Migration initiative - refugees

Global Migration

The Global Migration Initiative strived to inform policy debate at the local, national, regional and global levels at a number of conferences and seminars.


The IGA Global Migration Initiative aims to step up research and find workable policy solutions, both emergency measures and long term thinking, for the truly global and urgent challenge of international migration and refugee crisis.

Since its launch in late 2015, we have engaged in new research, connected multidisciplinary research themes within LSE and beyond through a new network, the Alliance of Lead Universities on Migration (ALUM), and strived to inform policy debate at the local, national, regional and global levels at a number of conferences and seminars. Our outreach is supported by the novel online course MigrationMatters, which makes top notch academic research accessible to wider audiences.  

Alliance of Lead Universities on Migration (ALUM)

ALUM is a unique collaboration among lead universities in Europe and frontier countries in North Africa and the Middle East, forging an alliance to help bridge the gap between research and policy in the management of the current migrant and refugee crisis. ALUM’s network identifies the key units and researchers ready and willing to contribute their expertise to work across national and disciplinary boundaries towards evidence-based policy solutions. ALUM is willing to reason publicly, to interact directly with private stakeholders and governmental institutions and, if need be, to engage in closed door negotiations for maximum impact. ALUM now has twelve European institutions as members and it is now extended to the Middle East with the American University of Beirut (AUB). In all its events ALUM has engaged with policymakers from both frontier and destination countries, including Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden, as well as UN agencies and European institutions and now, Lebanon.

ALUM has grown from the realization that universities across Europe and beyond are uniquely positioned to credibly inform the public, raise awareness, and influence policy makers with evidence-based policy advice. As the refugee crisis was deepening in Europe in the summer of 2015, universities were starting to step up their policy engagement – but the sheer scale of the needed effort in a rapidly changing political environment was clearly beyond what any single institution could achieve on its own. There was an urgent need for a coordinated, evidence-based response leveraging universities’ independent research, public policy expertise and convening power in order to strengthen impact. Such work can also inform global UN efforts and other global initiatives such as the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD).

The ALUM was formally created in November 2015 with the participation of several major universities from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Hungary; for the full list see Appendix I.  A year on, we are now in the process further expanding the network to include frontier recipient countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt to connect to and leverage the unique knowledge and high quality researchers and policy expertise in these countries.

To support the ALUM process, the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) at the London School of Economics and Social Science (LSE) has taken up the initial responsibility to manage a small virtual “Secretariat” for ALUM, temporarily funded from its own resources.

Record to date

During ALUM’s first years, we have (i) organised four major joint research and policy events hosted by various ALUM members; (ii) engaged and connected our students in the migration research field; (iii) commenced developing joint research projects; and (iv) continuously informed network members of each others’ activities.

Joint Research and Policy Events: 

  • Ortigia Business School (OBS) - 5th ALUM Research Conference on Migration: Overturn Stories, how Europe can create a good practice of migrants' inclusion, Siracusa, Italy, May 21-23, 2018.
  • American University of Beirut (AUB) - 4th ALUM Research Conference on Migration and drafting of the Beirut Declaration, Beirut, Lebanon, November 6-7, 2017. During the Universities Responding to the Refugee Crisis Conference, ALUM members presented and deliberated the critical role that universities can play in the current refugee crisis in Lebanon, and how they can ameliorate the situation of refugees by providing realistic ideas and policy proposals to the multiple challenges refugees face in their current predicament. During the second day of the conference academics drafted the Beirut Declaration, click here to read the document.
  • Ortygia Business School (OBS) - 3rd ALUM Research Conference on Migration and recommendations for the G7, with keynote speech by Francesco Aureli, G7 Sherpa on migration under Italy's G7 Presidency, Siracusa, Italy, April 25-26, 2017.
  • AUB Forum: 'Innovative Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis', Beirut, Lebanon, 27 January, 2017.
  • University of Mannheim - 2nd ALUM Research Conference on Migration, Mannheim, Germany, November 2-4, 2016. Mannheim University organised the 2nd research/policy event titled Bringing Together Research & Practice. The researchers presented new research (including from the American University of Beirut) ranging from the efficiency of NGOs, language training to integration and relocation policies. We engaged with policy makers particularly from the local and state level in Germany.
  • Ortygia Business School - 1st ALUM Research Conference on Migration, Siracusa, Italy, April 18-19, 2016. We organized a major international conference titled Managing Migration - Solutions beyond the Nation State.It encapsulated ALUM’s approach in a single event, bringing together migration researchers from diverse disciplines: politics, economics, megadata statistics, anthropology, communication, drawing primarily on the ALUM university network. We also had high level representatives from the governments of Italy, Sweden and Germany. The conference’s keynote speech was delivered by Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative on Migration. Briefings from regional and local government representatives in Italy and NGOs helped highlight the specific migration challenges Sicily is facing and the way local, national, EU and UN level assistance is working together to deliver support to refugees.

