Distress Migration

Applications for the Weatherhead Research Cluster on Migration 2024–2025 Doctoral Fellows Program are open until January 5 , 2024.

Learn more and apply here!

Applications for the 2024 Intensive Summer Course on Migration and Refugee Studies in Greece are open until February 10, 2024.

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The program at a glance

Migration is one of the central moral and governance issues of our time. Conflict, war, violence, natural disasters and a host of other seemingly unstoppable factors have for the whole of human history catalyzed the mass movement and mass displacement of people across the world. Over the past decade alone, war, hunger and poverty have displaced more people than at any intervening time since WWII, challenging social, economic and political frameworks. As people move from one region of the globe to another, they transcend borders, cultures and jurisdictions, creating a multi-faceted protection, governance and political challenge unlike any other. With no global framework in place to manage this complex phenomenon, individual countries and governments enact micro level policies with little or no regard for the global context, further exacerbating human suffering and eroding human rights. The urgency of advancing quality research to inform thoughtful policy and training the next generation of advocates on these issues could not be greater.

The Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB Center) has assumed a leadership role in in this endeavor. Building on FXB’s Director of Research Professor Jacqueline Bhabha’s two decades of academic and policy work on issues of distress migration and child migrants, as well as data generated throughout the past 10 years, the FXB Center has established itself as one of, if not the center of excellence in the study and policy development on distress migration. It is widely regarded as a thought leader in the field, with its members engaged in policy making, research and training of students, advocates and practitioners globally. Over the past 10 years, the Distress Migration program at the FXB Center has undertaken primary, pioneer research on key migration and displacement issues, gathering primary data on evolving crises in Europe, the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. The center has generated peer reviewed research, targeted policy briefs and recommendations, and developed a comprehensive and multidisciplinary summer program on migration and refugee studies as part of its pedagogical agenda.

Our Team

Program’s areas of activity

The Program supports activities in four interrelated areas:

Our Work

Highlighted Projects

From Evidence to Action: Twenty Years of IOM Child Trafficking Data to Inform Child Protective Policies (2021- 2023)

Cover of From Evidence to Action: Twenty Years of IOM Child Trafficking Data to Inform Policy and ProgrammingHuman trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry in which traffickers generate profits from the exploitation of millions worldwide. Widely regarded as an urgent human rights issue, the crime is difficult to assess due to its hidden nature, the lack of resources focused on identifying and serving victims, and the reluctance of victims and witnesses to come forward due to manipulation, fear, violent threats, shame, language barriers, or mistrust of authorities. One of the biggest evidence gaps on human trafficking pertains to the trafficking of children. Administrative data on trafficking is one of the only available data sources available on trafficked children because collection of primary data from children on such a sensitive topic, for example, through household surveys, is extremely challenging or impossible for ethical and practical reasons. In early 2021, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University initiated a collaboration to produce the first global report on child trafficking utilizing IOM’s Victim of Trafficking Database (VoTD), the largest international, administrative database on victims of human trafficking in the world. In particular, the VoTD contains primary data collected from more than 69,000 victims of human trafficking of all ages and genders (more than 13,000 children), collected in a spam of 20 years. This is the first global study that aims to yield valuable insights into the dynamics, trends and patterns that characterize global child trafficking, further contributing to larger international efforts to narrow the knowledge gap around the phenomenon. Read the full report here.

“See Migration Like Water”: An Analysis of IOM Flow Monitoring Survey Data on Migration Flows in West and Central Africa.

See Migration Like Water: An Analysis of Flow Monitoring Survey Data on Migration Flows In and Through West and Central AfricaThis FXB Center and International Organization for Migration (IOM) report analyzes intersecting aspects of migrant vulnerability across the most popular West and Central African migration routes – examining risk and protective factors at the individual, household, community, and structural level – and provides recommendations to protect migrants. Watch the FXB Center’s Professor Jacqueline Bhabha and Dr. Vasileia Digidiki discuss the report’s findings with IOM researchers here, and read the report in English and French.


Current Projects

Recent Past Projects