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SPEAKER SPOTLIGHT: speakers from the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement

This week see the launch of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement. Two launch events take place within the Cambridge Festival of Ideas: Conflict, Refuge: Rethinking Humanitarianism and Crimmigration Versus Integration: People’s Lives, People’s Voices, both on Tuesday 23rd October.



Question: How did the Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement come about?

Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe: The Centre builds on a very successful Migration Research Network which was sponsored by the Vice Chancellor’s Endowment fund about four years ago. The network brought together university researchers working on migration-related issues who had extensive networks and partnerships abroad. During the period 2013-2017, CAMMIGRES had 77 network members from 23 Faculties and Departments across different disciplines in the University as well as 15 Associate members from other institutions. CAMMIGRES also established a postgraduate Forum for some 100 undergraduates, postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows from a wide range of disciplines interested in migration and its effects, and generated a network of cross-disciplinary working groups and bids for research funding. These networks provided superb possibilities for international exchanges with early career scholars. The establishment of a Centre marks the next stage of development (with sponsorship from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and a number of participating departments).


Question: Why is it needed?

LG: The Centre will pull people together from different disciplines even more and give greater visibility to the University’s efforts to engage with the 21st century issues relating to global human movement. The creation of a Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement reflects the importance of mobility/migration as one of the greatest societal challenges of the 21st century. This initiative extends Cambridge University’s international reputation for high quality innovative research on the causes and consequences of human movement in reshaping the human, political, economic, cultural, and religious foundations of global world order. There is a real need for the university sector to bring together interdisciplinary thinking about human movement as a key element in human survival, the reshaping of economic and cultural heritages and the huge challenges for social institutions designed to sustain borders and social orders.

Human movement and large migrations bring, in complex formations, new genetic landscapes as well as knowledges, cultures, languages, religions and identities. It is the right time for Cambridge, as one of the great international universities, to bring together experts in a range of social scientific and humanities/arts disciplines to deepen our substantive understandings by energising and leading research on human movement.


Q: What will it do?

LG: Interdisciplinary research on issues relating to ·

* Stories of journeys and encounters (human trafficking, smuggling, seeking refuge)

* Cultures, creativities, language and heritage which stem from human movement

* Exchanges, trade, labour and mobilities

* Refuge, security and conflict

* Politics of borders, crime and security

* Rights, equality and social justice

* Ways of helping humanitarian efforts in disaster zones, with emergency relief, and with finding a way of supporting displaced and refugee communities globally.


Q: Which disciplines are represented in the centre?

LG: Sociology, Land Economy, Computer Science (Cybercrime unit), Education, History, Modern Languages, Criminology, Engineering, Archaeology, Social Anthropology, Linguistics, Architecture….

Tugba Basaran: To foster interdisciplinary conversations on movement, the research seminars showcase major research projects at Cambridge from a wide range of disciplines, including engineering, music, history, architecture, law, religion and medical science. The research projects include Multilevel Governance of Migration in Europe and Beyond (, Shelter Design Project (, Past and Present Musical Encounters Across the Strait of Gibraltar ( and EU Migrant Workers ( Apart from these, current research strands pursued through the Centre include storytelling and hospitality; smuggling, slavery, trafficking; and language, heritage and migration.

Also see our upcoming seminar series for info

Professor Madeleine Arnot: There is also considerable interest expertise within architecture, engineering, social-political science and education in helping the humanitarian efforts in disaster zones, with emergency relief and with finding a way of supporting displaced and refugee communities globally.


Q: Will there be collaborations with policy makers, activists, artists, media and others? How can it create greater public understanding for the issues that are behind the current and future waves of global human movement?

Professor Alison Phipps: The Centre can contribute to greater public understanding through sustaining the cooperation within the wide academic and policy landscape and translating findings of expert research into the media and forms which are accessible to the public. A challenge for the Centre, as with all Migration Studies, will be dislodging entrenched attitudes and understandings which are often erroneous and out ated but persist in public consciousness and often become drivers of policies.


Q: Can you give some examples of creative ways migrants have been able to get their voices heard with regard to their experiences of Britain's 'hostile environment'?

AP: The best organisation currently opening up media space for Migrant Voices is ‘Migrant Voice’ under the expert leadership of Nazak Ramadan. Its approaches to training and enabling Migrants to access journalism and share their experiences has been crucial to the widening of understanding of the hostile environment. In particular the use of the arts as a forum and venue for developing that understanding is important. It can be both conservative and disruptive and how it is used creatively by migrants and with migrants is crucial. In particular, the work of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Glasgow has used Migrant Artists in Residence to open up a space for engagement and to share and mediate experiences. In this regard it is also vital that good ethical practice is followed - see, for example, the report to the European Parliament ‘Why Cultural Work with Refugees’ and the work of the RISE Collective in Australia, which is migrant-led. Campaigns which have focused, and worked jointly with many organisations, academics, activists and NGOs have also had success in enabling voices to be heard which are often drowned out.


Q: Have these had any success in changing minds and challenging negative media coverage?

AP: The campaign ‘Stop Funding Hate’, for example, has engaged directly to highlight xenophobic reporting and has been successful in reducing advertising in newspapers which promote the hostile environment.

In Scotland the New Scots Integration Strategy has had over 700 of 2,000 pieces of evidence to the policy consultation from those who are refugees themselves. This has had a direct impact on the ‘Integration from Day One’ Policy in place in Scotland and the new strategy in the Scottish Government of 2018-2022.


Q: What is the potential longer term social impact of criminalising whole groups of people?

Professor Ben Bowling: Crimmigration – the criminalisation of irregular migration – is intended to inflict harm. Like all forms of punishment, it is concerned with the infliction of pain: it has to hurt if it is to ‘work’. It is clear that the creation of a hostile environment was intended to hurt so that it would deter people from migrating and would punish migrants who arrived unlawfully or sought to rent a home or to work or drive a car.

This, in itself, causes immediate and long-term suffering. And there are many examples from the UK and from around the world where migration control has caused injury and death as well as the harms that flow from the more routine denial of the basic necessities of life including accommodation, work and security.

People who are detected, arrested and detained by the authorities are deprived of fundamental rights to liberty, freedom of movement, association, family life and privacy. Those who are deported are deprived of a range of social, political and economic rights to work, healthcare, welfare and state aid.

Beyond the harm that crimmigration inflicts, there is a wider harm to civilised society. The language of creating a ‘really hostile environment’ as part of the ‘good management’ of migration through efficient exclusion and control disables moral objections and neutralises and conceals the pains it inflicts on our fellow human beings.

Professor Loraine Gelshorpe: The long-term social impact of criminalising whole groups of people not only reflects injustice, but leads to social exclusion with all the difficulties that that brings in terms of health, isolation, unmet educational needs, vulnerability to abuse and vulnerability in regard to crime as a form of survival – it reflects deep, deep inhumanity. What we have seen since the early 1970s is the creation of a bespoke ‘crimmigration control system’ distinct from the domestic criminal justice system. This system is directed exclusively at efficient exclusion and control through a process of adiaphorisation, when systems and processes become split off from any consideration of morality. Indeed, moral objections to the creation of a ‘really hostile environment’ have been disabled. The pursuit of the criminalised immigrant - a globally recognised ‘folk devil’ - provides a vital link between domestic and global systems of policing, punishment and exclusion. The UK crimmigration control system is an example of wider processes that are taking place in institutions concerned with the control of suspect populations across the globe.