Engagement with policy makers. We have linked up to senior government bodies of key countries in the EU, which have thus far borne the brunt of the costs of the migration crisis, taking in the largest number of refugees: Germany, Italy and Sweden as well as EU officials.  The ALUM network’s research-based work should help inform deliberations in these countries and also at the supranational (UN and other) levels.

Student engagement. We have engaged student organizations directly both to raise awareness and, equally important, to come up with creative solutions: 

  • INET Young Scholars Initiative - Challenging Conventional Wisdom: the Economics of Migration and Public Perception, AUB, Lebanon, 5 November, 2017. The focus of the INET Young Scholars Initiative @AUB event was set on research projects in the area of the Economics of Migration and Public Perception of Migration, with presentations from young scholars and contributions from ALUM researchers.
  • Student participation at the 2nd ALUM Conference, Mannheim University, 2-4 November, 2016.
  • From Migration Crisis to Migration Governance. Student-led UN style conference on Global Migration, with student participation from ALUM universities, London, UK, May 6-8, 2016. Together with student organizations, LSE IGA hosted a student simulation From Migration Crisis to Migration Governance for about 30 students from the ALUM universities ahead of the  High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on Migration that took place in September 2016. Peter Sutherland and ALUM faculty helped animate the discussion. Officials from the UN system led the proceedings and gave feedback to students.

Joint research. So far we have exchanged research findings and started to explore joint projects under Horizon2020. A project proposal for OSF is also being prepared presenting innovative approaches for higher even education for refugees.

Outreach. We are stepping up our joint action in this area, drawing on members’ own unique approaches, for example the MigrationMatters online course on migration of LSE IGA, where top academics present their research findings in a fun and accessible manner.   At the Siracusa event we launched a video competition on migration, funded by OSF. The winners will be announced late November in London.  

Next steps

Conferences are planned in Lebanon at the American University of Beirut around end-March 2017, connecting ALUM to research and policy making in frontier recipient countries. In addition, a side-event on the margins of the Taormina Summit on 26-27 May, 2017 to upgrade the Migration Compact Non-Paper with a coordinated, evidence-based set of proposals leveraging universities’ unique educational capacity, independent research and public policy expertise.

List of universities

  • London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), UK
  • Universität Mannheim, Germany
  • Hertie School of Governance, Germany
  • University of Bologna, Italy
  • Università Bocconi, Italy
  • European University Institute (EUI), Italy
  • Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France
  • Sciences Po, France
  • Central European University (CEU), Hungary/Germany
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • American University of Beirut, Lebanon
  • American University in Cairo, Egypt
  • Koç University, Turkey
  • University of Kurdistan, Iraq
  • Ortygia Business School, Italy
  • University of Messina, Italy
  • German Jordanian University (GJU), Jordan
  • Yale University (McMillan Center for International and Area Studies), USA
  • Stanford University (through the Stanford Migration Lab), USA
  • Tilburg University, Netherlands

Migration research

Supported by the Milken Institute, IGA has appointed a Milken Fellow in the area of migration: Dr Dominik Hangartner (LSE). The first draft of the research paper was presented at an international conference in early December 2016 at the Milken Institute’s London Summit.

