Bridging the ‘Migration-Development Nexus'-Addressing the 'wellbeing'of Migrants in Rural Areas

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Philomena DE LIMA, University of the Highlands and Islands, United Kingdom

The last decades have witnessed an increase in the range and scope of literature on international migration, including to so called ‘non-traditional locales’ - i.e. rural regions, towns within some large metropolitan regions and countries with little or no previous experience of international migration. The debate on migration in the EU including the UK has privileged two parallel discourses reinforcing an instrumental view of migrants: the role of migration and migrants in contributing to ‘development’ and poverty alleviation in their countries of origin; and their contribution to economic growth and addressing skills shortages/gaps in the context of demographic changes, identified as being more severe in some rural areas in the Global North. These discourses underpin two contrasting and persistent tropes of migrants in rural areas: as essential to plugging labor shortages/ skills or as taking jobs and resources from ‘locals’, resulting in an obsessive interest in how best to ‘integrate’ migrants largely from destination country perspectives and at the expense of social justice considerations related to their wellbeing and human rights. Rurality in this context is not a neutral space but rather is conceptualized as relational embodying varied notions related to race, nationhood, gender, age and so on which impact on migrants lives in rural communities. Drawing on empirical research undertaken on EU mobile citizens and international migrants in rural areas of the UK and Scotland and a synthesis of a literature review of rural migrants in the EU the paper will outline a critical approach to understanding and researching rural migrant experiences that places their wellbeing and human rights at the forefront.