1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. What is New in South–South Migrations?
  4. What is Specific in South–South Migrations?
  5. Contents of this Special Collection
  6. References

In this essay, the authors argue that although “South” and “North” are more and more becoming problematic categories in the social sciences, in general, and in migration studies, in particular, it still makes sense today to focus on South-South migrations. Not only because of its mere quantitative importance, but for a number of reasons. Firstly, new South-South migration patterns are observable and new data are becoming available. Secondly, South-South migrations still have a number of distinct features, including: the role of borders, the composition of migration flows, the migration-conflict nexus, regional migration governance, and the specific relationships with certain migration-related concepts and variables.

The goal of this special section in the International Migration Review is to communicate scholarship which addresses the most significant and critical analytical issues pertaining the south–south migrations and mobilities. We proposed a number of broadly defined themes in the call for papers in late 2012: the relevance of current migration theories and social research methods for understanding the nature of transnational processes in south–south migrations and movements; causes and consequences of south–south migration and movements, especially the relationships between migration and regional and national development; characteristics of population movements and migrants in the global south; the implications of the process of globalization and global changes for south–south migrations; expectations about patterns of diversity, notably gender, among movements and migrants; emergence of national, bi- and multinational policy regimes vis-à-vis migration and migrants; and emergence of regional convergence or divergence resulting from south–south migrations and movements.

From a large number of submissions, five papers were selected that represent scholarship lead by early career social scientists. The papers offer new perspectives as well as explorations in working across perspectives. The authors, Lindsey Carte, Caitlin Fouratt, Edwin Lin, Marvin Joseph F. Montefrio, and Tyler Myroniuk, along with their colleagues, Yasmin Y. Ortiga, Ma. Rose Cristy B. Josol, and Jo Vearey, illustrate contributions from the coming generation of migration scholars to expanding the agenda of international migration theory and research pertaining to the global south but also more generally.

“South” and “North” are problematic categories in the social sciences. And although the problematization of these categories will not be further developed here, we fully share a critical approximation of them, and we are aware that in a rapidly changing world, they might become less and less relevant. And as the categories are problematic in the social sciences in general, they are also problematic in migration studies, in particular (Bakewell, 2009; Campillo-Carrete, 2013). We argue, however, that focusing on south-south migration still makes sense today, not only because of its importance from a purely quantitative point of view.1 It is so for a number of reasons. First, we observe new patterns in south–south migration that are in need of new analysis, even if convergence in global migration patterns in the long term is a possibility. New analysis of south–south migration is also made possible by the very recent availability of new bilateral migration data at a global scale (see below). Second, there are good reasons to argue that south–south migration has (still) a number of specific features, to some extent differentiating it from north–north or north–south migration including the role of borders, the migration-conflict nexus, and the issue of regional migration governance. Research on migrations in the global south also puts into relief certain “global” characteristics of migration patterns and policies in the global north.

What is New in South–South Migrations?

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. What is New in South–South Migrations?
  4. What is Specific in South–South Migrations?
  5. Contents of this Special Collection
  6. References

We argue that over the last decades, new migration patterns have emerged in the global south that have not been fully analyzed so far. In addition, new data sources have become available recently, helping us to (partly) overcome the data gaps that were and are particularly felt in relation to the south.

New Patterns and New Actors

There is evidence that both the patterns of mobility and migration in the south have become more heterogeneous and complex (Tacoli, 2001; Jonsson, 2009). This requires a closer and contextualized look at the observed migration trajectories. It also requires a look at the new actors involved: not only new migrant populations due to changing geographical migration patterns but also new types of intermediaries, cross-national businesses, etc. All this further happens in a context of changing rules and security situations, new international communication and payment technologies, etc.

