MMR 2019 cover
New Mixed Migration Review: The Future of Migration

New Mixed Migration Review: The Future of Migration

In its annual publication, the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) analyses the future of mixed migration 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, and it documents how migration policies are ‘normalising the extreme.’


The new Mixed Migration Review 2019 (MMR2019) 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 from around the globe, offering a rich insight into the experiences of people on the move, their intentions, drivers, interaction with smugglers and the risks they face.

Based on these interviews, the report provides a stark and concerning global overview of the extent to which refugees and migrants continue to witness death and witness or experience physical abuse and sexual violence during migration journeys.

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.

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.

Normalisation of the extreme

The report provides a long list of examples of what MMC labels 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 MMR2019 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”, says Bram Frouws.

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

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”, says Bram Frouws:

“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”, he says.

Politics and migration diplomacy

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 reports discuss 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”, says Bram Frouws.

“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,” he adds.

Breaking the “dialogues of the deaf”

“As MMC we believe the focus on the future of migration 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”, says Bram Frouws.

Download the report here