Migration – Research Centers and Projects

Best Interests of the Child: Ending Immigration Detention of Children in Thailand

Featured Report

Fletcher International Law Practicum graduate students over the course of two semesters engaged in research, including interviewing key NGOs, academics and UN stakeholders for purposes of this project, which then became the basis for the report. The report itself documents the issue of child immigration detention in Thailand examining the issue itself, the relevant legal frameworks, as well as the ensuing advocacy efforts of NGOs, CSOs, and UN bodies, leading up to Thailand’s multi-agency 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The Report then details the MOU’s key provisions, its implementation in Thailand thus far, outlines the main outstanding gaps in the laws, policies, and practices — and concludes with recommendations from stakeholders as to next steps towards better effectuation of the MOU’s principles as well as Thailand’s international obligations. Given Thailand’s role in championing ‘alternatives to detention’ in the international arena, the report is significant not only for Thailand but also for purposes of other countries in the region and globally.  


Research Projects

Active research

Digital Portfolios of the Poor (DPP) is a multi-year, multi-country project aimed at creating better digital financial products for the poor by understanding how emerging technologies are viewed, used, understood, and perceived in low-income settings, particularly among women. The project is a joint initiative with Decodis, a social research company founded and led by Leir Senior Fellow Dr. Daryl Collins. 

Disrupted Mobilities is a multimedia project inspired by the Leir-sponsored 2019 documentary, Waylaid in Tijuana, that explores the intersecting effects of blocked asylum, deportation, and restricted cross-border movement in communities along the US-Mexico border. 

Journeys Project (JP) examines migrant stories to better understand the costs and strategies involved in their journeys as well as the economic approaches they use when putting down roots in new surroundings. For more information, reach out to Professor Kim Wilson.

Hopes, Fears, and Illusion (HFI) examines how U.S.-bound migrants assess risk and process information along their journeys to the U.S.-Mexico border. This program is led by Professor Katrina Burgess and Dr. Kimberly Howe.

Refugees in Towns project (RIT)  promotes understanding of the migrant/refugee integration experience by drawing on the knowledge and perspectives of refugees themselves as well as local hosts.  For more information, reach out to Professor Karen Jacobsen.

Waylaid in Tijuana is a documentary film that explores how immigration policies adopted in Washington, DC reverberate just south of the border in Tijuana, Mexico. It features migrants and asylum seekers from Haiti and Central America, migration experts, government officials, and migrant advocates from the Tijuana/San Diego region who grapple with the consequences of these policies on a daily basis. This website provides clips from the film, information about screenings, and an updated set of resources on U.S. immigration policies and migrant advocacy. 

Past Research

For past research specific to the Leir Institute, see here.

Building State Legitimacy: The substantive focus of this research was examining the role of legitimacy in the governance of conflict-affected or fragile states, and more specifically on how, in peacebuilding programs, perceptions of legitimacy intersect with political inclusion, provision of basic services, security sector governance and corruption in the criminal justice sector.

Child Marriage in Humanitarian Settings: In conjunction with Save the Children Denmark, this new project looks at rates of child marriage among the displaced in South Sudan and northern Iraq, in conjunction with Save the Children Denmark. Principal Investigators: Dyan Mazurana, Elizabeth Stites, Kimberly Howe, Anastasia Marshak, Teddy Atim, Kinsey Spears and Dipali Anumol. Current publication: Addressing Data Gaps on Child, Early, and Forced Marriage in Humanitarian Settings 

Growth Health and Governance in Karamoja, Uganda: Through a four-year project with USAID Uganda between 2014 and 2019, this project investigated gaps, challenges and opportunities to improve pastoralist systems and livelihoods in northeast Uganda, including an analysis of rural-to-urban migration. Principal Investigators: Andy Catley, Mesfin Molla, Raphael Lotira and Elizabeth Stites   

Health and Security looked at the health and security threats that impact forcibly displaced persons, focusing on infectious disease. Even though refugees and involuntary migrants may be at increased risk for infectious diseases, the rate of transmission from these people to the general population is very low, and is often exaggerated, particularly in quarters promoting a broader anti-migrant agenda. Does the stigmatization associated with disease add to their already vulnerable situation? Are the legal and institutional mechanisms that seek to address the problem of stigmatization adequate? Principle investigators: Professors Ian Johnstone and Nahid Bhadelia.

Migration Crisis and State Fragility: The substantive focus of this project examined how current migration flows affect citizen perceptions of the state, and therefore, challenge the legitimacy of the state. The research team focused on two regions – Europe and the Americas – to investigate how state and local authorities are managing migration challenges, and how these challenges may be affecting the perceived legitimacy of such authorities in “transit” states such as Greece and Mexico.

Partnership on Youth, Migration and Resilience: In collaboration with Save the Children US, this project offered a comparative analysis of youth migration in Bengaluru, India; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Vienna, Austria; and Kampala, Uganda between 2018 and 2019. Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Stites and Anastasia Marshak. The five publications from this project can be found here 

Promoting Agriculture, Health, and Alternative Livelihoods (PAHAL) in Nepal: Through a collaboration with Mercy Corps and USAID, this project focused on improving food security, resilience, and livelihood for poor and marginalized communities in select areas of rural Nepal. It offered a specific focus on how the out-migration of men impacted food security. Publications can be found here 

Religion and Security in Europe reviewed the migration flows into Europe through Greece and focused more specifically on the intersection of migration, religion, and security. The research analyzed how religion shapes real and perceived security needs and threats related to migration in Greece and Europe, as well as how the religion-security nexus has affected state durability and legitimacy in Greece. For more information, reach out to Elizabeth Prodromou and Marina Travayiakis. 

Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC): SLRC focused on state legitimacy, state capacity and livelihood trajectories and economic activity in conflict-affected situations in order to generate a stronger evidence base for those affected by conflict. This included a qualitative analysis of migration in post-war northern Uganda.  Principal Investigators: Dyan Mazurana, Daniel Maxwell, Rachel Gordon, Teddy Atim, Anastasia Marshak, Elizabeth Stites. Publications can be found here 

Social connectedness, livelihoods and resilience in Complex Emergencies: Through a partnership with Mercy Corps, this research looked at the role of social connectedness in conflict displacement and recovery in South Sudan, examining the question of how humanitarian assistance can best support people’s strategies for coping and adapting to crises. Principal Investigators: Elizabeth Stites, Daniel Maxwell, Roxani Krystalli and Anastasia MarshakThe six publications from this project can be found here. 

Transit Migration and Deportation in the Americas (part of the above project) focused on cities in Mexico that are grappling with intersecting flows of third-country migrants and Mexicans deported from the United States. The project entailed mapping the origins, routes, and destinations of these displaced people; engaging local, national, and international stakeholders in dialogue about policy responses in the affected communities; and adapting lessons from existing research and other country experiences in the Mexican context. For more information, reach out to Professors Katrina Burgess and Karen Jacobsen.