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An expert voice on migration and displacement

It’s easy to feel helpless as we watch refugees and migrants staking everything – even their lives – on the chance of a better future. ODI is working towards better ways to manage human mobility by providing an understanding of why people take such risks, challenging myths and misconceptions. By drawing on decades of experience in international development and humanitarian action, as well as the experiences of people on the move, we reveal the reality of displacement and migration. We have become an influential voice on these issues, from the crises of the past year to longterm, global solutions.

Our paper, Protracted displacement: uncertain paths to self-reliance in exile, found that most displaced people stay in their own countries, and that more than half come from just five: Syria, Colombia, historic Palestine, Sudan and Iraq.

Our analysis of migration to Europe found that many EU member states have toughened border controls to deter migrants and refugees. But has this stopped people getting on boats to Europe? We assessed the evidence in our December 2015 paper, Why people move: understanding the drivers and trends of migration to Europe.

People move because it is their best – and sometimes only – option.

We also had conversations with 52 new arrivals in Europe from Eritrea, Senegal and Syria on why they left their homes and their experiences during their journeys. Their views informed our report, Journeys to Europe: the role of policy in migrant decision-making, which confirmed that people move because it is their best – and sometimes only – option. Their decisions are shaped by those they know and trust, rather than the policies of far-off European governments, while draconian antimigration measures have little impact on migration and refugee flows – they simply divert people to other countries.

These conversations inspired our first comic, Fleeing into the unknown: a journey from Eritrea to England: the story of Merha who escapes conscription in Eritrea and journeys across Africa to the UK in search of safety and a better life. This was launched, alongside Journeys to Europe, by Peter Sutherland, Special Representative of the Secretary General for International Migration in February 2016.

As a result of our evidence-based analysis, we have become regular contributors to migration stories on major news channels, including the BBC World Service, Sky News, Al Jazeera and Channel 4. We also advise key players across the UK Government and the European Union, and will be working to influence the UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.

Our work has confirmed the need for collective action to make journeys safer, build better asylum systems, and make the most of migration’s social and economic potential. This will remain a priority for us in 2016 and 2017.  

Marta Foresti, Managing Director