The “new” patterns not only develop intra-regionally (Adepoju, 2006; Westh Olsen, 2011) but also inter-regionally (Souchaud, 2009; ACP, 2012), sometimes “triangularized”. With respect to intra-regional migration, it has been noticed, for example, that trajectory distances tend to become longer. In an African context, a case in point is South Africa that started to attract African migrants from more distant countries (such as Ethiopia), including francophone countries (such as Senegal) (Adepoju, 2005; Nyamnjoh, 2006) (see also the Myroniuk and Vearey paper in this issue). It has also been noticed that new patterns of cross-border rural–rural mobility are emerging (Adepoju, 1995; Tacoli, 2001; Van Dijk, Foeken, and van Til, 2001; Mberu, 2005; Abdul-Korah, 2006; Boesen, 2007; De Bruijn, 2007; Deacon and Nita, 2013).

With respect to inter-regional migration, the “Asian factor” is playing an increasingly significant role, both as origin and destination, in south–south migration flows (Tull, 2006; Martin, 2008; Taylor, 2009; Egbula and Zheng, 2011) (see Lin's paper in this issue). In addition, new flows are observed between Africa and Latin America (Souchaud, 2009). These new dynamics have in turn led to new patterns of south–south remittance flows (David, 1995; Weeks, 1995; Hujo and Piper, 2007).

New Data

The lack of sufficient and adequate data on migration, in general, has been noticed on various occasions (Gnisci and Trémolières, 2006: 10; OECD/SWAC, 2006: 18; Ratha and Shaw, 2007). And whereas in many countries survey data exist that serve a number of purposes, the lack of bilateral flow data to study intra- and extra-regional migration patterns was and is particularly felt (Ceccorulli et al., 2011). Recently, an important breakthrough was achieved with the publication of global migration matrices by the World Bank.2 These matrices are a further development of a bilateral migration matrix on migration stocks originally created by the University of Sussex for 162 countries (Parsons et al., 2005). In an expanded version, the database also estimated bilateral information for 64 additional countries. The figures in the matrices combine historical data (from national population and housing censuses of origin and destination countries, national population registers, international organizations, and other sources) with estimates in order to have complete matrices (Parsons et al., 2005; Ratha and Shaw, 2007). The World Bank expanded and updated the information on bilateral migrant stocks for 56 countries using additional census data (Ratha and Shaw, 2007), resulting in a public database with ten-yearly bilateral data on migration stocks for the 1960–2000 period. It goes without saying that these new data open tremendous possibilities for new quantitative research on south–south migration as it was in the context of the global south that the scarcity of data was particularly felt. This includes new work on the migration-remittance nexus (Hujo and Piper, 2007; Ratha and Shaw, 2007; De Haas, 2010; Mohapatra, Ratha, and Silwal, 2010).

What is Specific in South–South Migrations?

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. What is New in South–South Migrations?
  4. What is Specific in South–South Migrations?
  5. Contents of this Special Collection
  6. References

Next to the fact that new patterns of south–south migration are in need of new research and that new data provide interesting opportunities to analyze south–south migration flows (see above), we argue that south–south migration still has specific features distinguishing it from north–north or north–south migration.

A first feature is related to the meaning of borders. Borders play indeed different roles in different contexts. Especially in an African context, it has been observed that a neat distinction between intra-national and intra-regional mobility and migration might be problematic because of the way the current state borders have historically been constructed, the generally less restrictive context for migration and mobility, and often weaker border enforcement capacities (Addo, 1975; Adepoju, 2005; a; Jonsson, 2009; Mafukidze, 2006). But also in Asian and Caribbean contexts, for example, similar patterns have been observed (Howard, 2007; Sikander Mehdi, 2010).

A second feature is related to the average composition of south–south migration flows. It has been observed that it is different from the composition of north–south migration flows, the former being characterized by relatively lower skill and education levels (Hujo and Piper, 2007) and younger ages (McKenzie, 2008). A third feature is related to the conflict-migration nexus, which is likely to be more present in a south–south context than in the context of north–north or north–south migration (Jonsson, 2009). This leads to a number of research questions on the behavior of all actors involved (Lututala, 2007).

A fourth feature is related to the fact that in several regions in the global south, there are attempts to create governance structures for migration and to implement “free” or “facilitated” free movement protocols in a context of relatively weak regional governance and weak regional organizations (Oucho and Crush, 2001; Adepoju, 2005; Agyei and Clottey 2007; Hujo and Piper, 2007; Cerruti, 2009; Deacon et al., 2011; Segatti, 2011, 2012).

