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Along the continuum of the immigrant experience – is the underlying theme taken up by four scholars from different academic perspectives in this comparative conference. Human migration has always been an uncertain endeavor, leaving behind friends, family and familiar territory for a chance at a better life. In recent years, however, the stakes appear to have risen, and the nature of international migration seems all the more precarious. War, the threat of violence, lack of economic opportunity, and climate-driven natural resource crises all contribute to the push of populations out of their origin countries. Meanwhile, a growing wave of nationalism has led to policies specifically designed to discourage if not physically impede the arrival of migrants in the US and Europe. The socio-economic inclusion of new migrants/refugees has become one of the key issues faced by policymakers and researchers in the last years.
In a context of growing migration and forced displacement (68.5 million estimated forcibly displaced people worldwide according to UNHCR), moving populations are likely to stay a certain number of years in their destination countries (for refugees who live in protracted situations of more than 5 years, the average duration of exile stood at 17 years). From a development perspective, the question of socio-economic inclusion appears critical. Studies show that benefits of migrants and refugees to economies are existing and significant, and reciprocally, that sustaining the welfare of all in the context of important migration/forced displacement influx also depends on sustained economic growth (as opposed to redistributing existing resources). Social tensions are also an important risk of large-scale displacements and need to be understood and addressed. More specifically, the involved large-scale population movements and the subsequent expected rising density in urban areas also raise obvious public health questions, the migrant populations being generally the most vulnerable components of societies. Rigorous theoretical and empirical studies of the health, demography and behavioral ecology of migrants are therefore eagerly needed not only for academic purposes but also to guide health policies towards these populations. Needless to say, this concerns not only human biology but also mental health issues, especially given the new patterns of migration. Another key aspect is the impact on host countries’ welfare states and labor markets, often presumed to be negative. However, if adequately channeled, regularized migration and labor mobility may represent a great opportunity; indeed, numerous empirical studies show that increased labor mobility brings huge gains for the migrants themselves and overall advantages for the destination countries. An approach to mobility in which governments design policies with regional labor markets in mind would allow both sending and destination countries to take full advantage of the benefits. The construction of such approaches to mobility is an essential task.
The Center of Mediterranean Integration (CMI, http://www.cmimarseille.org/), the French-American Fulbright Commission (https://fulbright-france.org/en), and the Institute for Advanced Study at Aix-Marseille (IMéRA, https://imera.univ-amu.fr/en ) propose a research cycle devoted to an interdisciplinary appraisal of the migration issues mentioned above, among others. A special emphasis will be placed on migrations in the Mediterranean area. Building on the CMI expertise in these topics, on the Fulbright Commission’s strong reputation to identify and mobilize the best US-based researchers, and on IMéRA’s established capacity to trigger interdisciplinary research at the highest international level, this cycle is precisely devised to stimulate discussions between international researchers of various disciplinary backgrounds as well as policy makers and other non-academic experts. In 2018-2019, the cycle is managed by Blanca Moreno-Dodson, the director of the CMI, Thomas Macias, the 2018-2019 holder of the Fulbright/IMéRA chair on Migration Studies, and by Raouf Boucekkine, director of IMéRA. The inaugural event will take place at IMéRA on January 8th, 2019.