ESRC (UK) Urgency Grant to fund social science research into migration crisis

In response to the on-going migration crisis the ESRC is providing £1 million to support leading UK social scientists to conduct research with migrant and refugee populations who have entered Europe across the Mediterranean.

Eight projects from across the UK are being funded under the ESRC’s Urgency Grants Mechanism. This is the first time the ESRC has activated this funding mechanism on a strategic basis, in response to a crisis.

Co-funded by the Department for International Development, the Mediterranean Migration Research Programme, which goes live today, will provide evidence to inform the development of policy and responses by governments, European agencies, and charities.

Craig Bardsley, Head of International Development Research at ESRC, said: "Given the unprecedented levels of migration across the Mediterranean this spring and summer, and the catastrophic death toll that resulted, there was an urgent need for new research to better understand the dynamics and drivers of the crisis. 

"With highly vulnerable people in the midst of a complex international crisis, there is an important role for highly trained, independent social scientists to gather accurate, reliable data. We hope this research programme will make a critical contribution to the evidence to support an effective policy response."

The following eight projects have received ESRC funding:

  • Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by boat: Mapping and documenting migratory journeys and experiences.
    Dr Vicki Squire, University of Warwick
    This project produces a timely and robust evidence base as grounds for informing policy interventions developed under emergency conditions. It does so by assessing the impact of such interventions on those that they affect most directly: refugees and migrants themselves.
  • Missing migrants and deaths at the EU’s Mediterranean border: Humanitarian needs and state obligations.
    Simon Robins, University of York 
    This project seeks to generate data that can enable the authorities to prioritise a systematic approach to the collection of information from both migrant bodies found in the EU and from the families of missing migrants, such that bodies can be identified and families informed of deaths. The project will permit policy to be driven by an understanding of the needs of families of dead and missing migrants.
  • Transitory lives: An anthropological research of the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.
    Elisabeth Kirtsoglou, Durham University
    Investigating the management of migration emergencies in the critically affected regions of south Italy and the eastern Aegean islands, this study aims to document and understand migrant subjectivities and motives behind high-risk irregular migration, to identify potential gaps in reception structures and to assess the effects of migration on receiving communities.
  • Transcapes: transient populations transforming the European political space.
    Antonis Vradis, Durham University 
    As an unprecedented flow of refugees and migrants makes its way through the European continent, the Transcapes project aspires to move away from both a victimisation and criminalisation of this flow, asking how these transient populations challenge and rapidly transform the European political space instead.
  • Unravelling the Mediterranean migration crisis (MEDMIG).
    Heaven Crawley, Coventry University
    The research aims to better understand the dynamics of migration in the Mediterranean region by providing the first large-scale, systematic and comparative study of the backgrounds, experiences, aspirations and routes of migrants in four European countries (Italy, Greece, Malta and Turkey) gathered from 550 migrants who have recently arrived and 100 stakeholders.
  • EVI-MED - Constructing an evidence base of contemporary Mediterranean migrations.
    Brad Blitz, Middlesex University
    This project will collate statistics from across search and rescue organisations as well as national and European bodies, to track and map migrant flows and reception systems across the Mediterranean. It will also include a survey of more than 750 individual migrants across Sicily, Greece and Malta, providing an insight into profiles, routes, experiences and migration plans.
  • Precarious trajectories: Understanding the human cost of the migrant crisis in the central Mediterranean.
    Simon Parker, University of York
    This project will provide a rigorous, evidence based account of the human cost of the current Mediterranean emergency, looking at the complex migration trajectories; how different state and non-state actors can add or reduce friction to the mobility of migrants; and how conventional governmental and media representations can be qualified or challenged by giving voice to migrants as knowledge bearing subjects.
  • Documenting the humanitarian migration crisis in the Mediterranean.
    Elspeth Guild, Queen Mary, University of London
    We know little about the experiences and journeys of migrants, especially in light of migration management strategies; this project will answer key questions such as who are the migrants?; how do they make their journeys?; where do they seek to go?; what family connections do they have?; how are they governed along the way? It will involve the development of a database that offers a comprehensive quantitative and qualitative picture of migrants and the ways in which they are governed en route.

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