Windows of opportunity: Iranian irregular migration and return 2014-2016

Iran has been out of the public eye as EU decision-makers focus attention and money on more significant regions of origin of irregular migration. Yet Iran, previously a major source of irregular migration to Australia, has consistently been a source of asylum applicants in Germany, the UK, and elsewhere in the EU.

We cannot predict whether departures will increase or decrease, but Iran’s worsening economic woes and water crisis are likely to make life harder for minority ethnic groups.  As the desire to leave hardens among many, the ability to turn aspiration into action depends on more practical matters: the dollar value of savings, family commitments at home, and the knowledge that others have made it.

“Windows of Opportunity: Iranian Irregular Migration and Return” explores how the migration crisis was perceived in Iran among those who aspired to a future in Europe, and how these perceptions translated into action. It draws on data collected during the third wave of a longitudinal study with potential migrants in Iran’s South-West.

Key findings

  • Migrant decision-making is non-linear. Over the two year period, migrants swung towards and away from their desire to migrate to Europe and their success in achieving it.
  • With mostly ethnic minorities interviewed, the economic marginalization of the ethnic minorities was a major factor in long-term grievances against the state and drove the decision to migrate.
  • The European migration crisis – in which over a million irregular migrants claimed asylum in both 2015 and 2016 – was seen as a window of opportunity, serving as the catalyst for departures among those who wanted to migrate anyway.
  • Participants saw European policies that extended journey times and the risks of detention as a regrettable but worthwhile trade-off for a long-term future in Europe.
  • High emotional and financial investments in migration made it difficult for migrants to return, even when attempts to reach Europe appeared to have failed.

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