Jan 24, 2021

Migration, Development and Global Transformations (MDGT)

Refugees  living in tents in the center relocation Diavata

The Migration, Development and Global Transformations (MDGT) programme brings together WUN migration researchers and data experts, in a research incubation activity supported by ongoing research and policy collaboration between the University of Bristol and the International Organization for Migration’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre.

Some migration policy areas are already relatively well researched, such as remittance costs, trafficking and many dimensions of labour migration. Others remain as ‘hidden’ forms of migration, and often are indicators of new and emerging dynamics of migration and development. These dimensions include South-South migration, the ‘hidden economy’, intra-regional migration, internal and urban-urban migration, the production of vulnerability, the importance of a rights agenda and the significance of gender analysis. A further crucial gap lies in policy. Policy failures such as those evident in the Mediterranean humanitarian crisis, highlighted the need for a clear policy focus in migration research in the coming decade, something that will require collaboration between and across the disciplines.

The first workshop, a central activity in the WUN Migration Conference, was held at the WUN AGM in the University of Maastricht, April 2016. The discussions during this conference identified an agenda for a second event. The two workshops, with intervening discussions, identified how WUN activities could contribute to the development of the knowledge base for the 2030 Development Agenda. The research foci of the MDGT network align with the cross-cutting WUN research themes of Migration and Data Science and the long-term objective is to fill key gaps in the global knowledge base on migration.

A symposium, Hidden Migration, Data & Policy took place in Bristol on 9 and 10 March 2017, and provided an opportunity for migration researchers at Bristol to engage with academics and policy makers at a global level. Approximately 50 researchers from 12 different countries participated.

On 15 December 2017 the IOM launched its Migration Data Portal. The Portal aims to serve as a unique access point to timely, comprehensive migration statistics and reliable information about migration data globally. Through her link to IOM-GMDAC in Berlin, where she is Senior Advisor, MDGT lead Ann Singleton has been instrumental in work to develop the Portal.

With Bela Hovy (Chief Migration Section Population Division, UN-DESA) and Frank Laczko (Director, IOM-GMDAC), Ann edited The Global Migration Group Handbook for Improving the Production and Use of Migration Data for Development, which was launched on 18 December in New York at an event organised by the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD), to coincide with the UN’s International Migrants Day.

These new materials were used to support work in the UoB-hosted WUN-IOM Summer School on Migration Data for Policy, which took place in Bristol, 9-12 July 2018. It brought together data experts, statisticians and officials, working closely with the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) and United Nations Population Division, to provide dedicated training, education and knowledge exchange. The Summer School also pioneered the use of migration data training materials developed by IOM’s GMDAC and introduced participants to the wealth of resources available to support their work with IOM data, government and research data on migration.

Videos of the 2018 Summer School can be found here.

There are plans to use the model trialled in Bristol in future Summer Schools, including an event scheduled to take place in Morocco in 2020.

More information on this WUN interdisciplinary research group (IRG) can be found on the University of Bristol website. A further development of this initiative is the complementary project Memorials to people who have died and to those missing during migration: a global project, also led by Ann Singleton, which brought six more partners together with the MDGT team.

In 2019

Academic Publications:

◦       Ingleby, D. Singleton, A. and Wickramage, K. (2019) “Is it Time to Phase Out  UNDESA’s Regional Criterion of Development?”. International Migration. 

◦       Prabhat, D., Singleton, A. & Eyles, R. (2019) “Age is Just a Number? Supporting Migrant Young People with Precarious Legal Status in the UK”. International Journal of Children’s Rights, vol 27., pp. 228-250

Scholarly event:

6 June 2019 “Migration, Ageing and Older People”, a one-day workshop on ageing and migration in Bristol.


On 2 May 2019 The Weekend Documentary: Left Behind (Migrant Stories), BBC World Service, an hour-long programme

Following lobbying by members of the group, there is now a dedicated space on the British Medical Journal’s website for migration and health

Selected outcomes

Migration and Asylum Data for Policy-making in the European Union: the problem with numbers, Ann Singleton

Migrant arrivals and deaths in the Mediterranean: what do the data really tell us? Frank Laczko, Ann Singleton, Tara Brian and Marzia Rango in Forced Migration Review (Jan 2016)

GMDAC briefing (The Central Mediterranean Route: Deadlier than Ever, the most-read since June 2016)