, and compare, multiple countries in deciding whether to migrate, to where, and when.  And we must not forget that while some people keep on moving, others remain immobile, out of their own volition or not, who may not even consider migration as an option at all in their everyday lives.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Migration and the political

By: Dace Dzenovska, Departmental Lecturer in the Anthropology of Migration

This blog was first posted in the series “Migration and Citizenship”, a collaboration with Politics in Spires, on October 30 2014. 

Ever since the collapse of second-world socialisms as “actually existing” political alternatives to global capitalism, the political terrain has shifted considerably. Old political subjects, such as class, seem to have disappeared or waned in significance, while new political subjects are elusive. Political action consists of seemingly unorganised and spontaneous mass events without clearly articulated agendas or of practices of daily life that have subversive political effects. Both forms of political action are often invested with hope that they will somehow enable alternatives to the currently predominant forms of organising collective life.

This political desire also attaches to migration. Some years ago, Étienne Balibar wrote of immigrants as “today’s proletariat” (2004: 50). More recently, Dimitris Papadopoulos, Vassilis Tsianos and Niamh Stephenson (2008) have written about clandestine migration as imperceptible politics, namely as a social practice that does not have an explicit political goal, but that brings about large-scale shifts in the political field. The prevailing sentiment in activist circles seems to be that if migration is disruptive, as mainstream political elites suggest, then this disruption might as well be put to different political ends. Thus, for example, a group of scholars and activists working on borders recently occupied the discursive terrain by introducing new keywords in migration and borders, such as “militant investigation”, “counter-mapping” and “bordering” among others (Casas Cortes et al. 2014).

I am also thinking about migration and the political in my work on Latvian outmigration following accession to the European Union in 2004 and the financial crisis in 2008. When it became clear that outmigration was a mass social phenomenon, people in Latvia began to talk about it as something political—a collective expression of discontent rather than an individual act of life improvement. Some linked migration to lack of organized and sustained political protest. As one intellectual said to me prior to her own departure for Canada, “the only reason we have not had a revolution is because we have been able to leave.” Many savvy scholars will identify the “exit, voice and loyalty” model in this explanation of the relationship between lack of protest and migration. Indeed, Albert Hirschman’s “simple hydraulic model”—namely, the view that “deterioration generates the pressure of discontent, which will be channelled into voice or exit; the more pressure escapes through exit, the less is available to foment voice”—seems to be a convenient tool for imposing order upon the unruly migration scene unfolding in Latvia (Hirschman 1993: 176). Some scholars have, in fact, turned to this model to make sense of the puzzling lack of protest in the Baltics in the face of the severe financial austerity measures (e.g. Sippola 2013).

I too have been urged to consider the “exit, voice and loyalty” model for making sense of migration and the political in relation to Latvian outmigration. However, I find this framework severely limiting. I am not the only one. Hirschman (1993) himself identified notable shortcomings in this model when he used it to think about the political scene in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2008, Bert Hoffman argued that exit, voice and loyalty are categories developed within the framework of “methodological nationalism” and that the transnational turn requires a fundamental rethinking of these categories. Still, Hoffman suggested that the “exit, voice and loyalty” model might still be a good heuristic device for tackling the messy terrain of migration and politics.

I want to suggest here that the heuristic value of the “exit, voice and loyalty” model can only be preserved if one assumes that modes of power in relation to which exit, voice or loyalty gain meaning remain more or less the same. This is one of the shortcomings of the paradigm of transnationalism. Namely, even though the paradigm of transnationalism emphasises cross-border connections, multiple identifications, and social fields that traverse nation-state boundaries, it is not sufficiently attentive to shifts in modes of power, such as sovereignty and statehood. To put it another way, thinking transnationally does not automatically mean a more sophisticated understanding of contemporary modes of power. Understanding contemporary modes of power requires a rethinking of statehood as multiple and historical rather than taking the state to be a universally recognisable mechanism with “certain features, functions, and forms of governance” (Hansen & Stepputat 2001: 7).

For example, in Latvia, debates and arguments about who and how is to do something about outmigration often invoke seemingly conflicting notions of the state. “The state has to follow its citizens,” urge some diaspora activists as they argue for more political will behind diaspora politics. “They don’t understand that they are the state”, say civil servants who criticise migrants for complaining about how “the state” has not created conditions for leading a good life at home. “The Latvian himself changes as he moves to Britain,” observe diplomats in London, “in Britain, he respects the state, whereas in Latvia he tries to avoid it. Where does this come from? From within or without?”

