Saija Niemi, migration researcher in geography, is carrying out research in the Department of Geoscience and Geography in the University of Helsinki.
Niemi’s current research is related to Sudanese conflict-induced forced migration. She is creating a new migration theory based on primary data, which she collected in Sudan, Uganda, Egypt and Finland. In her research, Niemi uses the classic grounded theory method, which was developed by doctors Glaser and Strauss in the 1960s. In the new theory, the main concern of people involved in migration is control.
-I became interested in Sudanese migration when I conducted a pilot cultural orientation project in the International Organization for Migration in Cairo in 2001. The project was targeted at Sudanese quota refugees accepted for resettlement in Finland. At that time there was not much knowledge about Sudan or Sudanese migration in Finland, tells Niemi.
Niemi studied her master’s degree in human geography and her interests can also be linked to development geography. She wrote her master’s thesis about Mexican migration and her thesis ”Mexicans on the move: migration perspectives on micro and macro levels, and identities” (2000) was based on primary data she collected in Mexico and the United States. As a student, she was also active in associations.
-When I was a student, I was active in the Association of Development Geography (now known as Kehmy ry) and Lawra development cooperation project. Later, I have also acted in different organizations like for example the Red Cross and the Society for the Study of Ethnic Relations and International Migration (ETMU).
After graduating Niemi worked in the International Oraganization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Afterwards she returned to the University of Helsinki to work in the discipline of development studies and to carry out her doctoral research in geography.
Forced migration has been a current topic in the media this year and Niemi thinks that also research can contribute to the discussion.
-Research creates new information that can support for instance political and practical decision-making.
Niemi sees the topic of migration interesting and considers it to offer various possibilities for research. Some current issues include climate or environmental change related migration, human smuggling and aspects of migration to Europe. She gives an advice to students who are interested in researching migration.
-Study what you are interested in and be open-minded. There are various issues, which can be researched in relation to migration.