Unsettling the boundaries between forced and voluntary migration

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This chapter critically examines the divide between forced and voluntary migration, exploring the relationship between the formal definitions elaborated in policy and legal frameworks, the academic approaches and the way the terms are used in everyday public discussion. It argues that the boundaries between forced and voluntary migration are inherently blurred and questions their analytical value. Nonetheless, when it comes to policy and practice, lines are routinely drawn to separate forced from voluntary migrants, with life-changing, sometimes life-threatening consequences for individual migrants and their families. The chapter focuses on three broad ways in which categorisation as forced or voluntary migration shapes outcomes for migrants: their access to basic rights and resources; the social and political attitudes of the people among whom they settle; and, their social trajectory that casts them as potential future citizens or marks them out as strangers for life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on the Politics and Governance of Migration
EditorsEmma Carmel, Katharina Lenner, Regine Paul
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781788117234f
ISBN (Print)9781788117227
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2021

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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