The Everyday Integration of Migrants in the Absence of Policy: some African examples

Dr. Oliver Bakewell, International Migration Institute

Much of the analysis of international migration focuses on the interaction between the migrants and the destination state, in particular its policies on immigration, integration and the settlement of migrants. International migration is widely associated with an increase in migrants’ vulnerability to economic and social exploitation, political repression and even violence. The integration of migrants into the destination society is seen as a crucial step for reducing this vulnerability. While it may be appropriate to focus on state policies in the case of highly developed states – where the administration reaches into nearly every corner of life – it must be questioned in poorer regions of the world, where the capacity of the state may be very limited, especially in remote border regions. Many countries in developing regions have very limited policies on migration and the gaps between policy and practice may be enormous. Drawing on research in Zambia, the African Great Lakes and Morocco, this paper looks at the way different sets of migrants have integrated themselves, either in the absence of or contrary to government policies. By establishing economic, social and cultural links with local residents, different sets of immigrants have been able to establish a place in the society, even to the extent of gaining effective citizenship. It may prove politically impossible for many poorer states to adopt more liberal notions of integration. Nonetheless, it is important to analyse the processes of everyday integration that are continuing regardless. The paper argues that the complex mix of interests and negotiations which might be agreed below the level of the state – perhaps invisible to the state – may in practice, have much more significance for the lives of migrants than the best efforts of states or international organisations.

About the speaker
Dr. Oliver Bakewell’s holds a PhD and MSc in Development Studies from the University of Bath and a BA in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. He has spent many years working with migrants and refugees as both a researcher and practitioner with a range of development and humanitarian NGOs. Currently, he is Co-Director of the International Migration Institute. He is the principal investigator for the project Theorising the Evolution of European Migration Systems (THEMIS) funded by NORFACE. He is also leading research into the formation of African diasporas within the African continent as part of the Oxford Diasporas Programme. In addition, he is undertaking ongoing research into the changing patterns of cross-border movements between Angola and western Zambia from the mid 1990s to today. Oliver Bakewell’s research is centered on the changing relationship between migration, diasporas and global development. He has published several books and many articles and book chapters. For more see

Venue: Conference room

Date: 27 February 2014

Time: 12:30 - 13:30  CEST