IGL Student Group Speaker Series: Migration


The Institute for Global Leadership’s Student Group Speaker Series is a new initiative started by the Institute’s new Director, Abi Williams.  In an effort to encourage collaboration and cross fertilization of ideas, the IGL is working with all student groups to coordinate a combined speaker series.  This year the student groups chose the theme of “Migration”, and all are responsible for bringing one speaker to campus on the issue from the perspective of their group, e.g. NIMEP’s speaker focused on the Middle East.  

Whether driven by the hope of a better future or forced by conflict, migration is a major force of the 21st century.  Some interesting facts from the Pew Research Center:

  • emigrants from France live in more countries than emigrants from any other nation; there are at least 1,000 French-born people living in each of 83 different countries and territories
  • the Mexico-to-U.S. link is the most popular bilateral migration path in the world; as of 2013, more Mexican immigrants (13 million) were living in the U.S. than all immigrants to Russia combined (11 million)
  • the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger – countries with some of the lowest U.N. Human Development Index ratings and GDP per capita – all have less than 3 percent of their populations living outside their borders

The United Nations estimates that more than 5.4 million people have fled Syria since 2011, with only about eight percent accommodated in refugee camps, and that millions more are displaced internally in the ravaged country.  The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reported that there were 31.1 million new internal displacements by conflict, violence and disasters in 2016, the equivalent of one person forced to flee every second.

 This series is featuring academics, practitioners, activists, community leaders and more in providing a look at different aspects of migration globally, including refugee resettlement, the impact on national security, the legacy of the Indian Sub-Continent, the infrastructure of refugee camps, and transit migration. The purpose of this series is to develop awareness, understanding and informed opinions on population flows.

The series began with IGL Alumnus Michael Niconchuk, a Senior Researcher at the Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab and a former Emergency Response Coordinator at the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. He spoke, at NIMEP’s invitation, about his time working in the camp and the challenges the Jordanian authorities faced with the influx of hundreds of thousands of people, from the mental well-being of the displaced to basic infrastructure problems. Working in the camp, he led various projects on violence reduction, youth leadership, and alternative education. 

Engineers Without Borders will build on this discussion with their focus on engineering in refugee camps.  This lecture, in April, will explore shelter design, sanitation and water needs in refugee camps.

Thousands of Central Americans are heading to the United States via Mexico in search of a more peaceful and prosperous life. This journey makes them susceptible to crime, violence, hunger, and human trafficking.  In her lecture, Dr. Katrina Burgess traced the challenges facing migrants from Central America, Haiti and elsewhere who must cross Mexico to get to the U.S. border. She proposed a paradigm shift that prioritizes protection over punishment in response to today’s security-oriented migration policies. 

In late March, Ayesha Jalal, the Mary Richardson Professor of the History of South Asia, the Muslim World and Director of Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, will explore migration and the Indian Sub-Continent, from the legacy of the greatest movement of people in 1947 to today.

It is important to realize that the migration journey does not end once the individual has reached his or her destination.  There are many factors to consider once an individual has emigrated, such as governance, rights, and other factors that shape the migrants’ life chances.  There are government bodies, international organizations, and NGOs that address the issues of migration and refugees.  Mary Truong is the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI).  Her lecture on refugee resettlement in Massachusetts included information on the ORI’s programs, policies and population at a glance as well as updates on current refugee arrivals. 

Is immigration a threat to security? This question reverberates both nationally and internationally. Dr. Kelly Greenhill, Director of the International Relations Program and Associate Professor of Political Science at Tufts, will discuss the contemporary trends in migration and the perception of migration as a security crisis. 

These are just some of the topics that are explored in this series aimed at increasing our knowledge and understanding of migration.