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Patterns of (Forced) Migration

Migration is one of the most prominent social, political and economic questions of our time. The most recent figures from UNHCR show that over 68 million people are currently forcibly displaced, often fleeing war and conflict, political repression, colonial occupation, and 

‘natural’ disasters, many of which are induced by climate breakdown. Contrary to popular Eurocentric rhetoric, most people who are experiencing displacement live and stay in the Global South, with the majority displaced within their own country. While these statistics denote those ‘forcibly’ displaced, researchers are increasingly questioning the distinction between ‘forced’ and ‘voluntary’ migration. They recognise that many of the almost 250 million people who live outside of their country of birth make migration decisions for multiple, interlocking reasons, embedded in and affected by local, national, regional and international interrelations, institutions, social networks and technologies. Many ‘economic migrants’ are forced to flee due to extreme poverty, while many ‘forced migrants’ become integrated in the economies of their host states.

Accordingly, ABI researchers within this cluster focus on different forms of migration, whether officially labelled as ‘forced,’ ‘voluntary,’ ‘regular,’ or ‘irregular,’ while at the same time questioning these labels, for example by interrogating the ‘voluntariness’ of movements from, within and back to countries of origin. They aim to understand the different forms, causes and consequences of migration within different contexts, and the varied state and non-state responses to the movement of peoples. A key objective of our research is to discern patterns of (forced) migration in, from and back to the Global South at different levels of abstraction. From a macro perspective, ABI researchers study the migration governance of countries hosting ‘refugees’ and ‘economic migrants’ by examining international, state, and non-state actors’ responses. At a meso-level, researchers are interested in understanding the relationship between displacement, migration and conflict. From a micro perspective, with an awareness that the agency of refugees and migrants is often erased, the cluster considers the motivations and perspectives of people on the move, and how they survive, mobilise, and resist the policies to which they are subject.

Contact: Franzisca Zanker



The Paradoxes of Privileged Mobility: Hope and Waiting among Turkish Migrant Doctors in Contemporary Germany

Pandemic (Im)mobility: COVID-19 and Migrant Communities in the Global South

Transnational Skills Partnerships between Ghana and North Rhine-Westphalia

Displacement in Africa: The Politics and Stakeholders of Migration Governance

Global Asylum Governance and European Union's Role" (ASILE)

The Political Economy of West African Migration Governance (WAMiG)

MIASA IFG 1: The role of non-state actors in transnational and regional migration governance


PhD Research

Structure and Agency in Return Migration. Assisted return to the Gambia and its socio-political effects (Working title, Judith Altrogge)

The Senegalese Migrant Smuggling Governscape: Europe’s “fight against smuggling” and everyday mobility governance in Senegal (Working Title, Leonie Jegen)

The Making of Municipal Responses to the Presence of Syrian Refugees in Turkey (Working title, Dilshad Muhammad)

Resettlement and Migration as Adaptation to Coastal Erosion and Inundation in the Ghanaian Volta River Delta (Working Title, Friedrich Neu)

The European Union borders beyond the European continent: an analysis of the European politics of immigration and asylum through the agreements with "safe third countries" (Working Title, Ingrid Pavezi)

Violence and insecurity in spaces of migration and displacement - struggles, dynamics and consequence (Cita Wetterich, completed in 2024)

Disaster and Urban Disorder in Sub-Saharan Africa – An Analysis under the Impression of Climate Change (Erik Plänitz,completed in 2020)

Publications (selection)

Arhin-Sam, Kwaku; Bisong, Amanda; Jegen, Leonie; Mounkaila, Harouna; Zanker Franzisca (2022) The (In)Formality of Mobility in the ECOWAS Region: The Paradoxes of Free Movement, in: South African Journal of International Affairs, 29 (2), pp. 187-205.

Lambert, Laura (2022): Changing the Administration from Within.Criticism and Compliance by Junior Bureaucrats in Niger's Refugee Directorate, In: International Journal of Law in Context, pp. 1- 14.

Missbach, Antje (2022): The Criminalisation of People Smuggling in Indonesia and Australia. Asylum out of Reach. London, Routledge.

Moyo, Khangelani; Sebba, Kalyango Ronald; Zanker Franzisca (2021): Who Is Watching? Refugee Protection during a Pandemic - Responses from Uganda and South Africa, In: Comparative Migration Studies, 9, 37, pp. 1-19

Neu, Friedrich Nikolaus; Fünfgeld, Hartmut (2022): Political Ecologies of Resettlement in River Deltas, in: Geography Compass, pp. 1-35. 

Pavezi, Ingrid Berns (2021): Refugees: Status and Rights. In: Leal Filho W., Azul A.M., Brandli L., Lange Salvia A., Özuyar P.G., Wall T. (eds) No Poverty. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.

Stambøl, Eva Magdalena; Jegen, Leonie (2022): Colonial Continuities and the Commodification of Mobility Policing: French Civipol in West Africa, in: Postcoloniality and Forced Migration: Mobility, Control, Agency, ed. by Lemberg-Pedersen, Martin; Sharla M. Fett, Mayblin, Lucy, Nina Sahraoui and Eva Magdalena Stambøl, pp.76-92.

Rother, Stefan (2022): Global Migration Governance from Below: Actors, Spaces, Discourses. Palgrave Macmillan.