I think it is only possible to make sense of this “state talk,” where individuals are at times equated with the state and at other times differentiated from it, when we do not focus on the state as a coherent entity, but rather on the distribution of multiple forms of statehood. These forms of statehood are not necessarily linked to the same historical state or the state at large, but are rather distributed across spatially and temporally different state regimes. For example, when Latvians migrate to the United Kingdom to improve their well being, they remain committed to the Latvian state as the condition of possibility for the existence of the Latvian nation. We can thus observe a particular pattern of redistribution of statehood and reterritorialisation of sovereignty. Namely, while Latvia’s citizens are turning to the United Kingdom for a form of economic and social statehood, they turn to the Latvian state for their and the nation’s sovereignty.

Changing global configurations of power also suggest that it is increasingly difficult to pin down agents, such as a particular state or a particular government within a state, that could be held responsible for the conditions within which people attempt to craft their lives or which people try to change by moving. This introduces additional difficulties for attributing the labels of exit, voice or loyalty to particular actions, for it is not clear in relation to what—a state, a global corporation or else—a particular action gains political traction.

To summarize, then, my interest in migration and the political is as much about forms of power in relation to which actions gain political traction as about the action itself. And I find that the model of “exit, voice and loyalty” is not helpful for that purpose.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The roots of radicalism: Family, society and the solace of religion

By: Morwari Zafar, DPhil in Anthropology, COMPAS/School of Anthropology

This blog was first posted on Opedspace, 24 November 2014

Have you ever been so heartbroken that you joined the conservative faction of a local mosque? Khalid did, because he felt he had no other way to cope.

For the children of some immigrant families, negotiating among cultures and sub-cultures compounds perceptions of isolation, inadequacy, and a desire to belong to something meaningful. Radicalism is not necessarily a collective response to assimilation or economic impediments; it can also be an individual response to social class and status. Media reports treat motivations among radical youth with a sense of cognitive dissonance: Why do American, French, or British youth from standard, middle class families turn to religious fundamentalism? As the holy grail of policy discussions, the answer won’t be in the singular. Rather than fixate on the external appeal of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, a glance at the effect of internal household pressures reveals greater insights.

Some immigrant families remain beholden to their community’s perception of status and family honor. These important social networks do not diminish by virtue of distance from the homeland; rather, families often struggle to assimilate while still under obligations to uphold and perform customs and traditions for the sake of community perception. This creates a volatile micro-environment, acting like a pressure cooker of often-contradictory demands and influences – a transformative confluence for people, like Khalid, who straddle a multitude of cultural boundaries.

For Khalid, college was an isolating experience. Born to Afghan parents in New York, it was the first time he would have to figure, on his own, the limits of Afghan norms while being immersed in American, college culture. He went to parties, drank alcohol and fell in love with a non-Afghan woman – all things that incurred his parents’ intense dissatisfaction.

“My mom would call me all the time. ‘What if another [Afghan] family finds out that you’re running around with girls and partying? How’s that going to make us look?’ It was a lot of pressure. I was paranoid in public with my girlfriend. In the end, we broke up. I was a wreck. It took a long time to get out of feeling depressed.”

Khalid attended mosque regularly as a means of distracting himself. His family was not open to discussing his pain and he was reluctant to engage his peers lest the gossip should reach the Afghan-American community and muddy his family’s name. He briefly joined a conservative group that seemed to understand his turmoil. They contextualized his feelings as normal human weaknesses that could be conquered by following the righteous path of Islam. In the nebulous configuration of Afghan-American culture, Islam served as an anchor; a clear set of guidelines that, if observed, could position someone above reproach.

For those who feel lost in both the old and new worlds, religion and religious-based groups can provide a reconciliatory space. In communities where accountability to one’s heritage and customs is tacitly enforced by the power of “talk,” (i.e. gossip) subscribing to measures that clearly dictate behavior and consistent with a higher purpose can prove easier than balancing what is socially and culturally permissible across two worlds.

Arie Kruglanksi, a psychologist and professor at the University of Maryland, identifies the need for “cognitive closure” as one of the reasons why youth, who experience existential identity issues, get drawn to ideologies that provide a normative structure in which right and wrong are explicitly defined. As such, religious groups offer social acceptability where others may find it lacking – whether in the home, community, or society.

Some forms of radicalism and extremism spawn from counter-culture movements. But sometimes those contestations of power can be local, and all the more salient among immigrant families where negotiating competing identities is just as much a public spectacle as a private endeavor. Buying into different norms, values, and beliefs may be perceived as selling out of one’s own. As Tariq, an Afghan-American in Washington DC, explained:

“In places like northern Virginia, there is still a strong sense of Afghan community and it places checks and balances on people’s Afghan-ness. People can’t compromise on their Afghan-ness because it would be a disrespect to their legacy.”

