Transnational Communities Programme

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Conference on Poverty, International Migration and Asylum

United Nations University and World Institute for Development Economics Research

Helsinki, Finland, 27-28 September 2002


In recent years, substantial numbers of people have migrated - or sought to migrate - from
regions that are afflicted by poverty and insecurity to more prosperous and stable parts of the
world. By the year 2000, the United Nations estimated that about 140 million persons - or
roughly two percent of the world's population - resided in a country where they were not born.

Such population flows, involving increasingly tortuous and dangerous long-distance journeys,
have been both prompted and facilitated by a variety of factors associated with the process of
globalization: a growing disparity in the level of human security to be found in different parts of
the world; improved transportation, communications and information technology systems; the
expansion of transnational social networks; and the emergence of a commercial (and
sometimes criminal) industry, devoted to the smuggling of people across international borders.

The conference will focus on two major themes: the economic consequences of immigration,
and issues associated with asylum migration. With respect to asylum migration, the key themes
to be covered are as follows:

1. Asylum migration: patterns and trends
This component of the project will provide a historical, empirical and statistical overview of the
phenomenon, focusing on the changing nature of asylum migration: where do asylum migrants
come from? where do they go to? what routes do they take to get there? what is the
demographic and socio-economic profile of such migrants/ and what does this data tell us
about the causes of and motivation for asylum migration?

2. Asylum migration: modes and methods
This component of the project will seek to establish a typology of asylum migration, focusing
especially on the modes and methods by which people move from one country and region to
another. It will examine the information which people use in making their decision to migrate; the
methods used to mobilize resources for the journey, as well as the role of human smuggling in
the process of asylum migration. In this respect, the project will provide a critical appraisal of
the widespread assumption that human smuggling involves the deception and exploitation of
migrants by organized criminal syndicates.

3. Asylum migration: implications for receiving states
This component of the project will examine the implications and impact of asylum migration for
countries of final destination and - to a lesser extent - the countries through which asylum
migrants transit. It will ask whether asylum migration can be usefully analyzed in terms of the
'costs' and benefits' which it brings to receiving states. It will also look more generally at the
consequences of asylum migration for those countries, focusing on issues such as economic
activity, social structure, popular culture, ethnic relations and foreign relations.

4. Asylum migration: implications for countries of origin
This component of the project will examine an issue which has received relatively little attention
in the existing literature: the impact of asylum migration on countries of origin. To what extent
does asylum migration involve the departure of skilled and educated people, and what impact
does this have on a country's labour market and potential for economic development? How and
with what consequences does asylum migration affect household and community structures in
countries of origin? How is asylum migration associated with the development of transnational
social networks, and what functions do these networks perform? What remittances do asylum
migrants send back to their own country, and how are such remittances used?

5. Asylum migration: public policy responses
The fifth and final component of the project focuses on an issue which has been covered
extensively in the recent literature on the issue: the way in which states and other actors
(regional bodies, international and non-governmental organizations, for example) have
responded to the phenomenon of asylum migration. What considerations have determined the
response of such actors? How effective have these responses been (and in this context,
what does 'effectiveness' mean anyway?) To what extent is there a consensus amongst
these actors with regard to policy responses? And looking to the future, can alternative
responses to the asylum migration be anticipated?

Selected conference papers, together with a policy summary, will be included in a conference
volume, edited by Professor George Borjas (Harvard University) and Dr. Jeffery Crisp
(Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit, UNHCR).

Those interested in participating in the conference are invited to submit by 30 April 2002 the
application form downloadable from the wider web site ( Those
interested in presenting a paper are asked to include a title and one-page abstract of their
proposed contribution. Early applications will be given preference. Applications from younger
researchers and from researchers in developing countries are especially welcome. WIDER will
cover the cost of accommodation and meals in Helsinki during the period of the conference. It
may also be possible to contribute to the travel expenses of those unable to cover their travel
costs from other sources.

Applications and further communications should be sent by e-mail, fax or mail as follows:

FAX +358 9 615 99333
WIDER, Katajanokanlaituri 6B, 00160 Helsinki, Finland

See also:


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