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Safer migration

The Freedom Fund partnered with a team of researchers led by Dr Cathy Zimmerman of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to outline the major evidence gaps in the field of “safe migration”. The findings of the formative work served as the basis for a convening of experts, that took place in November 2015, to discuss priorities for new research. The outcome of this work is this report, “Safer labour migration and community-based prevention of exploitation: The state of the evidence for programming.”

Why this research is important

Existing reviews of evaluation and literature seem to suggest that few community-based interventions (e.g., awareness campaigns, knowledge-building, skills training) have been built on strong evidence of patterns of risk and potential protective mechanisms, or produced robust assessments of their impact. At the same time, the field of labour migration is receiving growing attention and interest; increasing efforts and resources are invested globally in trying to make labour migration outcomes positive for individuals and their communities, with the objective of ultimately decreasing and eliminating exploitation, trafficking and slavery.

Gap in evidence-based knowledge

The terms “high risk” and “safe” or “fair” migration have recently emerged to describe interventions aimed at preventing abuses related to low-skilled labour migration. Yet there is little evidence available to support what constitutes “high risk” or “safe” migration. While it is possible to recognise negative outcomes of migration, it is more difficult to determine what factors (e.g., knowledge levels, actions, routes) make migration in various contexts more risky than others.

Through this global initiative, the Freedom Fund is starting to address this gap. The Fund is committed to generating robust research findings on what puts people at most risk of exploitation and what interventions and strategies are most able to mitigate this risk.

Project’s deliverables

Through a partnership with Dr Cathy Zimmerman, the Freedom Fund:

  • Hosted 25 experts and donors at a meeting in London at the end of 2015 to discuss initial findings from Dr Zimmerman’s research on safer migration. The group considered what we have learnt over the past decade and how this growing evidence and lessons from the field can contribute to current and future programming.
  • Published the report “Safer labour migration and community-based prevention of exploitation: The state of evidence for programming“. The report consists of a review of literature to identify existing evidence of successful community-based interventions dedicated to making migration safer; synthesise findings from relevant literature and interviews with key informants, and list the most commonly cited and influential risks and protective factors in labour migration.

The report’s findings are intended to offer one of the most robust reviews to date on the state of current evidence for donors and practitioners to work towards the design of a future research agenda and prevention programming to address this highly prevalent and complex problem of migrant labour exploitation.

Potential investment

The literature review and convening will produce a set of ambitious research priorities to improve the evidence-base for programming. Support from investors will be sought to advance these priorities.