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Transnational Communities Programme

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Policy Challenges of the New Migrant Diasporas

22-23 April 1999, Chatham House London

funded by

The European Commission, Directorate-General XII/G

organized in collaboration with

Economic & Social Research Council's Transnational Communities Programme

The Royal Institute of International Affairs

METROPOLIS International Forum for Research and Policy on Migration and Cities


A growing body of social scientific research demonstrates numerous new ways in which contemporary global migrants remain intensely connected to their places of origin, to co-nationals or co-ethnics across nation-state borders and indeed the world.   Such connections include a considerable degree of economic exchange, political lobbying and cultural activity: sometimes criminal trade, terrorism and human trafficking mark them.

Utilizing new communication technologies and cheap travel, migrant networks today are significantly different from migrant and diasporic groups in prior periods.  Such networks present national and local policy-makers with significant new challenges, both to foster opportunities (primarily economic investment), as well as to tackle issues surrounding crime and security.

A Seminar of some thirty policy-makers and academics will be convened over one and a half days in order to discuss these issues intensively in an off-the record manner. Participants will include government ministers, representatives of non-government organisations and leading academics. The Seminar’s aim is to explore policy pitfalls and strategies -- foreign and domestic -- in response to new global processes, immigration flows and cross-border activities.

The meeting will structure discussion around three key policy domains subsequently challenged by the new migrant diasporas. These are:

Immigration and Asylum – A variety of local and national government policies concerning migrants and minorities differentially condition composition and transnational communities like migrant diasporas. These policies govern, among other things, ‘gateways of entry’ (and modes of illegal immigration), legal status and citizenship, asylum-seekers and refugees.

Speakers: Demetrios Papademetriou, Director, International Migration Policy Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peacy, Washington DC

Jeff Crisp, Senior Research Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva

Economic Exchange – Transnational communities often control sizeable patterns of investment and corporate development, represent important portable skills within global labour markets, are sometimes key players in unrecorded and illegal international trade, as well as architects of strategies within international commerce, and forms of trade with and investment in the homeland.

Speakers: L:uis Guarnizo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of California-Davis

Frank Gregory, Jean Monnet Chair in Politics, University of Southampton

Political Participation, Foreign Relations and Security – The condition of diaspora often affords freedoms to organise politically which are impossible in the country of origin. Hence there are transnational political developments particular to overseas branches of national political parties, political fund-raising activities among transnational groups, movements for political reform, agencies for the monitoring of human rights, irredentist movements, governments-in-exile, and terrorist organisations. Political ideologies often comprise key tenets of religious movements with chiliastic, fundamentalist and universalist claims which are rapidly transforming and mobilising among transnational communities. These may challenge the capacity of states to effect uniform patterns of national identity, social control and political representation.

Speakers: Bruce Hoffman, Director, Washington Office and Head of Terrorism Research Unit, RAND Corporation

Yossi Shain, Chair, Department of Political Science, Tel-Aviv University


Background briefing papers will be distributed in advance. This will allow speakers to present their ideas and material in twenty minutes, giving ample time for discussion of each theme.

Thursday 22 April
Chair: George Joffé, Royal Institute for International Affairs
10.00 Arrival and coffee
11.00 Introduction (Steven Vertovec, University of Oxford)
11.30 Comparative Immigration Regimes: their impact on migrant networks (Demetrios Papademetriou, Carnegie Endowment)
12.30 lunch
14.00 Comparative Refugee flows and Asylum Regimes: their impact on refugee networks (Jeff Crisp, UNHCR)
15.00 The Economics of Transnational Migrant Communities (Luis Guarnizo, University of California-Davis)
16.00 tea
16.30 Migrants and Transnational Crime (Frank Gregory, University of Southampton
17.30 General Discussion
Friday 23 April
Chair: Jack Spence, Royal Institute of International Affairs
9.00 Migrant networks and terrorism (Bruce Hoffman, RAND)
10.00 Comparative Foreign Policy and the New Migrant Diasporas (Yossi Shain, Tel Aviv University)
11.00 coffee
11.30 General discussion
13.00 lunch and departure


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