On 23–24 February 2012, a second workshop on circular migration was jointly organized by the UNU International Institute for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNU-IIAOC), the UNU Institute for Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) and the Center of Studies and Research on Migrations at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona (CERM-UAB).
The workshop took place in the framework of an ongoing book project entitled “‘Win-Win-Win’ or Zero-Sum? The Implications of Circular Migration for Integration, Human Rights and the Alliance of Civilizations”, which aims to critically analyse circular migration from multi-disciplinary perspectives, with regard to global human, political and civil rights implications.
The workshop, held in Barcelona, brought together a diverse group of experts from around the world to discuss case studies illustrating circular migration patterns and policies in multiple regions.
Participants were welcomed by Prof. Carlota Solé, Director of GEDIME at the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona, and Prof. Luk Van Langenhove, Director of UNU-CRIS, who outlined current challenges with regard to the movements of people and emphasized the importance of migration within the dialogue between civilizations.
Workshop presentations were grouped into three thematic sessions, focusing on different but related aspects of circular migration.
In the first session, which focused on the development impact of circular migration, the lack of reliable data was highlighted as a major challenge. There was also agreement among the speakers that the debate should focus less on financial aspects, such as remittances, but take into account other types of contributions, such as those to human and democratic development. In this context, Stefan Rother from the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute of the University of Freiburg noted that “we hear a lot about migration and development, but it is all about financial development. Apart from skills and giving migrants the opportunity to earn money, maybe it might be helpful to provide them with opportunities for organizing and for political participation while being abroad”.
The second session brought together different contributions illustrating circular migration practices from the perspective of migrants. In this context, circular migration is understood as an individual life plan or strategy, facilitated or constrained by internal or external factors. Depending on each individual case, temporary or circular migration does not necessarily have to be the “second-best option” because roads to permanent settlement are closed. By looking at the “migratory experience of certain migrants, you will find that these are actually very well thought through, what we call elsewhere migration projects; people choose this type of migration because it fits in with their life plans” explained Tiziana Torresi from the University of Adelaide.
Presentation in the third session revolved around the policy dimensions of circular migration, including issues such as power asymmetries, the (in)adequacy of policy tools, and the role played by policymakers and private actors. In this context, Andrew Gardner from the University of Puget Sound suggested looking deeper into migration systems such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a “profit-seeking industry”, since there are “all kinds of institutions and people, in both the sending and receiving countries, who profit from this flow of labour and (…) the interest of this profit-seeking industry is really not aligned with the human rights-based approach to migration”.
A final session wrapped up the major arguments and research challenges identified, and outlined possible ways forward. Research outcomes will be published as an edited volume by UNU Press at the end of the pilot project, which will conclude in the second half of 2012.