Finally, studying south–south migration dynamics also allows us to re-consider and/or question the meaning and relevance of other related social concepts and variables (and their nexus with other variables) that often emerged in a Northern context and were then a-critically transposed into other contexts. A good example, as illustrated by the Myroniuk and Vearey paper and also the Lin paper (in this issue), is the social capital variable and its linkages with migration-related variables (Woolcock, 1998; Narayan et al., 2000; Woolcock and Narayan, 2000; Fafchamps and Minten, 2001; Szreter and Woolcock, 2004; Grootaert et al., 2004; Jha, Rao, and Woolcock, 2007). Other examples include the migration-development nexus and the migration-inequality nexus (Campillo-Carrete, 2013).

Contents of this Special Collection

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. What is New in South–South Migrations?
  4. What is Specific in South–South Migrations?
  5. Contents of this Special Collection
  6. References

This special section of the spring issue of the International Migration Review introduces five case studies whose lead authors are early career researchers from a range of disciplinary fields. Myroniuk and Vearey's paper Social Capital and Livelihoods in Johannesburg: Differential Advantages and Unexpected Outcomes among Internal Migrants, Foreign-born Migrants and Long-Term South African Residents provides a comprehensive quantitative sociological analysis of social relations among various migrant groups in South Africa. The authors reveal the diversity in outcomes among migrant groups (i.e. foreign-born versus internal migrants) and also the variations in the social and economic processes underlying those outcomes. Myroniuk and Vearey's results question the theoretically expected positive relationship between social capital and livelihood outcomes; foreign-born migrants tend to show better livelihood outcomes than internal migrants, and the length of residency does not appear to be a good predictor of relative livelihood outcomes either. Carte's paper Everyday Restriction: Central American Women and the State in the Mexico-Guatemala Border City of Tapachula adopts a qualitative approach to explore the institutional barriers that Central-American female immigrants encounter as they engage with the local bureaucracies of the Mexican state. The hidden mechanisms that restrict immigrants and obstruct settlement are carefully explored and analyzed. Lin's paper Big Fish in a Small Pond: Chinese Migrant Shop-keepers in South Africa provides some insights into Chinese immigrants in South Africa and their migration strategy and decision-making process. It also proposes a new theoretical understanding of migration decision-making that is based on the essences of social capital and social network theories. The paper by Fouratt, “Those who come to do harm”:The Framings of Immigration Problems in Costa Rican Immigration Law, uses a socio-legal approach to interrogate immigration policy and legal reform in Costa Rica that took place in 2006; her findings reveal parallels with countries of reception in the global north in the form of strong tendencies toward securitization emerging in political discourse, policy, and law. Finally, the paper by Montefrio, Ortiga, and Josol Remittance-Induced Development: South-South Migration and the Expansion of Oil Palm provides an original case study that examines the extent to which social remittances, affect investment decisions by non-migrant farmers in Philippines. The transfer of knowledge by Filipinos who have worked in oil palm plantations in Malaysia is interpreted within the framework of social remittances and, among other factors, revealed as a critical variable in patterns of land-use change and development.

Each of these five papers provides an interesting case study on South–South migration and mobility. They are empirically based and reflect multidisciplinary points of view. Most of the cases in the collection explore the areas that are inadequately studied in the existing literature or provide an updated understanding of the recent development of a well-established and researched area. We hope that these papers re-ignite debates among migration studies scholars on the fundamental proposition of South-South migration, which enhances our understanding of the patterns, consequences, and motivation of migration between and among destinations even more generally. Our new colleagues contributing to this collection are widening the critical conversations concerning patterns and processes of international migration, and thus, directions of international migration scholarship.

  1. 1

    A recent review of estimations of south–south migration situates its importance between 33 and 45 percent of total migration worldwide (Campillo-Carrete, 2013: 12).

  2. 2


  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. What is New in South–South Migrations?
  4. What is Specific in South–South Migrations?
  5. Contents of this Special Collection
  6. References
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