As domestic solutions falter, the migration and Syrian refugee crisis has been propelled to the top of the European Union foreign policy agenda. The EU will expand cooperation at the highest level with countries along major migration routes, with a likely emphasis on border control and returns.
But the EU has been here before, spending nearly two decades squeezing smuggling routes from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Aegean Sea. Reliance on law enforcement did little to prevent previous migration crises, and risks undermining rights-based foreign and international development instruments. To make migration policy both effective in its aim to reduce irregular migration flows and compatible with the EU’s broader foreign interests, we need a deepened understanding of the experiences and behaviours of irregular migrants themselves.
Why do ‘push factors’ such as conflict or mass unemployment lead some to migrate and not others? How do migrants plan, finance, and time their journeys? Which information sources are most influential on their perceptions and choices? Answers to these questions can help us move from coercion towards coherence in Europe’s migration (and development) policies. A new migration research project from Seefar aims to address these questions by generating insights into the decision-making process of individual migrants.
From 2016-2020, Seefar will collect longitudinal data from cohorts of people planning irregular migration journeys to the European Union and other Western destinations to work out why some decide to move, how they arrive at that decision, and what happens afterwards. This research builds on our ongoing longitudinal studies in Iran and the region – see our reports on Iranian irregular migration to the UK and Australia, for example – adding Afghans in 2016 and preparing cohorts in the region and beyond throughout.