Friday, 28 October 2016

Migration Matters

While migration has become a political 'hot topic', public debates about migration have often remained remarkably fact-less. Thanks to the increase in migration research and availability of data, we know much more about the trends, causes and impacts of migration than a few decades ago. However, this knowledge does often not reach the broader public. This is highly unfortunate, since modern migration scholarship has so much to offer in order to facilitate informed debates and better, more effective policies.
Part of the blame lies with politicians, who willingly ignore inconvenient evidence that would unveil their demagoguery and unnerve their migration scaremongering and scapegoating of migrants.

All too often, the news media buy into - and thereby reinforce - the fact-free crisis narrative around migration fed to them by politicians. Many journalists fail in their basic professional duty of fact checking. A case in point is the false political claim that the EU-Turkey 'deal' on refugees has stopped refugee migration from Syria.

However, part of the blame also lies with migration researchers, who often fail to communicate their findings in clear, jargon-free language to the broader public, while research papers often remain inaccessible behind prohibitive paywalls of scientific journals. Much knowledge about migration therefore never leaves the academic ivory tower.

This is why we should highly welcome Migration Matters, a new initiative that aims to bridge the gap between evidence-based research and public debates.  Migration Matters was founded in January 2016 by four women who are connected by their distinct backgrounds in journalism and academia  yet common experiences of migration: Julia KarmoSophia Burton, Kelly Miller, and Elina Ribakova. It is entirely supported by individual donations and was recently awarded the Advocate Europe grant.

Migration Matters aims to address the public’s biggest conundrums and fears surrounding migration. This is to fulfil its ambition to approach the migration debate "as an open and evidence-based conversation, where no concern is ridiculed and no question dismissed".

Migration Matters does so by offering free, video-based courses that break down commonly held preconceptions about migration and offer nuanced and solution-oriented perspectives from leading thinkers in the field: researchers, practitioners, as well as migrants and refugees themselves.

Earlier this year, I had the honour of hosting the Migration Matters team at my home in the Amsterdam Bos & Lommer neighbourhood for the recording of a series of 10 short video lectures on various aspects of migration. These have been compiled in a "Migration 101" course. This introductory course hopefully gives a fundamental understanding of the realities surrounding today’s debate on migration. Other courses include 'Six Impossible Ideas (after Brexit)' by researchers of the London School of Economics (LSE) and 'A Migrant's View' by origin country expert Nassim Majidi, and many more are to follow.

Subscribers to courses will receive one email a day over the duration of the course with a link to a 3-5 minute video as well as hand-picked reading lists for further learning.

Given the political rhetoric about migration, the Migration Matters initiative comes at the best possible time. It is more important than ever that scientific knowledge about migration reaches the public. This is essential to enable more informed debates about migration and to see through the fear-based migration politics and reporting that fan the flames of xenophobia and do not provide any solutions.

To sign up for Migration 101 with yours truly, click here:

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