On 10 June, the LSE Migration Studies Unit convened a lively roundtable of international experts who are pioneering new data sets about human migration. Addressing gaps in knowledge about migration policy across countries and time, participants shared work that examines national laws and trends in the governance of migration.
Political scientists, geographers, economists, sociologists and anthropologists representing the Universities of Sydney, Amsterdam, Oxford, Luxembourg, Bristol, Louvain and Harvard joined LSE students and faculty in a discussion about the Migration Studies Unit's ambitious IMPALA database. Also present was Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative for Migration and Chairman of the LSE Board of Governors. The group found a disconnection between national migration policy and available statistics on the subject, but made promising plans to pursue reliable comparative data. After a successful workshop, participants returned to their efforts bolstered by a new network of colleagues, collaborators, and confidants. They expect to re-convene at a later date.
Governments adopt a wide variety of approaches to regulating immigration. They give different meanings to basic concepts such as citizenship and residency, and place different importance on occupational skills, family reunification, and cultural and ethnic diversity when selecting immigrants. But it is impossible at the moment to say much more than that about alternative approaches to immigration policy. There are no comprehensive, cross-nationally comparable data on immigration policies and no systematic method for classifying, measuring, and comparing immigration policies across countries and over time.
The International Migration Policy and Law Analysis (IMPALA) Database will address this problem directly by providing a new set of data on immigration policies that should be of immense value to researchers in a wide variety of academic disciplines. The IMPALA Database is a collaborative project, bringing together social science and legal researchers from Harvard University, the University of Luxembourg, the University of Amsterdam, the London School of Economics, and the University of Sydney.
The IMPALA research team is currently gathering comparable data on immigration law and policy in over 25 countries of immigration between 1960 and 2010. We examine all major categories of immigration law and policy, covering the acquisition of citizenship, economic migration, family reunification, permanent immigration, temporary migration, asylum and refugee protection, and policies relating to undocumented migration and border control. We will also examine policies relating to the integration of immigrants into the host country, including government programs providing medical insurance, cash benefits, housing assistance, employment assistance, job skill and language training, and civics courses.
By creating a comprehensive, cross-nationally comparable database on immigration laws and policies, the project will make it possible for scholars to evaluate the effects of different approaches to managing immigration and thereby make critical contributions to ongoing debates and policy decisions. We anticipate that it will be useful to economists interested in explaining immigration flows and their economic effects, to sociologists examining the social and cultural consequences of immigration, to political scientists interested in explaining immigration policies and the political impact of immigration, and to legal scholars studying the rights granted to immigrants and refugees in different countries.