Governing migration without data and knowledge is like walking in the dark. And in a region like North Africa where complex, intertwined migration trends and routes co-exist and all stakeholders are realizing the need to manage migration seriously, scholars are playing an increasing role in producing knowledge and advising on policies.
In the latest effort to boost this role, the Mixed Migration Hub (MHub) – a knowledge hub and secretariat for the North Africa Mixed Migration Task Force (NAMMTF) that brings together UN agencies and NGOs working on mixed migration issues in the region – partnered with The American University in Cairo’s Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) – an interdisciplinary think tank working on migrants and refugees’ issues – to establish the Network of Scholars on Mixed Migration in North Africa last summer.
MHub talked to leading expert on population and migration studies from Egypt and a member of the network, Dr. Ayman Zohry, to discuss the new network and the contribution of migration scholars in the region recently.
The network, a platform through which scholars can share and exchange data, research and experiences and embark on projects, is an “important” addition, according to Dr. Zohry.
“It is important to have this network of scholars to study the phenomenon of mixed migration and to theorize about it and to put the foundations of the term mixed migration in order to develop the policies related to mixed migration in North Africa,” Dr. Zohry said in an interview from Cairo.
“Network means exchanging of ideas, views, news and resources on academic and beyond-academic issues. It is very important also to maximize its benefit,” he added.
The main objective of the network is to advance research on mixed migration and push forward academic debates on the issues of mixed migration and provide advice to policymakers. It is multi-disciplinary in nature encompassing scholars from different disciplines from North Africa and in a later stage to be extended to other academics working on mixed migration in North Africa.
Scholars produced five policy briefs focusing on the European Union borders externalization policies and its impact on North African countries, the concept of mixed migration and its manifestations, and its legal impact on North Africa, methodological approach to data collection on mixed migration and the network’s recommendations for data collection policies that North African countries should take into consideration and COVID-19 and how North African countries dealt with mixed migration flows and migrants who stayed in the region during the pandemic.
“I co-produced one of the policy briefs, they are very helpful and when we wrote them, we wanted to make sure they aren’t that dry so that they can be understood and disseminated to policy makers and practitioners easily and I believe they will have an impact on migration policies, especially mixed migration,” said Dr. Zohry.
However, as new platforms become available for academics, they mention the need for more facilitation of their field work and data collection.
“The main research gaps are based on the data gaps, so if we have data, we can produce everything. The first objective of the GCM is collecting data and when you go to the field in many cases you aren’t allowed to collect data so how can you fulfill the first objective of the GCM,” said Dr. Zohry.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), NAMMTF in coordination with the UN Network on Migration (UNNM) organized a consultation session dedicated to academia in June ahead of the GCM Africa regional review in August/September. Academia also participated in the GCM Arab regional review at the beginning of 2021.
Recommendations presented by participating academics during both reviews are going to feed into the International Migration Review Forum to be held in May 2022.
“We managed to introduce our recommendations to the GCM review, and we also learnt about the different concerns and achievements of other stakeholders in the field. Talking about myself and my colleagues as well, I believe the participation of academia was really good,” said Dr. Zohry.