Forced migration

Forced migration

Forced migration (also called deracination - originally a French word meaning uprooting) refers to the coerced movement of a person or persons away from their home or home region. It often connotes violent coercion, and is used interchangeably with the terms "displacement" or forced displacement.According to Speare "In the strictest sense migration can be considered to be involuntary only when a person is physically transported from a country and has no opportunity to escape from those transporting him. Movement under threat, even the immediate threat to life, contains a voluntary element, as long as there is an option to escape to another part of the country, go into hiding or to remain and hope to avoid persecution." However this thought has been questioned, specially by marxians that in most cases migrants have little or no choice.[1] A specific form of forced migration is population transfer, which is a coherent policy to move unwanted persons, perhaps as an attempt at "ethnic cleansing". Someone who has experienced forced migration is a "forced migrant" or "displaced person". Less formally such a person may be referred to as a refugee, although that term has a specific narrower legal definition.

The International Organization for Migration defines forced migration as any person who migrates to "escape persecution, conflict, repression, natural and human-made disasters, ecological degradation, or other situations that endanger their lives, freedom or livelihood.”[2][3]



Forced migration has accompanied persecution, as well as war, throughout human history but has only become a topic of serious study and discussion relatively recently. This increased attention is the result of greater ease of travel, allowing displaced persons to flee to nations far removed from their homes, the creation of an international legal structure of human rights, and the realizations that the destabilizing effects of forced migration, especially in parts of Africa, the Middle East, south and central Asia, ripple out well beyond the immediate region.[original research?]

Development-induced displacement is a subset of forced migration. Such displacement is the forcing of communities and individuals out of their homes, often also their homelands, for the purposes of economic development. It has been historically associated with the construction of dams for hydroelectric power and irrigation purposes but also appears due to many other activities, such as mining. The most well-known examples of development-induced displacement is a result of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in China, and also the previous German expulsions.


Causes for forced migration can include:

  • Natural disaster or manmade disaster : Occurrence of a disaster leads to temporary or permanent displacement of population from that area. In such a scenario migration becomes more of a survival strategy. The concept of forced migration envelopes demographic movements like flight, evacuation, displacement, and resettlement. Hurricane Katrina resulted in displacement of almost the entire population of New Orleans, Leaving the community and government with several economic and social challenges.[4] The term environmental refugee has been in use recently representing people who are forced to leave their traditional habitat because of environmental disruption i.e. biological, physical or chemical change in ecosystem. An elaboration of such refugees is given by Essam El-Hinnawi. The first category is where people come back to original habitat once the disruption is over like in case of Bhopal disaster. Second classification is where people are permanently displaced. The third types of migrants include those who seek better living conditions due to deterioration of environmental conditions in present habitat like soil fertility.[5]
  • Human trafficking : Migrants displaced through deception or coercion with purpose of their exploitation fall under this category. The data on such forced migration is limited since the activities involved are clandestine in nature. While migration of this nature is well covered for male migrants (working in agriculture, construction etc), same cannot be said for their female counterparts as the market situation for them might be unscrupulous (sex work or domestic service). International Labor Organization considers trafficking an offence against to labor protection and denies them the opportunity of utilizing their resources for their country. ILO’s Multilateral Framework includes principle no. 11 that recommends “Governments should formulate and implement, in consultation with the social partners, measures to prevent abusive practices, migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons; they should also work towards preventing irregular labor migration [6]
  • War and civil war
  • Fleeing persecution (for political, social, ethnic, religious reasons)
  • Development projects (such as the Three Gorges Dam in China)

Further reading

  • Alexander Betts, Forced Migration and Global Politics. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Lubomyr Y. Luciuk, "Ukrainian Displaced Persons, Canada, and the Migration of Memory," University of Toronto Press, 2000.

Migration of people from Mirpur(AJK) for construction of Mangla Dam

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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