The Trade-Off in ‘Relocation’: A Comparative Understanding of Vulnerabilities of Disadvantaged Migrants Moving from Rural Origins to Urban Areas in the Context of Bangladesh

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Background: It has been widely recognized by academics and policy makers that people across the world are moving from their habitual residence driven by poverty, war, political insurgency, environmental degradation and the climate change impacts amongst others (Salauddin, 2010; Lilleor & van den Broeck, 2011; IPCC, 2014). Until recently the issue received comparatively little attention within mainstream debates that the majority of this mobility will take place within the geographical boundaries of affected countries than across borders; referred to as internal migration (International Organization for Migration, 2009). By this century, the number of internal migrants may increase from approximately 25 million to over 200 million worldwide (see projections in IOM, 2009; IDMC, 2016; Biermann & Boas, 2010). For many low incomecountries, most of the internal migrants from rural areas are attracted to cities. Cities of many low-income countries like Bangladesh have limited infrastructural and governance capacity to response to the high number of disadvantaged migrants coming every year in search of livelihood (IDMC, 2016; Black, Bennett, Thomas & Beddington, 2011). Hence the increasing influx of rural-urban migrant increases densification of slum population that leads to further deteriorating living condition and widening intra-urban inequalities (Greiner und Sakdapolrak, 2013). Traditionally, policy-making has viewed the vulnerabilities of such disadvantaged groups from a static geospatial point of view i.e. either from geographic origin or from geographic destinations (Zimmerman, Kiss and Hossain, 2011). Yet the vulnerabilities of contemporary mobility are more complex often involving multistage exposure to various risks including environmental, economic and social components (Gray et al, 2014). Such exposures may occur several times considering what the migrants may experience throughout the process of mobility involving various issues in travel and destination phases. This study makes a comparative assessment of general vulnerabilities of disadvantaged migrants at their place of geographic origins and present geographic destinations. The paper tests whether the migrants’ vulnerabilities reduce after migrating from rural areas to slums in larger cities in Bangladesh. Grounded on recent theoretical development in vulnerability and migration scholarship, the study fieldwork involved interviewing household members of migrants both at geographic origins and at destinations. The drivers of vulnerability that are affecting their livelihood in both geographic origins and geographic destinations have been compared.

Objectives: This study aims compare the drivers of vulnerability of the disadvantaged rural-urban migrants at two different locations – before migration at geographic origins and after migration at geographic destinations in the context of Bangladesh.

Methodology: This study identified two Northern districts of the country as geographic origins which are (natural hazard) hotspots for seasonal drought, crop failure and riverbank erosion. Secondly, four urban locations have been identified which largely recognized as usual geographic destinations of the migrant population are coming from the identified geographic origins. Data was obtained at two stages, firstly at the geographic origins and then at geographic destinations. In total 115 in-depth interviews (75 interviews at geographic origins and 40 at geographic destinations) have been conducted. Additionally, 10 Focus Group Discussions with local participants and 20 Key Informant Interviews involving different government and non-government stakeholders and policy makers across the country have been considered as the primary method for data collection.

Results: The drivers of vulnerabilities have been classified into some broader categories involving financial, infrastructural, environmental, governance, political, health and social components. Result compared the drivers of vulnerabilities identified at geographic origins and geographical destinations. While at origins, most of the households stressed financial drivers including poverty and credit burden as top drivers negatively influencing their livelihood stability at destinations, the most frequently appearing drivers of vulnerabilities include infrastructural issues like risk of eviction at slums, followed by social issues. In contrary with geographic origins, higher frequency of social issues like drug abuse, child labour and sexual harassment appeared at geographic destinations as key drivers of vulnerabilities affecting disadvantaged rural-urban migrants.

Conclusion: From the perspective of vulnerabilities this study will argue that understanding vulnerabilities at the geographic origins are important policy information for planning any intervention at both geographic origins and destinations, such as knowing about communicable diseases at geographic origins is helpful to design health activities and vaccination for short term migrants roaming over geographic destinations. Again, some of the pre-migration vulnerabilities from geographic origins like stress may escalate new vulnerabilities such as high blood pressure and heart disease at geographic destinations. Policies to protect such disadvantaged migrant in cities and manage vulnerabilities will be most effective if they consider issues involved at both locations, not only at geographic destinations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Migration Conference 2017 Programme and Abstracts Book
EditorsFethiye Tilbe, Ibrahim Sirkeci, Mehtap Polat
PublisherTransnational Press London
ISBN (Print)978-1-910781-68-5
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2017


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