The current policy climate risks insularity by focusing on external motivators such unemployment, disenfranchisement and susceptibility to recruitment via social media. It calls into question the legitimacy of every institution from Islam to Facebook. Such an approach raises valid points, but it is conducive only to identifying a limited range of resolutions. The skeleton key may remain elusive.

This is an opportunity for immigrant communities and households to revisit their own social boundaries. It compels families to reconsider how they handle generational dynamics and cross-cultural differences. Is it possible that the walls supporting youth radicalism are actually beneath their own roofs?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Climate change and migration: COMPAS December Breakfast Briefing

By: Ben Gidley, Associate Professor and Senior Researcher

What does it feel like to be flooded?

The media monitoring project at the Migration Observatory has analysed thousands of UK news articles on migration from the last few years, showing which words are most often associated with migrants – and the same finding was repeated more recently specifically for Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in 2014. One finding was how often, across both tabloids and broadsheets, words suggesting water were used as a metaphor for migration, such as floodinflux and wave. In one recent example, Michael Fallon, a Conservative minister, echoing Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s, described “whole towns and communities” in the UK “being swamped by huge numbers of migrants.”

Photo by Shenaz Rafiq, COMPAS Photo Competition 2013

Fallon particularly mentioned England’s East Coast, and his comment was made as two coastal constituencies switched their votes to the anti-immigrant UKIP. It is interesting that it is in coastal areas where anti-migrant sentiment – the feeling of being swamped and flooded by migrants – is strongest. Oddly, though, these coastal areas typically have some of the lowest numbers of migrants in the UK.

Many of these coastal areas, however, face a very different and very real flooding risk. Research shows that our coastal areas are vulnerable to climate change because of rising sea levels and wave heights and accelerated coastal erosion. The deprived and “left behind” seaside communities which UKIP is targeting may be especially vulnerable because of their reliance on the coastline for economic and social activities, because of ageing populations, deprivation and isolation, which negatively impact on resilience and hamper adaptation.

These issues are hard to think about; many of us tend to bury our heads in the sand rather than face up to the enormity of the challenge of climate change. Perhaps thinking about immigrants is easier.

But for many communities globally, the flooding has already long begun.

The photographer Alessandro Grassani, in his work Environmental Migrants: The Last Illusion, has produced extraordinary images of Bangladesh, which give some hint of an idea of what it might be like to be flooded: to live life knee-deep in water, to earn your livelihood beneath the rising sea level, to have the waves literally at your door.

Climate change and migration: how are they linked?

Grassani’s work has been supported by the International Organisation on Migration, the IOM, and his photographs were used to illustrate a presentation by IOM’s Dina Ionesco at our last COMPAS Breakfast Briefing.

Dina, a Policy Officer on the Migration, Environment and Climate Change programme at IOM, spoke alongside Alex Randall, the coordinator of the UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition (UKCCMC), on Climate change and migration: how are they linked?

The key issues

Photo by Robert Lenfert, COMPAS Photo Competition 2013

Dina presented a series of key issues relating the migration/climate change nexus. First, climate migration is highly complex, multi-factor phenomenon. Many of the classical categories and dichotomies in migration studies are challenged by it: is it temporary or permanent? Is it forced or voluntary?Climate change cannot be isolated from other patterns of global mobility, from other shifts and shocks in the world map. We lack the right legal, policy and academic terminologies for addressing climate migration.

An enormous range of predictions have been made about the possible impacts. (See Allan Findlay’s Breakfast Briefing and blogpost on this question and what it means for the UK.) The sheer volume of predictions – the uncertainty involved – is not always helpful for clear messages to the public or policy-makers. Media representation and policy discourse prefer victims or heroes of development and solid headline numbers, which are not forthcoming in this field.

Trends in research and narrative

Alex’s presentation took up these issues in outline key changing trends in how the field is conceptualised. The research is getting more complex, away from apocalyptic scenarios to more multi-faceted picture. There is no single group of “climate migrants”. Instead, we have a multiplicity of stories.

There has been a shift away from climate migration framed as a security issue, to framing in terms of adaptation and creativity. There is no evidence, Alex argued, for climate migration creating significant security risks. Although it is important not to lose sight of the reality of forced migration due to climate change for some, agency, adaptation, incremental solutions and short-distance migration are more significant parts of the picture.

The policy challenge

For the migration sector, this picture creates a series of challenges but also opportunities, which Dina outlined. The first is how to bring knowledge to bear on policy-making in such a complex field. When it is hard to reduce the story to simple facts and firm predictions, it is hard to generate adequate policy debate.

