An essay by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. Financial inclusion as a term and topic has become popular in humanitarian settings. A mounting global refugee crisis has brought financial access into the focus of donors and practitioners. In this paper, we ask questions that concern both donors and practitioners: Is digital, formal finance – at the heart of most financial inclusion strategies – suited to the needs of refugees, migrants, and displaced populations? Must financial inclusion approaches be tailored for maximum relevance in contexts of protracted displacement or resettlement?Read more
A full report, executive summary, and a compendium of field notes, by Kim Wilson and Roxanne Krystalli. The Financial Journeys of Refugees investigates what money and financial transactions can reveal about the journeys and experiences of forced migration. We examine money as a key node of the displacement experience: fueling transactions among formal and informal actors along the way; determining livelihood options; shaping or restructuring kinship networks; and coloring risks, vulnerabilities, or protective forces available to refugees. Our inquiry highlights these transactions and the power dynamics that unfold among refugees as well as between refugees and formal or informal authorities.Read more
By Julie Zollmann, Airokhsh Faiz-Qaisary, Kenza Ben-Azouz, Kim Wilson, and Radha Rajkotia. Refugees resettled in the United States are typically supported quite closely early in their transition as support agencies help them settle into new homes, open bank accounts, get their first jobs, and register their children in school. Agencies monitor whether refugees are “self-sufficient,” meaning that their incomes cover their most essential expenses as quickly as possible. However, little is known about the next stage of refugees’ financial and economic transitions, once refugees are no longer interacting regularly with resettlement agencies. In July 2018, we interviewed 29 refugees who had been resettled two to three years earlier to understand the phases of their financial transition and identify possible opportunities to accelerate refugees’ financial gains.Read more
By Aastha Dua and Subin Mulmi, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. The authors observed the South Asian identity play out in interesting and diverse ways among the migrants interviewed. The dynamic between the general populations of these countries—oscillating between brotherly love, jealousy, and rivalry—was reflected in full, as if in a microcosm, among the South Asian migrants traveling to America in their interactions with each other. This essay is an attempt to describe this dynamic, culled from the interviews that were conducted by the authors with the migrants and from their own observations in the CATEMs (Temporary Care Centers for Migrants) and the surrounding areas in Costa Rica.Read more
By Conor Sanchez, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Popular notions of migrants as unskilled or uneducated laborers, while sometimes true, are often false. Their jobs back home may not have always ensured adequate income, a factor that could have played a role in their decision to migrate, but they often required some technical knowledge or training. Our subjects had worked as photographers, teachers, accountants, sociologists, and business owners. Some were property owners, tending to farms and livestock or selling various kinds of merchandise out of their home. In many of the interviews, it also became apparent that these jobs had clearly formed an unshakeable part of their identity.Read more
By Kim Wilson et al.Read more
By Kim Wilson et al. This collection of financial biographies traces the ways in which extra-continental refugees and migrants finance their journeys and manage money along the way. It also highlights the importance of friendships, both old and new, in making a journey possible. Additionally, communication tools like mobile phones, WhatsApp, or Google Translate leverage friendships and kinships to help piece together successful long-distance travel.Read more
By Heather Kunin, under the supervision of Kim Wilson. Social networks have long been recognized as playing a pivotal role within migration, with multiple studies examining, among other phenomena, the role of social networks in predicting the decision to migrate and choice of destination, as well as in impacting migrants’ chances for integration. Social network analysis (SNA) is a methodology for visualizing and interrogating relationships among actors and is highly applicable to a field where social networks are considered “one of the fundamentals of the migration process.” Until recently, this discipline has been woefully underutilized within migration studies, although this is beginning to change.Read more
By Jeffrey Ashe, Kim Wilson.
The American Dream—being able to earn a good living, buy a home, send children to school, and build a life in the United States regardless of social stature or place of birth—is an aspiration for most who immigrate to the United States. While new immigrants may be fleeing violence, poverty, and persecution—so called “push factors”—they are also pulled by the prospects of a better life for themselves and their children. Some immigrants arrive in the United States wealthy, educated, and fluent in English. These case studies focus on immigrants who may arrive with a few dollars in their pocket, struggle with English, and sometimes are without legal documents. Our research examines how immigrant households save up in groups to transform income that is irregular, uncertain, and low into regular, predictable, and meaningful sums of cash.
Migrants and refugees who have fled to South America may attempt to travel up through Central America in search of safety and stability in the US or Canada. This journey involves crossing one of the world’s most dangerous jungles: The Darién Gap, along the border of Colombia and Panama. In part two of this three-part series, learn about this perilous leg of the migration journey.Read more