Conferences/workshops and Public Events:

  • Overprincipled and underperforming: The Global Compact for Migration and the challenge to multilateralism, May 17, 2018. Speaker: Gibril Faal, LSE IGA Professor in Practice.
  • Research and policy engagement under the AUB4Refugees initiative, September 28, 2017. Speaker: Nasser Yassin, Director of Research, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB
  • Beyond Tolerance: Citizenship, Diversity & Constructive Conflict, LSE, November 25, 2016.
  • Refugees and Economic Migrants: facts, policies and challenges, joint event with CEPR, November 16, 2016. Speakers: Christian Dustmann, UCL; Giovanni Facchini, University of Nottingham; Francesco Fasani, Queen Mary, University of London and Philippe Legrain, European Institute at LSE.
  • LSE in Brussels: Migration - Maintaining Hospitality, European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, July 13, 2016. Speakers: Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative for International Migration and LSE IGA, Dominik Hangartner, LSE.
  • Migration - the Ins and Outs, LSE IGA PowerBreakfast Series, June 20, 2016. Speakers: Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative for International Migration and LSE IGA; Ruben Andersson, Oxford University and Dominik Hangartner, LSE.
  • Global Refugee Crisis: A Challenge to Our Common Humanity, February 11, 2016. Speaker: Dame Valerie Amos, SOAS University of London.
  • Migration: Challenge of Our Generation, December 3, 2015. Speaker: Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative for International Migration and LSE IGA.
  • Climate Change and Migration to Europe, joint event with the European Institute, the Grantham Institute, the Embassy of France in the UK and the European Commission, November 18, 2015. Speakers: Mary Robinson, UN Special Envoy for Climate Change and former President of Ireland; Alain Le Roy, Secretary General of the European External Action Service and Neil Adger, University of Exeter.
  • Migration - the ultimate challenge for Europe and the world, October 22, 2015. Speaker: Peter Sutherland, UN Special Representative for International Migration and LSE IGA Professor in Practice.
  • A Better Life - The Refugee and Migrant Crisis, joint event with LSE Students' Union Italian Society, October 5, 2015. Speakers: Rear Admiral Aliperta, Italian Representative to International Maritime Organisation and Sanj Srikanthan, International Rescue Committee, UK.


IGA supports a novel free online course on migration MigrationMatters.This features lectures by top- notch researchers from ALUM network and other universities worldwide. MigrationMatters also allows course participants to interact with researchers, practitioners - and even migrants. The course is turning researchers’ scientific deliberations into accessible videos, texts, and activities.

The goal of the course is to raise awareness in an enjoyable yet challenging way, which also ensures that after completing the course participants will have gained serious insights grounded in facts, evidence, and rigorous research. Read more about it.

IGA Migration Video Competition

LSE IGA announced a short video competition in co-operation with online video platform Chainy calling on filmmakers worldwide to submit videos on migration and the refugee crisis. Prizes were sponsored by the Open Society Foundation. We  received dozens of creative, thoughtful and original contributions and announced the winner on November 25 at the LSE Event Beyond Tolerance: Citizenship, Diversity, and Constructive Conflict. Please watch our video shortlist.


Faal, G. (2020) Civil Society Input to EU-AFRICA Cooperation on Migration: The Case of The Gambia. Published by European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). December 2020.

Faal, G. Leveraging New Technologies to Empower Migrants: Roundtable Background Paper. Published by Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). December 2020.

Migration experts in LSE

The initiative facilitates collaboration of researchers within the LSE working on migration. Please find below the list of LSE academics who are engaged research on migration and the refugee crisis.

The following academics have already agreed to be part of this network: 

Dr Ruben Andersson
Department of International Development, LSE
Topics: borderlands, irregular migration
Regions: Europe and Sub-Saharan Sahel

Professor Luc Bovens
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, LSE
Topics: equal burden-sharing in EU asylum policies, UNHCR data
Regions: EU

Dr Rebecca Bryant
European Institute, LSE
Topics: displacement, borders, ethnic conflict, post-conflict transformation, transitional justice
Regions: Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Eastern Mediterranean

Dr Leonidas Cheliotis
Department of Social Policy, LSE
Topics: policies and practices of border control, policing, immigration detention, imprisonment
Regions: Greece, Mediterranean, Europe

