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The Future of Mixed Migration: MMC launches the Mixed Migration Review 2019

What does the future hold for migration, refugees, mixed migration and irregular mobility? How will the issues of displacement and forced migration be affected by inequality, poor governance, environmental stressors and the international community’s response to these challenges?

This annual publication is the second of its kind from the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC). This year the overarching focus is the future of mixed migration, analysed through the lens of topics such as climate change, artificial intelligence, economics, securitisation, demography, politics and multilateralism. It offers a detailed analysis of the nexus between impending global developments and human mobility.

The report builds upon the MMC’s unique 4Mi data set. Over the past year, MMC again conducted approximately 10,000 in-depth structured interviews with refugees and migrants, offering a rich insight into the experiences of people on the move. The MMR2019 provides key updates from these interviews on protection incidents, perpetrators of violence, drivers of migration, destination intentions, the use of smugglers and more. It provides a stark and concerning global overview of the extent to which refugees and migrants continue to witness death and experience or witness physical and sexual violence during migration journeys across the globe.

In a new feature, the MMR2019 also includes individual migration stories – brought to us through our network of 120 monitors on the ground.

“Even though we also present data and numbers, we feel it’s very important to bring to life the real-world experiences that tend to be overlooked in much of the data-heavy and remote coverage of migration” says Bram Frouws, Head of the Mixed Migration Centre in Geneva.

Breaking the dialogues of the deaf

The remainder of the report focuses on the future.

“As MMC we believe this focus is important because it enables us to take a step back and create a bit of distance from the “here and now”, says Bram Frouws.

“We hope this helps to break the “dialogues of the deaf” that increasingly characterise migration debates. We also believe that in a field that is characterised by fast-changing dynamics, constant media, public and political attention, and considerable societal impact, it is particularly important to reflect soberly on possible future developments in order to better anticipate challenges and thereby contribute to more rational and smarter migration policies.”

Rich pickings and missed opportunities

The report describes how the political energy and financial costs associated with keeping migrants and refugees out of countries (and their labour markets) is increasing rapidly every year. Meanwhile, irregular migrants and refugees collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually on smugglers. At the same time, destination countries spend billions subsidising or otherwise protecting strategic sectors such as agriculture, making it difficult for businesses in origin countries to compete, resulting in fewer jobs and more migration, much of it entailing deadly perils en route.

“This approach is irrational and inefficient. It is clear governments and societies need to find smarter and safer migration pathways”, says Bram Frouws.

Climate change and migration

The report also discusses climate change and migration, while not falling prey to the imprecise – and often alarmist – estimations about the number of people who might move due to environmental reasons.

“We argue that the nexus between the environment and mixed migration demands attention for two primary reasons: First, climate change and environmental stressors affecting human populations and mobility are already well underway and set to intensify. Second, the legal status and rights of those displaced by environmental factors are so unclear and contested that this lack of status and poverty of options may force many into mixed migratory irregularity and increased vulnerability, while potentially creating significant humanitarian crises for those displaced”, says Bram Frouws.

Securitised conditions

The report shows how migrants and refugees in mixed migration flows face securitised conditions at every stage of their journey – at origin, in transit and in destination.

“This endangers refugees and migrants, leading them to take more dangerous routes and become more dependent on smugglers. It may also lead to increased involuntary immobility: large groups of stranded refugees and migrants, and accompanying humanitarian crises”, says Bram Frouws.

“This in turn risks exacerbating insecurity and political instability, further feeding legitimacy for securitisation and yet more irregular migration”, he adds

Politics and normalisation of the extreme

The MMR2019 provides a long list of examples in what we label a ‘normalisation of the extreme’.

“We see a normalization of migration policies and actions that would have been considered extreme a decade ago. This is very concerning. What will be considered politically acceptable in ten or twenty years’ time?”, asks Bram Frouws.

The report discusses the major impact of irregular mixed migration on domestic and international politics, how the saliency of migration has been providing fuel to populist and nationalist politics, thriving and capitalising on chaos and distorting the debate as well as the rise of so-called migration diplomacy; migration as a powerful bargaining tool in negotiations between states.

“Given the likelihood that migration will only increase in its importance to states and their policymakers in the coming decades, the salience of migration diplomacy is set to increase”, says Bram Frouws.

Stocktaking of international vows

The report discusses whether – given all these trends – the discussions on international agreements such as the Global Refugee and Migration Compacts, and their professed political commitment to solidarity, cooperation and responsibility-sharing, are not too idealistic.

“These multilateral agreements may indeed be somewhat idealistic and detached from everyday reality, yet as MMC we strongly believe in multilateral, positive and progressive approaches to the issues of migration and displacement. We therefore also conclude the report with a stocktaking of what has happened so far, globally, regionally and nationally, 10 months since the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, to ensure we keep the momentum”, concludes Bram Frouws.

Download the full Mixed Migration Review 2019 here.


The second publication of the annual Mixed Migration Review by the Mixed Migration Centre offers updates on global mixed migration trends and policy events while examining future trends and expectations in a wide range of sectors and their impact on mixed migration. The Keeping track and Managing flows sections respectively set out the year’s key mixed migration trends across the globe and summarise selected policy and legislative developments. A series of essays explore the potential effects of change within a broad range of areas, such as demography, climate, securitisation, multilateralism, artificial intelligence (AI), economics and the labour market. The report also includes a series of interviews with migration experts, policy makers and academics. The report is based on a wide range of research as well as exclusive access to 4Mi data from over 10,000 interviews with refugees and migrants in over fifteen countries. New sections include individual migration stories selected from thousands of 4Mi interviews conducted around the globe, an overview of the normalisation of extreme migration policies and actions and a briefing on the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The report does not offer one-size-fits-all solutions or simple conclusions, but rather raises many difficult questions and treats the mixed migration phenomenon with the complexity it deserves. By offering a platform for debate and different voices, with this report the MMC aims to contribute to a more rational and less politicised analysis of mixed migration.