Tag Archives: migration

Migrants’ lives and the negotiation of their identities

Lim Yew Chen

Conference Building

This is the building where the conferences are held (RMIT Storey Hall). You can find more information about this particular conference from the following link: https://www.rmit.edu.au/events/all-events/conferences/2015/november/translating-impermanence-symposium/#pageId=overview.

 During the first week of November, I attended two conferences in Melbourne on migration in the world in the Asia-Pacific region. I am interested in the lives of migrants in the lower rungs of the society they moved into, and participated in the conference “Transient Migration in the Asia-Pacific: Identities, Social Networks, and Media” hosted at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

The working group I took part in, explored the lives of migrants from countries like the Philippines and China to developed countries like Hong Kong and Australia. Presentations started with Catriona Stevens speaking on how low-educated, economic migrants from China arrived in Australia for temporary work but soon found it challenging to return back. This has made them “reluctant settlers” in Australia, where they stay because of the better education system that is offered to their children. This sudden influx of transient to permanent “identities” in Australia affects both policies and also their assimilation into the country. Next, Evelyn Kwok presented on the exploitation of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong by their employers, the public and the Hong Kong government, with only a salary of 450 USD monthly for a 6 day work week. She also charts their identity construction through their place-making strategies in urban spaces. Lastly, Assoc. Prof Farida Fozdar presented on the lack of understanding on migrant workers’ social and cultural needs when Australia opened its borders to economic migrants to resolve its economic concerns. All these presentations have one key theme in mind that relates to development geography, which is the global movements of transient migrants and their marginalisation and exploitation if they are in the lower rungs of society. The presentations explore their “identities” i.e. their nationality, ethnicity and how this in turn affects their assimilation or segregation in their host countries. Indeed, migration is a challenge with increasing globalisation where diasporas and individuals are constantly challenged of their identities and their idea of home.

Inside the conferenceAfter this working group, the week of conferences ended on a poignant note- that academics should also look at how their researches can provoke thoughts and influence policies. As we study in various courses in development geography, hopefully we will also be able to apply our knowledge and research to help create a better place for those who are exploited and marginalised.



Migration research

Image by flicr.com/Arsenie Coseac

Image by flicr.com/Arsenie Coseac

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.

Image by flicr.com/ United to End Genocide-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.