Professor Christine Chinkin
Centre for Women, Peace and Security, LSE
Topics: human security, women's human rights, international human rights law
Regions: Kosovo, Australia, Palestine, China

Professor Lilie Chouliaraki
Media and Communications Department, LSE
Topics: mediation of human vulnerability, digital technologies and witnessing war, refugee representation in humanitarian discourse

Professor Samuel Fankhauser
Co-Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Topics: migration and climate change

Dr Joan Costa Font
Department of Social Policy, LSE
Topics: assimilation of migrants
Regions: Europe

Dr Filippo Dionigi
Middle East Centre, LSE
Topics: Impact of Syrian refugee crisis on Arab statehood
Regions: Middle East (Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq)

Dr Joseph Downing
European Institute, LSE
Topics: French Politics, Islam, integration of Muslims in France 
Regions: France

Dr Myria Georgiou
Media and Communications Department, LSE
Topics: migration, diaspora, media's role in identity construction in diasporas
Regions: EU, UK, Arab audiences

Dr Stuart Gordon
International Development, LSE
Topics: post-conflict, peacebuilding, stabilisation, securitisation, aid and conflict
Regions: UK, Afghanistan

Dr Dominik Hangartner
Department of Methodology, LSE
Topics: Statistical methods, political behaviour, with a focus on immigration and attitudes towards immigrants.

Professor Simon Hix 
Department of Government, LSE
Topics: EU 
Region: Europe

Professor Athar Hussain
Asia Research Centre, LSE 
Topics: economic transformation, liberalisation, social security, regional integration 
Regions: Asia, China, HK, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Vietnam

Professor Gareth Jones
Department of Geography and Environment, LSE
Topics: child migration, child rights, UK asylum
Regions: Latin America, South Africa, UK

Professor Chandran Kukathas
Department of Government, LSE
Topics: political theory, minority rights, multiculturalism, open borders, refugee policy

Philippe Legrain 
European Institute, LSE
Topics: International migration, globalisation Europe

Professor Alan Manning
Department of Economics, LSE
Topics: identity and culture of migrants, immigration and social housing/wages, North/South divide
Regions: Europe

Dr Claire Mercer
Geography and Environment, LSE
Topics: African diaspora, civil societyAfrican diaspora, civil society
Regions: Africa, Tanzania, Cameroon

Dr  Covadonga Meseguer
International Relations, LSE
Topics: Political economy of international labour migration, impact of 'out-migration' on sending countries, anti-immigrant sentiments
Regions: Latin America, Europe

Dr Philipa Mladovsky
International Development 
Topics: Africa, migrant health 
Regions: Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Europe, India

Dr Pierluigi Musaro 
Department of Sociology, University of Bologna
Topics: migration crisis and the media, pro-migrants movements and NGOs, management of migration, border controls, political challenges of humanitarian discourse in portraying and policing migration in the European Union 
Regions: EU 

Piroska Nagy-Mohacsi
Institute of Global Affairs, LSE
Topics: macroeconomic dimensions of migration and stakeholder coordination
Regions: EU, Emerging Europe, Central Asia

Elina Ribakova
Institute of Global Affairs, LSE
Topics: macroeconomic dimensions of migration and stakeholder coordination, interactive online course on migration

Dr Romola Sanyal 
Department of Geography and Environment
Topics: refugees, urbanization, camps, squatting, WASH, housing
Regions: India, Lebanon, South Asia, US

Dr Elizabeth Shlala
Department of International History, LSE; Center on Migration, Policy & Society, Oxford; Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard 
Topics: Europe/Middle East migration, unskilled labour and migration, tracing migratory movements of people 
Regions: Middle East, Sri Lanka, Europe

Professor Lars Trägårdh
Department of History, Ersta Sköndal University College (Stockholm)
Topics: minority rights, nationalism, state/civil society relations 
Regions: Sweden, Nordic countries, Europe-US relations

Professor Nasir Uddin
Department of Anthropology, University of Chittagong
Topics: statelessness and refugee-hood, rural-urban migration, politics of marginality, state-making and indigeneity 
Regions: South Asia, Bangladesh