The migration sector and the environmental sector, and the related policy communities around these, remain remote from each other. There is an urgent need, Dina suggested, to do more work at the nexus between them, to create platforms for learning across: to insert climate issues into the migration debate and vice versa.

And because the phenomenon is complex, the policy challenge is multi-level. States are key players, but other actors are important too, both at supra- and sub-national level. These actors, Dina argued, need concrete support.

However, despite the complexity, the IOM’s work shows that there are positive stories of adaptation and resilience – but, Dina argued, these need to be more widely disseminated. As Alex concluded, one big global treaty won’t solve this problem; we need a series of small steps: regional co-operation, bi-lateral work between neighbouring states, bottom-up work with the most affected communities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The floating label of ‘the migrant’

By: Bastian Vollmer, Leverhulme Research Fellow

This blog was first posted in the series “Migration and Citizenship”, a collaboration with Politics in Spires, on October 23 2014. 

“Hang on they are not tourists”, a UK citizen said to his wife with wide eyes and an expression on his face suggesting this realisation was a big surprise. “They could even be ‘migrants’…couldn’t they?”

This is a question — in this case one I heard in an interview — that has always been complex, but is becoming even more so, in the UK and elsewhere. Time has changed legal and regulatory circumstances, and the demographic of people who come to Britain have also changed.

These changes have generated new migrant categories, typologies and tiers but also new stigmas, phobias and labels.

Who is a migrant? Alas, there is no clear legal or administrative definition of ‘migrant’. A 1953 United Nations recommendation referred to the definition of “permanent immigrants” as non-residents (both nationals and aliens) arriving with the intention to remain for a period exceeding a year and of “permanent emigrants” as residents (nationals and aliens) intending to remain abroad for a period exceeding one year (United Nations, 1953).

At the national level, definitions were introduced with the main purpose of keeping records of stocks and flows of international migrants. Like many other countries, UK law does not contain a definition of the term ‘migrant’. It does, however, make a distinction between persons who have the ‘right of abode’ (British citizens including a small minority of Commonwealth citizens) and those who do not have this right (for more details see Anderson and Blinder, 2014).

Does this matter? Yes. We should consider the definition of the term ‘migrant’ is constructed by political and public discourse. It is part of a labelling process which takes place on an everyday basis. It is a heuristic short-cut to make sense of the world that surrounds us, helping to form opinions and decision-making process.

The labelling journey

The content of this process has changed over the years, making “the migrant” a floating label. Indeed, labelling processes can be traced back through centuries of migration history at a local and regional level.

Let’s use the Commonwealth era of migration to the UK as a quick example. The most common label used – very comfortably – during this period was race. Not from ‘Albion’ = migrant. But from the 1970s through the 1980s and 1990s, the term race and race relations somewhat disappeared. Another term took its place: asylum and asylum seeker became the new dominant label (see Vollmer 2014). This label had, however, an intrinsic problem. It floated into waters of normativity; it was diluted by a moral dimension which became increasingly dominant. Bogus behaviour and deception by asylum seeker became predominant in the common understanding of ‘the migrant’.

Why labels matter

Does the general suspicion towards everybody that might try to deceive Britain, thus engaging in an immoral act towards the host society, still fit with the term ‘migrant’? Does it colour the label to this day? We have no answer to this but it seems that today’s label of ‘the migrant’ has increasingly become a label of ethics and morality: ‘who is the right migrant’ or ‘who is the good migrant’?

During fieldwork for my current research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust[i], I have encountered narratives that capture such general suspicion and ambiguity of morale and trust. In one sentence a person explained how migrants are poisonous for the neighbourhood, the community and the British society, and in the next sentence the person’s Polish neighbour was described as a “nice man” who is not “one of them”. So who is the “them” that cannot be trusted and that could possibly be “a drain on the British society” (BBC, 2014). And one can also ask, who is the “us”? Maybe it is just the current label that is attached to ‘the migrant’ that is suffering under the gloomiest siege of EU-UK relations and a migration debate that has reached, at times, new toxic levels. These circumstances make questions of ‘who is the right migrant’ or ‘who is the good migrant’ somewhat confusing if not unfeasible.

The machineries of the political parties in the UK have begun to spin for the upcoming general election and we wait to see where the label might float next. In the end, however, as the above empirical example has shown, there isn’t, and there cannot be, a clear-cut distinction between citizens and migrants (see Isin 2002). Simple binaries of inside and outside, or ‘the self’ and ‘the other’ do not exist. This is difficult to accept but it is necessary to acknowledge.

This post is part of Migration and Citizenship, our series hosted in collaboration with Oxford COMPAS. 


