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Reframing mixed migration: MMC launches the Mixed Migration Review 2021

The global migration context is rapidly changing with new conflicts and coups, new public health threats, new levels of environmental stress and changing perceptions around human mobility. Against that backdrop, migration policies, actions and attitudes are becoming more and more extreme, according to the 2021 edition of the Mixed Migration Review, the annual publication by the Mixed Migration Centre (MMC) of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC).

Climate change, migration and immobility

With COP26 in Glasgow just behind us, the report includes a strong focus on climate change and human mobility, providing more accurate pictures of what mobility may look like in a climate changed world, inclusive of a spectrum of (im)mobility, rather than distinguishing forced from voluntary migration, or internal from international migration.

“In the run-up to COP26, we’ve unfortunately seen many factually incorrect and irresponsible statements, warning for mass migration as a result of climate change and using a fear of migration to mobilise climate action. However, the assumed direct link between climate change and human mobility is not clear, future prognosis is ambiguous, most movement as a result of climate change is internal and short distance, migration is not always evidence of a failure to adapt, it can be a sign of adaptation, and we should not forget about those not even able to move, in response to climate threats, who are often the most vulnerable,” says Bram Frouws, director of MMC.

Covid 19 and future mobility

The Covid-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have a strong impact on human mobility, both in the short term and in the longer term, though it will depend on a range of factors which are explored in the report.

“The growth of automation and the impact on demand for migrant labour, changing urbanisation and settlement patterns, the impact on public sentiments towards migration and foreigners, vaccine inequality - impacting on both people’s ability to move, and on the speed of economic recovery - the extent to which measures restricting mobility remain in place after the immediate risk of the pandemic decreases, all of this and much more will continue to have a long lasting impact on human mobility”, says Bram Frouws.

For refugees and displaced persons, the pandemic has had an enormously negative impact on livelihoods, coping mechanisms and the root causes for forced displacement.

“The impact of the Covid-19 crisis is exacerbating the drivers of mass displacement, such as conflict and state fragility, and eroding the capacity of major refugee hosting countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The pandemic also undermines the survival strategies of many refugees in camps and cities around the world, and many have lost their income”, says Charlotte Slente, Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council.

The unexpected circumstances of refugees and migrants

The experiences of refugees and migrants are at the heart of the MMR, based on thousands of interviews conducted through MMC’s 4Mi global data collection programme. The visualisations focus on two themes fundamental to the mixed migration phenomenon: why people decide to leave their countries of origin (drivers) and the role of human smuggling in the facilitating of the often irregular journeys. In addition to the data, the report also includes the individual, human stories of refugees and migrants in cities as diverse as Bamako, Barranquilla, Bossaso, Jakarta and Khartoum, offering vivid examples of the unexpected circumstances and many twists and turns in people’s migration journeys.

“The report offers a window into the lived realities of women, men and children whose safety and aspirations are directly affected by migration policies and practices. It provides in-depth understanding of the circumstances and needs of people on the move, showing that, for example, almost all people have multiple reasons for leaving, most did not see any other options than migrating and their journeys are seldom straightforward journeys from A to B, but involve so many unexpected turns. We need these insights to develop dignified responses and solutions, says Charlotte Slente.

Normalising the extreme, resisting the extreme and the ballooning business of securitising migration

As every year, the MMR 2021 provides a sobering overview of what MMC has come to label as ‘normalising the extreme’: policies, actions and attitudes to mixed migration that were considered unacceptable some years ago but are becoming increasingly normalised and mainstreamed. However, for the first time the report also includes a sister feature as a necessary counterpoint, with positive and progressive actions and policies, called ‘resisting the extreme’.

“Pushbacks, deportations, preventing search and rescue; sadly, the list in our ‘normalising the extreme’ section grows longer every year. At the same time, assembling a list with positive examples has proven to be more of a challenge. This remains extremely concerning and should be a wake-up call”, says Bram Frouws.

The critical development in Afghanistan has also shed light on some of these policies – and not least Europe’s quest in trying to keep refugees out.

“Authorities of EU member states have illegally prevented several thousand men, women, and children, many of whom are Afghans, from seeking protection at border crossings in Italy, Greece, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Hungary in 2021. That involved rights violations such as denial of access to asylum procedures, physical abuse and assault, and theft at the hands of national border police and law enforcement officials – including in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover in August. So, while some Afghans were flown out and evacuated, others encountered violence, theft, and sexual assault at Europe's borders. It’s a telling example of how the extreme is being normalized,” says Charlotte Slente.

Finally, the report takes a deep dive into the border-industrial complex, and the ballooning business of securitising migration and militarising borders, worth billions of dollars.

“An active private sector lobby has significant influence in shaping Europe’s border and migration policies, to the detriment of the lives and rights of refugees and migrants. And the same industry that also earns money by providing arms and security equipment for wars, repression and human rights violations, which are fuelling the reasons people are forced to flee in the first place, subsequently profit from providing the equipment and services to impede their journeys. A very cynical business model”, says Bram Frouws.

Download the report here

Note to editors

This fourth publication of the annual Mixed Migration Review by the Mixed Migration Centre offers a comprehensive annual analysis of mixed migration through the overarching lens of ‘reframing’ mixed migration. It offers updates on global mixed migration trends and policy events. The report also includes a series of interviews with migration experts, policy makers and academics. The MMR is based on a wide range of research as well as exclusive access to 4Mi data from over 7,000 interviews with refugees and migrants. The report also includes a series of in-depth interviews with refugees and migrants in selected cities. By offering a platform for debate and different voices in this report, the MMC aims to contribute to a more rational and less politicised analysis of mixed migration. The MMC is a leading source for independent and high-quality data, research, analysis and expertise on mixed migration. The MMC aims to increase understanding of mixed migration, to positively impact global and regional migration policies, to inform evidence-based protection responses for people on the move and to stimulate forward thinking in public and policy debates on mixed migration. The MMC’s overarching focus is on human rights and protection for all people on the move. MMC is part of the Danish Refugee Council, but acts as an independent source of data, research, analysis and policy development.