Mixed Migration, the UNHCR, and the IOM: Multilateral Politics and the Labelling of Mobility
Hélène Thiollet (CERI-Sciences Po & GRITIM-UPF)
‘Mixed migration’ emerged in the discourses and policy documents of international organisations in 2006. It was coined as a “framework for action”, devoted of substantial legal grounds, used both by the IOM and the UNHCR in different sites of intervention globally. This article offers a genealogy of the governance this overarching category that straddles the usual differentiation between labour and forced migrants. It focuses on its emergence in the context of the Horn of Africa, using insights gathered during empirical fieldworks in Sana’a (Yemen) and Nairobi (Kenya) and participant observation to the 2006 and 2013 High Level Dialogues on Migration and Development in New York City (US). It sheds light on both the institutional dynamics within multilateral organisations and the impact of the context in which they operate.
By confronting the organisations’ discourses, IO’s agents’ discourses and behaviours and operations led by the IOs in the Horn of Africa, other regions and in multilateral arenas, it unveils the politics of migration governance. The main results of this research are to illustrate the evolution of the cognitive and policy translations of “mixed migration” from a protection agenda to a detection and data gathering objectives, which echoes a global trend in migration governance that could be termed “the retreat of protection”. The demise of the legal claims behind “mixed migration” is the product of power asymetries between multilateral organisations and the impact of State interets and fundings on migration governance. A more theoretical take-away is to look at the bottom-up construction of migration governance, at the tension between local contexts and multilateral settings, at normative dynamics in policy-making; which entails a methodological claim on the study of multilateral politics.
Hélène Thiollet is a CNRS permanent researcher. Her research focuses on the politics of migration and asylum in the Global South, and she focuses her empirical research on the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa. She teaches international relations, comparative politics and migration studies at Sciences Po.
She is a graduate from the Ecole normale supérieure (Ulm A/L98), holds a PhD in Political Science from Sciences Po and Master degrees in Geography of development (University of Paris 1 La Sorbonne) and Classics (University of Paris 4 La Sorbonne). In 2002-2003 she was a Visiting Student at the Harvard University Department of Government, with a fellowship from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She was a Post Doctoral Fellow at Oxford University in 2009-2010 with the OxPo Research grant and is now a Research partner at the International Migration Institute at Oxford. She has been a board member of Critique internationale, a French language IR journal, since 2009.
Helène coordinated the ANR research project "MobGlob – Global Mobility and Migration Governance" (ANR 2012-2015) with Catherine Wihtol de Wenden. She a member of the research programme "Global-cities: comparative approaches to cosmopolitanism and migration" funded by USMPC "Société plurielles".