Research in tough environments: North Africa

The situation for migrants in Libya is dangerous, and the many migrants interviewed as part of our research tell us that staying there for an extended period is a big risk. Local fighting, fragmented security forces and violent smuggling methods are convincing migrants that they need to reach Europe as fast as possible. More migrants than ever are expected to try and cross the Mediterranean in 2015. Policy makers are facing a dilemma – they need to find a strategy quickly to disrupt dangerous smuggling operations, but deciding on the best approach needs to take into account the multiple forces at play.

One of these main forces are the migrants, yet they have the weakest voice. Conducting solid and in-depth research in the places where these migrants live, hide, and make their plans to go to Europe is not easy. The general insecurity in countries such as Libya and Sudan, combined with the particular threats that migrants face, make it difficult for both outsiders and insiders to gain the kind of access and knowledge necessary for verifying assumptions, gaining awareness, support and cooperation, and estimating the possible impact of any intervention.

Through flexible research methods specialized in tough environments, Seefar overcomes these obstacles and reaches the refugees and migrants who will be affected by policies geared towards shaping, curbing or facilitating their journeys. The migrants we speak to come from different backgrounds and each of them has experiences that have influenced their decision to migrate to Libya and Europe. They all feel vulnerable because their options and resources are extremely limited – often in ways that are little understood – but they are also connected to the outside world in various ways.

The research we conduct aims beyond gathering information; it is about connecting with the large but varied groups of migrants that are at risk and have to rely on different coping mechanisms, at every stage of the journey.

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