Turner, Lewis (2020): #Refugees Can Be Entrepreneurs too!’ Humanitarianism, Race, and the Marketing of Syrian Refugees, in: Review of International Studies, 46(1), pp. 137-155.

Wetterich, Cita (2022): Search and Rescue Ships as Exceptional Spaces in the Mediterranean: Navigating Emergencies, Threats and Governmental Actions, in: Journal of Intercultural Studies, Online First.

Willers, Susanne (2022): Negotiating Survival: Central American Refugee Women in Mexico and the Politics of Deservingness, in: Social Inclusion, Online First.


Public Outreach (selection)

Clara Taxis, EU Asylum-Reform: The Myth of the ‘Safe Third Countries’, dis:orient, 16th June 2023

Laura Lambert, Zwischen Abenteuer, Risiko und Überleben. Westafrikanische Perspektiven auf Migration. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 14 October 2022 (in German).

Franzisca Zanker, Amanda Bisong and Leonie Jegen: Free Movement in West Africa: the Culture of Mobility still Matters despite Challenges. The Conversation, 29 August 2022.

Ulrike Krause, Nadine Segadlo and Franzisca Zanker Forschungen zur Situation in afrikanischen Flüchtlingscamps, Interview Deutschlandfunk Kultur, 11 November 2021 (in German).

Cita Wetterich and Dilshad Muhammad, Broadcasting Early Career Voices in Forced Migration Research, Student Special Issue, November 2020.

Stefan Rother, International Labour Migration and Covid-19,Video Podcast Uni Freiburg, November 2020.

Khangelani Moyo and Franzisca Zanker, South Africa’s xenophobic agenda is impeding its coronavirus response , African Arguments, April 2020.

Antje Missbach and Franzisca Zanker, The tiny African country making a big case against Myanmar, The Lowy Institute, February 2020.

Lewis Turner, Three Years of the Jordan Compact: The (Gendered) Challenges of Providing Work Permits for Syrian Refugees, LSE Middle East Centre Blog, July 2019.


Cluster events (selection)

De-centring and Contesting Externalisation in West Africa and Beyond. Workshop. SOAS, London, 19-20 September 2022.

African Forced Migration Research in Germany, Freiburg, 11 June 2022.

Critical Reflections on Afro-European Migration Governance, Lecture Series, September - November 2021.

Pandemic (Im)mobility: COVID-19 and Migrant Communities in the Global South, 28 April 2021.

Presidential Regulation No 125 of 2016 on the Treatment of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia: Opportunities and Challenges, Universitas Indonesia, Depok, 20 - 21 March 2019.

WAMIG Dissemination Events: Banjul, Gambia 4 July 2019; Abuja, Nigeria 8 July 2019; Niamey, Niger 18 September 2019; Dakar, Senegal, 26 November 2019.

MIASA Interdisciplinary Fellows Group on Migration, Mobility and Forced Displacement Closing Conference, University of Ghana, 23 - 24 May 2019.

Housing and Integrating Refugees: Innovative Best Practices from around the Globe; Freiburg, 12 - 13 April 2018.


Public lectures (selection)

Mobility as a Way of Life: African Interests in EU-African Migration Governance, Vilnius University, 25 November 2021 (Franzisca Zanker)

The Masculinities of Humanitarianism: Gendering Humanitarian Policy and Practice, Amsterdam University, 27 February 2020 (Lewis Turner)

Der „Migrationspakt“ der Vereinten Nationen: Eine globale Antwort auf eine globale Herausforderung? Urania Berlin, 21 January 2019 (Stefan Rother)

State-sanctioned Smuggling of Asylum Seekers back to Indonesia? Illegality within Australia's Border Protection and Deterrence Strategies, Forschungskolloquium Ethnologie, Universität, Luzern, 31 October 2018 (Antje Missbach)


Conference Presentations (selection)

Migration Enforcement and COVID-19 Pandemic in the North American Migration Corridor: Mexico as Site of Refuge, Transit and Forced (Im-)mobility. Conference of the Forced Migration Studies Network. Chemnitz, 28 September 2022. (Susanne Willers)

The future of migration research: Centering African scholarship, VAD Konferenz Africa-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives, Freiburg, 10 June 2022 (Roundtable with Rose Jaji, Basile Ndjio, Azakhiwe Nocanda-Höhling, Khangelani Moyo und Franzisca Zanker)

The Post-return Knowledge Gap – Epistemological Implications and Featured Realities. VAD Konferenz Africa-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives, Freiburg, 9 June 2022 (panel by Judith Altrogge and Kwaku Arhin-Sam).

Scrutinizing Practices of Adaptation to Coastal Environmental Changes within Ghana’s Volta River Delta. VAD Konferenz Africa-Europe: Reciprocal Perspectives, Freiburg, 06 June 2022 (Friedrich Neu)

Extraterritorial Processing. The Libya-Niger Emergency Transit Mechanism. Annual Conference of the Refugee Law Initiative. School of Advanced Studies, University of London, 30 June 2022 (Laura Lambert)

Search and Rescue Ships as Exceptional Spaces in the Mediterranean, NGOS/CSOS, migration management and border control conference Universite Sorbonne, 15-16 March 2021 (Cita Wetterich)

Participatory Research In Forced Migration Research, 3. Konferenz des Netzwerks Fluchtforschung, Online, 17 September 2020 (Roundtable With Antje Missbach und Franzisca Zanker)