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“It’s not just about the individual story”: Performing migrant experiences

By: Ida Persson, Research and Communications Officer

Photo by Josh Tomalin

When trying to have an “impact” in a research context it is often assumed that academics need to reach out to influential groups such as policy makers, politicians and civil society organisations. On another level we often talk about the “local community” in a fairly vague fashion. A new project at COMPAS is trying a different way of knowledge exchange, by directly engaging with young people in schools to encourage them to think about migration issues in their own way.

“Exploring Migration: Research and Drama in Schools” looks at issues that face undocumented migrant children and their families in their day-to-day lives in the UK. It does so by working with school students using theatrical stories based on research interviews conducted through the project “Undocumented Migrant Children in the UK” as commissioned from the company ice&fire.

In the project students are given an introduction to the issues and theatre techniques from which they are supported to develop a performance.  They then perform their show for a general audience. The project will work with 3 different schools in different geographical areas over the next year (Thame, Birmingham, and London). Each school will present different challenges and considerations.

Performance and thoughts brought together

On 8 December 14 Year 10 students from Lord Williams’s School in Thame performed “Undocumented Migrant Children’s Lives and Stories” to a full house at the Old Fire Station in Oxford. The audience comprised parents, higher education students, teachers and researchers. They were not the ‘usual suspects’ of people interested in migration related issues. Although living in Oxford and its surrounding areas very few had attended any previous COMPAS events. The show told the stories and experiences of five undocumented migrants from various countries, of varying genders and ages. The students’ performances and their responses during the Q&A that followed demonstrated how this kind of public engagement can be as meaningful as reaching a policy-maker or politician.

The performance illustrated tremendous imagination and creativity on the part of the students and was a great ensemble piece. While I facilitated the rehearsals, the ideas about how to perform them, what to emphasise and how to illustrate it all came from the students. The students engaged fully and conducted extra rehearsals on their own to really get to grips with the piece. The script was rearranged and cut, new pieces were added to better illustrate each story, the students asked questions about the stories and about immigration issues, and they received extra performance training.

How much they had really thought about it became very clear throughout the Q&A after the performance. Questions that could have been deferred to the panel of researchers were in fact eloquently and confidently handled by the students themselves. They showed they had really engaged with the migration debates and had considerable insights into the issues faced by undocumented young people. They were enthusiastic about how much they had learned and the longer term impact of the experience. They commented on how little they had known or thought about immigration outside the terms of the press coverage and, as one student noted: “in the news it’s always about being for or against immigration, and that’s not helpful. It’s about people.”

When asked how much they knew about the individuals whose stories they were recounting one student answered: “It’s not about one person, about one person’s story It’s about the larger group, these are representations”. However, it also became clear that giving the students this insight into the stories of individuals has started an interest and awareness that the students will be unlikely to forget. One audience member asked if we were able to show this to politicians. However, politicians are not the only source of change and there is an important argument for playing the long-term game, as Bridget Anderson states, rather going straight to policy-makers. Creating awareness among youth and local communities has the potential to trickle into impact further down the line.

Using the medium: theatre as an experience

Using theatre as a medium creates an alternative space for exploration and dissemination, especially for sensitive and politicized issues such as migration. In this project it gives the students an opportunity to deal with real experiences rather than an abstract academic argument. On a more general note there is immediacy to theatre that is rare in other mediums. Theatre is about being in the moment, suspending disbelief and believing that you are seeing real people. This creates a connectedness that is impossible to convey through an academic lecture or traditional media. In our pub post performance discussion, Mikal Ann Mast, PR & Communications Officer at COMPAS, pointed out “Media can occasionally tell individual stories but theatre brings them to life”. Professor Bridget Anderson, COMPAS Research Director, added “it becomes about imagination and understanding to develop characters and stories as well as facts and data”. As one audience member put it,  “through using theatre the students seem to be given a direct experience rather than a removed experience”, they become first hand storytellers rather than third party observers.

Many audience members found the performance “powerful”. I believe this came not only from the nature of the source material but also because the students took ownership of how the stories were presented, aware of how different human stories can be. One student talked about how she became conscious of how much choice she has in her life, another described how moved she was when considering the situation of undocumented children born in the UK who only discover their status when turning 18 “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be told ‘you don’t belong here’ when I’ve lived here all my life”.
This was a unique experience for the students but equally we were thrilled to discover how well they engaged with important issues that have been long debated. These issues will continue to be problematic, particularly in the run up to the general election when the debate about migration is increasingly negative, polarized, and dehumanizing. As stated by one student, talking about both the debate and the individual experience “There is a common theme here, and that is….it’s hard. It’s really hard.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment