Expert workshop on irregular migration data

Published Date: 
Friday, May 26, 2017

IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre recently hosted an expert workshop, Measuring Irregular Migration: Innovative Data Practices to discuss recent practices on collecting data on irregular migration. The workshop is part of a project aimed at strengthening data analysis in the context of irregular migration to Europe, and is funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

The event represented a follow-up to a previous workshop held in Nuremberg, Germany, in 2016 focusing on the measurement of “safe migration”, also supported by DFID.

Participants included experts from academia, governments as well as international and non-governmental organizations involved in recent initiatives to improve data on undocumented migrants in various countries and on irregular migration movements, particularly in the European context.

The event also featured presentations on good practices from other regions, and a discussion of if and how these could be applied in Europe. Jeffrey Passel, Senior Demographer at the Pew Research Centre, a Washington-based “fact-tank,” delivered a keynote speech on Pew’s methodology to estimate numbers and characteristics of the unauthorized population in the US.  

The workshop represented a valuable opportunity to learn about existing tools to improve the knowledge base on irregular migration, including IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Flow Monitoring Surveys; the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) of the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat; the network-based approach used by the Risk Analysis Unit of Frontex; and the social media monitoring initiative of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Discussions also revolved around the specific risks and vulnerabilities of migrants travelling irregularly, and the access to basic services for undocumented migrants in countries of residence.

Experts participating in the event included Franck Düvell, Associate Professor at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS), University of Oxford; Georges Lemaître, formerly at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); Michelle Levoy, Director of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM); Philip Martin, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis; Nando Sigona, Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham; and Dita Vogel, Senior Researcher at the University of Bremen.

Such discussions are particularly timely in light of current preparations for a Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration to be adopted by signatories of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants next year.

“Migration targets in the Sustainable Development Goals imply the need to monitor whether migration is safe, orderly and regular and whether migrants are ‘left behind’,” said Frank Laczko, Head of IOM’s Data Analysis Centre. “The New York Declaration recognizes the importance of improved data collection, both on regular and irregular flows as well as on the needs of refugees and migrants. Assessing the extent to which migration is indeed becoming safer and more regular will require more and better data on irregular migration,” he added.

While data collection efforts have been particularly prominent in Europe in recent years, due to the relatively large increase in the numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean in 2015, irregular migration remains extremely hard to quantify for most regions of the world. Knowledge of the socio-economic profiles, needs and vulnerabilities of irregular migrants is extremely limited.

However, irregular migration is a global phenomenon, concerning richer and poorer countries alike. Participants agreed that looking at migratory movements occurring between countries in the Global South will be crucial in considering the linkages between migration and development.

Finally, discussions also concerned issues of presentation of irregular migration numbers and the political sensitivity of communicating about irregular migration. “As the international community discusses what should be included in the Global Compact on Migration, including what countries should prioritize in terms of data collection, it will be important to not only address the data needs but also how data on migration could be better presented and communicated,” concluded Laczko.