Research | 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.


Displacement in Africa: The Politics and Stakeholders of Migration Governance

The Political Economy of West African Migration Governance (WAMiG)

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

Institutionalisation and Agency in Return Migration: Political Concepts and Migrants’ Realities in the case of returning Gambians, PhD Judith Altrogge

Climate Change and Urban Political Violence, PhD Erik Plänitz

Violence against male refugees – patterns, factors and consequences for individuals and communities, PhD Cita Wetterich


Publications (selection)

Zanker, Franzisca/ Altrogge, Judith (2019), The Political Influence of Return: From Diaspora to Libyan Transit Returnees, in: International Migration, online first: 25th March 2019

Antje Missbach (2018), Flucht in den Knast, Welt-Sichten, November

Katharina Lenner and Lewis Turner (2018), Making refugees work? The politics of labor market integration for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Middle East Critique, online first.

Stefan Rother (2018) The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) as a venue of “state socialization”: A stepping stone for multi-layered migration governance?, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies early view

Cita Wetterich (2018), Gendered security perspectives of the refugee “crisis” in the British and German Media: a securitization of gender?, ABI Working Paper Series No.9. Freiburg.


In the media (selection)

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

Stefan Rother, Die meisten Migranten wollen nicht nach Europa (November 2018) - Frankfurter Rundschau (in German)

Stefan Rother, Neue Wege der Entwicklungspolitik (September 2018) – Scobel  (in German)

Lewis Turner, Demonising Children at US and European Borders (July 2018) – Al-Jazeera Online

Judith Altrogge, Rückkehr von Migranten nach Gambia: Die junge Demokratie darf nicht überstrapaziert werden (October 2017) – Flüchtlingsforschungsblog (in German)

Franzisca Zanker, Returning migrants to The Gambia: the political, social and economic costs (October 2017) - The Conversation


Public lectures (selection)

The political economy of West African migration governance, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), 19 July 2019 (Franzisca Zanker)

Exploring Gendered ‘Vulnerability’: Syrian Refugee Men and Humanitarianism in Urban Jordan, University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre Public Seminar, 6 March 2019 (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)


Cluster events (most recent)

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

Conference of „Netzwerks Fluchtforschung“ , Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, 4.-6th October 2018

  • Gendered Security Perspectives of the Refugee „Crisis“ in the British and German Media: A Securitization of Gender (Cita Wetterich)
  • Can Syrian Refugee Men be (recognised as) vulnerable? Humanitarian Determinations of Refugee Vulnerability (Lewis Turner)
  • Stakes of Return to the new Gambia: The „early-bird“ Returnees from Libya (Franzisca Zanker/Judith Altrogge)

Non-Africa’ Refugee Entrepreneurs: The Racialised Management and Marketing of Syrian Refugees; British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Annual Conference, London, 25-28 June 2018

Housing and integrating refugees: Innovative Best Practices From Around The Globe; Freiburg, 12. -13. April 2018

Transregional Migration, Mobility and Forced Displacement: Moving Beyond Methodological Nationalism; Jahrestagung CrossArea Verein, Freiburg, 9th -10th, November 2017