Monday 21 November 2016

Understanding the wellbeing of international migrants

CRFR associate director Philomena de Lima introduces her new book International Migration: the wellbeing of migrants, in which she provides a contemporary understanding of migrants and migration processes and trends with a particular focus on issues related to the wellbeing of migrants and their access to services.

Migration appears to provide a dumping ground for all that is perceived to be going wrong with society at present. It has been a focus for articulating the concerns of sections of the electorate aided by specific political interests across Europe against a background of welfare reform, poor access to services, unemployment and anxieties about national identity. This trend was reflected in the UK Brexit referendum results in June 2016, the growth of ‘far right parties’ and xenophobic discourses about migrants in the European Union (EU) and ‘contracting out’ of EU border control to ‘third countries’ such as Turkey. These external border control practices are matched by internal bordering practices; migrants’ rights to access to public services such as health, housing and education are being restricted or withdrawn and regulations regarding immigration and granting asylum are being tightened. This increases the risk of negative impacts on the physical, social, emotional and psychological, cultural and economic wellbeing of migrants.

The international migration landscape is complex and diverse, with some migrants being more welcome than others. The book provides a contemporary understanding of the complexities of international migration focusing on the potential factors impacting on the well-being of migrants throughout the migration journey.

Why focus on international migrants and their wellbeing? The wellbeing of international migrants has tended to be neglected or marginalised in public discourses and in research. The main tendency has been to promote largely ‘instrumental’ views of international migrants from the perspective of host countries. Attention is given to the economic contributions of migrants to host societies and much policy and scholarly attention is spent on how to facilitate the adaptation of migrants (‘integration’) to host societies. That migrants are human beings with similar hopes and aspirations as those of host society populations is lost amid the noise of dehumanising metaphors and emotions of being overwhelmed, which are generated in public discourses. Migrants are members of households, they are parents, children, workers, colleagues and reducing them to their migrant status not only is reductionist, but also conceals their shared interests, emotions, experiences, and concerns with host populations.

Despite the challenges and amid the hysteria about ‘floods of migrants’ arriving at European borders there are also the efforts of concerned citizens and communities supporting migrants, as well as migrants actively involved in self-organising, protesting and demanding a right to speak for themselves.

Migrant wellbeing in the book is understood as a relational process that is created and recreated throughout the migration journey – from pre-arrival to destination and all that occurs in between – and is embedded in social, economic, political and cultural processes. It requires approaches that transcend disciplinary and national boundaries and transverses policy domains.

The book provides an informative overview of international migration issues and debates for social science students, policy-makers and those wrestling on a practical level with the implications of migration.

International Migration: the wellbeing of migrants is published by Dunedin Academic Press and is available to purchase on their website.

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