Summary report: Online Workshop on ‘Challenges and Priorities of migration research in the Global North and South’

Organized jointly by Dr. Bilisuma Dito (Maastricht University, Netherlands), Niklas Mayer (Maastricht University & Wolaita Sodo University) and Dr. Tagesse Melketo (Wolaita Sodo University, Ethiopia), with support of DAMR.

On 20 May 2022, our online workshop discussed different challenges and priorities of migration research in the Global North and the Global South. Due to the interactive nature of many of the program points – including group exercises and breakout room discussions – we networked and exchanged contact information with other migration researchers around the world. In this regard, the online workshop was a successful step to bring together migration researchers from different regions of the world, to learn from each other, to explore opportunities for collaboration, to share best-practice examples, and to make migration research more collaborative and inclusive.


The participants included approximately 70 migration researchers from both academic and policy backgrounds from countries from around the world. The map below shows the origin countries of the host institutions of the participants. The peak participation was reached during the panel-discussion (45 participants).


The Panel-Discussion, moderated by Dr. Bilisuma Dito, involved four panellists to discuss migration education, research, and the link between research and policy in the context of the Global South and North.

The Ethiopian panelists Dr. Meron (Associate Professor of Anthropology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) and Dr. Alemayehu (Vice president, Ethiopia Civil Service University) shared that migration research, education, and training in their country remains fragmented and underdeveloped, despite migration being a topic of interest for policymakers, researchers, and students. Dr. Rachel Bennet (Senior Lecturer, University of Gloucestershire, UK) and Dr. Karlijn Haagsman (Assistant Professor, Maastricht University, the Netherlands) outlined that many migration programs and degrees are available in the UK and the Netherlands but at the same time the research focus is often limited to international migration to the Global North. Dr. Meron confirmed this research focus and described three dominant trends in migration research in a Global South context like Ethiopia: 1) A Eurocentric approach, looking at western countries as the only destination countries while a large number of migrants move to non-European countries, 2) A focus on potential risks for and challenges of migrants, resulting in a discourse that perpetuates the victimization of migrants and downplays the agency of migrants, 3) Other topics such as Gender and Migration are less addressed.

The panelists also addressed several questions from the participants about the future of migration education in the Global North and the Global South, the interaction between researchers and policymakers, as well as the role of non-state actors in migration research.

Networking in Breakout Rooms:

The breakout rooms included 4-7 participants and lasted twenty minutes each. In each breakout room, the participants first introduced themselves and then shared their views on migration data access, research innovation/collaboration, and societal impact. These were discussed in a plenary session afterward.

In general, the participants stated that – both in the Global North and the Global South – migration data access is a big challenge for migration scholars. This is because many countries do not have complete and up-to-date migration data and numbers. Furthermore, different countries or regions use different indicators, definitions, or approaches to measure, analyze, and present their statistics on migration. Consequently, as participants underscored, existing migration research is often limited to countries or regions, which are mostly in the Global North, where migration data is widely available.

On research collaboration and innovation, the participants identified three areas that need attention: 1) nurturing joint projects between researchers in the Global North and Global South that foster inclusive collaboration and partnership, 2) facilitating South-South research collaborations, 3) fostering collaborations between different universities and institutions within a country, which is often overlooked and should be scaled up. Ultimately, the different collaborations benefit from working closely with policy makers and practitioners for co-creation to identify research gaps and address urgent local and global migration challenges.

“How to Turn Research Findings into Policy Recommendations?”:

This afternoon session was led by Dr. Irene Schöfberger, who is a Global Migration Data and Policy Analyst at the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Dr. Schöfberger kicked off the session with a 30-minutes presentation on how to best engage with policymakers, how to reframe the academic findings into policy-relevant language and how to best disseminate research for societal impact. Dr. Schöfberger included various group exercises into her presentation and kept the audience engaged at all times.

Following the presentation, the audience was given the task to communicate their last academic research in a policy recommendation structure to their peers in the breakout rooms. For this purpose, participants were asked to formulate their research findings in a concise way, using the structure: WHO needs to do WHAT. WHY. HOW.

This workshop has showed that several researchers based in different parts of the world are enthusiastic about engaging with each other. The organizers have plans to facilitate this engagement using different platforms in the future.