Migration and Social Policy Cluster

The scale, visibility and impact of international migration has increased sharply in recent decades. This is felt globally, regionally and locally and poses complex social and political challenges, as it impacts the lives of migrants, the countries of origin, countries of 'transit' or temporary residence, countries where people settle or resettle permanently, as well as the communities to which they return. There is a strong call for better management of migration processes, in all its forms, and for more international and regional cooperation in the framework of migration management, such as the Global Compact.

However, given the great diversity and complexity of the phenomenon, the often-irreconcilable interests of the different stakeholders involved and the high sensitivity and politicisation of the issue, progress in this area remains limited, with several policies even proving counterproductive.

UNU-CRIS carries out interdisciplinary and in-depth research into the nature, causes and consequences of migration and migration governance, with special attention to the most vulnerable categories of migrants and to the role of regions in migration governance.

This cluster also has a broader interest in the regional dimensions of social policies. It explores the potential of internationalizing social policies and the (potential) contribution of regional organizations to formulating and implementing social policies.

    Current streams of research within the Migration and Social Policy Cluster include:

    • Research on the process of return migration and return mobilities and its governance at different levels and in different regions. We aim at increasing understandings of the meaning, determinants and impact of return migration and reintegration processes for individuals, receiving communities and states of return and the developments and implications of current policy discourses and infrastructures.
    • Research on specific determinants of migration and the formation of migration aspirations. We aim to disentangle the role of networks, discrimination, conflict, terrorism, and climate change on global migration patterns and develop quantitative indicators of migration policies, which will allow a better comparison of trends and patterns in migration policies.
    • Research on circular migration, internal migration and internal displacement. We aim to study different migration and mobility patterns, their determinants and governance challenges, with a particular focus on access to support and resources.
    • Research on regional and multi-level governance of migration and borders.
    • Research on the functioning and evolution of social policy in different regions, as well as its internationalization.


    Homecoming: Returnees’ Memories and Belonging Negotiation in Ukraine

    • PhD Fellow: Alina Penkala
    • Promotor: Ine Lietaert
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University
      • 1 October 2019 – 30 September 2022

    Return and Reintegration of Ethiopian Forced Returnees:  From the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Northern Wollo, Ethiopia: Processes, Challenges and Impacts

    • PhD Fellow: Ashenafi Tirfie Tizazu
    • Promotors: Ine Lietaert and Ilse Derluyn
    • Funding: BOF DOS Ghent University / Wollo University
      • 15 September 2018 – 14 September 2023

    Investigating Water and Climate-Related Conflicts and Migration towards Engagement and Equity focused Solutions for Adaptation, Human Security and Policy Integration in Africa

    • PhD Fellow: Alix Debray
    • Promotor: Ilse Ruyssen
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University (UNU-CRIS label)
      • 1 October 2019 – 30 September 2023

    Borders and Mobility in Situations of Regional Separatism: A Grassroots Approach in Abkhazia, Nagorno Karabakh and Transnistria

    • PhD Fellow: Gaëlle Le Pavic
    • Promotor: Ine Lietaert
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University
      • 1 October 2020 – 30 September 2023

    Cultural Identity and the City – A Sociocultural-Spatial Approach Towards Inclusive Urbanization for Internally Displaced Indigenous People in Mindanao

    • PhD Fellow: Dan Jezreel A. Orendain
    • Promoter: Ine Lietaert
    • Funding: FWO fundamental research fellowship
      • 1 February 2022 - 31 January 2024

    Migrant Squatting and 'City-zenship': Comparative Analysis of Municipal Migration Policies and Bottom-Up Processes of Integration in Paris and Rome

    • PhD Fellow: Tancrède Pagès
    • Promotor: Robin Vandevoordt
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University (UNU-CRIS label)
      • 1 February 2021 - 31 January 2025)

    International Thematic Network on Climate-Migration-Health (CliMigHealth)

