Hugo – Challenges for Population Geography

The article by Hugo outlines the research challenges for population geographers in a world of accelerating migratory flows. Reasons for this acceleration are: migration from Asia to the West, skilled worker migration to Asia, contract labor migration, student and business short term migration, illegal migration, and refugee flows. The author writes that the major challenge of studying the complexity of population geography is obtaining good data on the informal flows of migrants. Traditional census data is just too slow to keep up with all the short term migration.

This was written in 1996. Since then we have added more than a billion people and migration flows have only grown increasingly complex. Massive outmigration from Syria has strained sluggish refugee systems, creating a renewed interest in population geography. Unfortunately, a lot of the motivation to collect data has been on determining where flows of foreign fighters in Syria are coming from, rather than where to efficiently resettle millions of refugees. Since Hugo’s article was written, governments have actually increased their abilities to track and monitor movement across borders. Especially in the example of foreign fighters going to Syria, governments have been gathering data on anyone who visits countries deemed suspicious. The rise of political movements like ISIS are clear proof that migration models have to move beyond simple economic push-pull factors. If given access to the data, this increasing vigilance has probably expanded the ability to model complex migratory flows for population geography.

In the case of studying the push-pull factors of migrant flowing across the Mediterranean, the political context is actually a strong desire to stop these flows. This is not to say we should just stop researching because governments misuse information. But whether or not modelling this migration results in a social benefit seems increasingly unlikely in the current political climate*.

*European political climate, I have high hopes for JT’s promise to resettle 25k refugees.


-A proud anOntarian


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