Global migration processes

Looking at ways to make migrants’ journeys safer

While only 3.5 per cent of the world’s population is classified as migrant, their movements have lasting effects on the places they leave—and where they end up. That makes migrant journeys relevant for everyone in the global community.

Danièle Bélanger, Canada Research Chair in Global Migration Processes, and her team at Université Laval are studying migration as a complete system that includes countries of origin, transit and destination. She hopes that by understanding the migratory process, governments will be able to create policies that support not only migrants but also the communities they now call home.

“Policy-makers often don’t realize the impacts of their policies on the actual people involved,” she said. “I believe it’s our role as academics to shed some light on those realities.”

Better policy for better outcomes

One of Bélanger’s projects aims to help Canadian policy-makers develop less complicated policies that will make it easier for migrants to understand the process they need to follow—and their rights. Much of the existing research on immigrants focuses on how they first settle and integrate into Canadian communities, but Bélanger says that’s only part of the story.

“People may settle, but not always permanently,” she said. That’s why her team is analyzing immigration and fiscal databases to look at migration trajectories within Canada: when migrants arrived, what their immigration status was upon arrival, when and how that status changed, and if and why they moved elsewhere within Canada after settling.

Exploring local relationships

Bélanger has also found research on migrants tends to focus only on their relationship with the state and not their local relationships with private sector employers and housing providers. She hopes to fill that gap with a project she’s currently conducting in Turkey, where almost four million Syrian refugees have settled since 2011.

Her team has been interviewing Turkish people as well as Syrian refugees to better understand the supports needed for smooth integration, for everyone involved. Bélanger and team are also exploring the many decisions refugees have to make when choosing where to go, and how the time spent in an intermediate country like Turkey affects them.

While every country has its own geopolitical context and economic factors, Bélanger believes her research will be relevant for any nation called on to welcome large numbers of immigrants, including Canada. Ultimately, she hopes her work will answer key questions Canadians have about immigration—and deconstruct some of the widespread myths based on fear and sensationalism.

“Migration has shaped the world for thousands of years,” she said. “That’s not going to change, so we need to learn how best to handle it.”

Want to learn more?

Follow Bélanger’s work on her website, Facebook and Instagram (in French), and read her presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.