Scientist says migration policies should be evidence-based
At FAPESP Week London, Paul Statham of the University of Sussex stated that migration policies are highly restrictive because they are driven by domestic politics and not by understandings based on the facts.
By Heitor Shimizu, in London | Agência FAPESP – The study of human migration has seen enormous changes and growth over the last 30 years. According to the assessment of Paul Statham (photo), director of the Sussex Centre for Migration Research at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, one of the reasons for this is that migration and ethnic relations are at the core of global societal change.
Statham talked about the subject on February 12, 2019 during FAPESP Week London, a symposium held at the Royal Society in London.
“Migration has become the lens through which people see the world and perceive that it is changing. And this can be a good thing in cases of humanitarian responses, for example, when people are displaced from their homes because of conflicts. But it can be bad when it involves reactionary populist politics, which shape the way we see the world and leads to things like banning Muslims or building walls,” Statham said.
Migration and ethnic relations are also becoming more important, according to the researcher. “This is because the issues of mobility and the increasing cultural and ethnic diversity this brings are now seen as important challenges to states, legal systems and how people live with one another.”
Statham, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, presented the finds of studies carried out by his group in the United Kingdom with immigrants from different countries and ethnic backgrounds.
“We noted that migration policies are highly restrictive because they are driven by domestic politics and not an understanding based on why people decide to move to countries that are wealthier or safer,” he said.
“Countries that receive migrants most often adopt short-term policies to handle the problem. They do this to get media attention, but the results often have unwanted long-term consequences,” he added.
The researcher emphasized that governments employ migration policies based on assumptions not supported by evidence. For example, politicians in wealthier countries – that receive people from poorer countries or those experiencing conflicts – think that most of the people moving from Africa go to Europe. “But the fact is that 66% move to other African countries,” he said.
Another common assumption in countries that receive migrants is that most migrants want to stay permanently. Statham says, however, that most migrants would like to return to their country of origin.
“We need policies based on factual and regionally nuanced understandings of the global migratory process. We need to hold public debates about the humanitarian obligations, immigrant needs and development responsibilities of wealthier countries,” he said.
“If politicized rhetoric driven by fear of the globalization process defines our migration policies, then the policies will lose their ability to address the world’s actual problems fairly and reasonably. We will lose the benefits of migration and migrants will lose their life chances and in many cases, their lives,” said Statham.
The researcher pointed out that the Centre for Migration Research of the University of Sussex is open to international collaboration with Brazilian researchers. For more information about the center, visit: www.sussex.ac.uk/migration.
Read more about FAPESP Week London at: www.fapesp.br/week2019/london.
Photo credit: Heitor Shimizu/ Agência FAPESP