South-South Migration Hub kicks off in Accra, Ghana

Cambodia-Thailand border: Hundreds of migrant workers from Cambodia cross the border into Thailand everydayPhoto credit: Mohammed Muse

Last month marked the official start of the UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub in Accra, Ghana. The five-year Hub is currently one of the largest migration research projects in the world. With a grant of £20 million, the Project is funded under the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

The Hub aims to generate new evidence to inform policies that maximise the ability of South-South migration – or the movement of people between developing countries (Ethiopia to South Africa, for example) – to reduce existing socio-economic inequality, while reshaping media, political and public discourse on international migration.

International migration is one of the defining issues of this century. In regions such as Europe and Northern America, immigration – particularly the arrival of people from less economically developed countries – is a highly divisive and polarizing issue.

Media coverage of the subject continues to be dominated by stories of people moving from developing to developed countries. That’s despite the fact that migration between the countries of the Global South accounts for nearly half of all international migration, 70% in some places.

Academic research has not escaped the frenzy, either, with most research outputs focusing on migration from the global South to the global North.

While the focus on migration from developing to developed regions is undeniably important, it overlooks the more accurate picture of global migration. And so, South-South migration, whose volume well exceeds migration from the global South to the global North, attracts scant attention.

In Latin America, over half of all international migrants were born in the same region. Similarly, in Africa and Asia, 80 per cent of international migrants move within the region in which they were born.

Media coverage and migration research currently fail to reflect the realities these figures highlight, feeding the perception that most international migrants from the global South live in the global North, while perpetuating the notion that countries such as those in Europe are being ‘invaded’ by migrants.

Importantly, the dearth of information on South-South migration means that knowledge on the challenges and opportunities associated with this kind of migration is limited, stifling the ability of policy makers to devise effective migration policies.

The South-South Migration Hub aims to address this disparity. In addition to rebalancing debates on international migration, the project intends to produce new evidence and knowledge. As the Hub’s director, Coventry University Professor Heaven Crawley explains, the project seeks “to contribute to broader processes of social, economic and political change which benefit households, communities and countries and which reduce inequalities at the local, regional and global levels.”

The Hub’s research will cover 12 countries across multiple regions, including Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean. Research will focus on six ‘corridors’ of migration; China-Ghana, Egypt-Jordan, Ethiopia-South Africa, Haiti-Brazil, Burkina-Faso-Cote d’Ivoire and Nepal-Malaysia. Academics from various fields, international organizations, policy makers, among others are involved in the Hub’s work.

IOM will work alongside the Hub as a project partner and will play a key role in the dissemination and promotion of research outputs from the Project. IOM also participated in the Hub’s inception workshop in Accra, with the event bringing together over 40 project partners to lay the foundations for the Hub’s work. The four-day workshop covered areas such as research ethics, data management, the project’s communications strategy, research themes and topics for each of the corridors, the Hub’s governance structure, among others.

As migration between developing countries continues to increase, the need to understand the issues and dynamics of South-South migration has never been more urgent. The South-South Migration Hub is a long overdue project, which will contribute to a more pluralistic and accurate picture of the movement of people across the globe.

Written by Adrian Kitimbo, Migration Policy Research, IOM

Want to find out more? Find out the latest on the Hub’s work by following #SouthSouthmigration on Twitter.