    • Coordinator: Ilse Ruyssen
    • Partner institutes: Ghent University, UNU-CRIS, Makerere University, University of Ghana, ICRAF, University of Zambia, University of Malawi, Stellenbosch University, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, EIEE, Aarhus University, University of Göttingen, KIT Royal Tropical Institute, UNU-MERIT, UNU-EHS, UNU-INWEH, University of California, University of Queensland
    • Funding: Ghent University and partner institutes
      • 2020-2025

    Completed Projects

    Internal Displacement, Livelihood and Belonging in Oromia Region, Ethiopia

    • PhD Fellow: Dereje Regasa
    • Promotor: Ine Lietaert
    • Funding: Nascere scholarship (Jimma University/Ghent University)
      • 1 December 2019 – 30 November 2023

    Translating Return Migration Management in The Gambia: Sustainable Reintegration in Practice

    • PhD Fellow: Rossella Marino
    • Promotor: Ine Lietaert
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University (UNU-CRIS label)
      • 1 October 2019 – 30 September 2023

    Mobility as the Human Face of Climate Change: Analysing Heterogeneity in Climate Migration and Policy Frameworks

    • PhD Fellow: Els Bekaert
    • Promotor: Ilse Ruyssen
    • Funding: BOF Ghent University (UNU-CRIS label)
      • 1 November 2018 – 31 October 2022

    [Un]Certainty after return: Unpacking community expectations, familial geopolitics and [in]formal support for Cameroonian returnees

    • hD Fellow: Presca Wanki
    • Promotors: Ine Lietaert and Ilse Derluyn
    • Funding: BOF-DOS (Ghent University) and Global Minds Fund (Fieldwork)
      • 1January 2019 - 31 October 2021

    The Socioeconomics of International Migration Decisions and Outcomes

    • PhD Fellow: Chinedu Obi
    • Promotors: Marijke D’Haese and Fabio Bartolini
    • Funding: University of Pisa
      • 1 November 2017 – 31 October 2020

    Book project on Regional Integration and Migration Governance in the Global South

    • Editors: Glenn Rayp, Ilse Ruyssen and Katrin Marchand, United Nations University Series on Regionalism Book Series, Springer, 2020.

    African Migration: Root Causes and Regulatory Dynamics (AMIREG)

    • Researchers Sara Salamone and Léonie Jegen, Promotors: Florian Trauner and Ilke Adam, Collaborators: Christof Roos and Ilse Ruyssen
    • Funding: UNU-CRIS, 1 June 2017 – 30 Sept 2018
    • http://cris.unu.edu/amireg

    Book project on Migration, Free Movement and Regional Integration

    • Editors: Sonja Nita, Antoine Pecoud, Philippe De Lombaerde, Paul de Guchteneire, Kate Neyts and Joshua Gartland, UNESCO, 2017

    Book project on Impact of Circular Migration on Human, Political and Civil Rights – A Global Perspective

    • Editors: Carlota Solé, Sonia Parella, Teresa Sordé Marti and Sonja Nita, Springer, 2016.

    UNESCO-UNU Chair on Regional Integration, Migration and Free Movement of People

    • Chair holder: Lorenzo Fioramonti
      • Former Chair Holder: Bob Deacon
    • Funding: Flemish Government (dept. Internationaal Vlaanderen)
      • 26/11/2010 – 26/11/2014

    Free Movement of People within Regional Organisations

    • Researchers: Lorenzo Fioramonti and Sonja Nita
    • Funding: UNESCO
      • 01/03/2009 - 31/12/2009

    Book project on Regional Approaches to the Protection of Asylum Seekers: An International Legal Perspective

    • Editors: Ademola Abass and Francesca Ippolito, Ashgate, 2014.

    Special Issue on Regions without Borders? Regional Governance, Migration and Social Protection in Africa and Europe

    • Editors: Bob Deacon, Lorenzo Fioramonti and Sonja Nita, Regions and Cohesion, 2014.

    Book project on World-Regional Social Policy and Global Governance

    • Editors: Bob Deacon, Luk Van Langenhove, Nicola Yeates and Maria-Cristina Macovei, Routledge, 2010.