Our recommendations on sources about migration and refugee movements

According to UNHCR, at least 82.4 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them nearly 26.4 million are refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18. In parallel, and according to IOM, the total number of international migrants at mid-year 2020 was 280.6 million. With such huge numbers it is clear that migration and refugee movements are an issue of global interest and concern. 

However, fake news or prejudices don’t play in our favour when trying to comprehend displacement, still less when we refer to the inclusion of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers – the collectives Open Cultural Center works with – in other societies. By contrast, people living in transit and in refugee camps encounter many barriers that turn a difficult reality of everyday life, such as language, culture, or bureaucracy. As information is power, here are our recommendations for those who want to know more about migration and refugee movements.

Refugees at the Cherso camp, in the north of Thessaloniki. / Photo: Open Cultural Center

Resources and multimedia projects 

First, if you don’t have much time, you should follow us on Instagram (@openculturalcenter). We usually post stories every two weeks to keep our followers updated with the latest news on conflicts, migration and refugee movements, in English, Spanish, and Catalan. Every compilation can be found in our highlighted stories, and from time to time we also publish a news review in all our social media. It’s perfect to know what’s happening in the world in less than two minutes!

However, for those who have more time, databases are a great source of reliable information. Nothing as objective as facts. We recently discovered this 2021-updated database published by CEAR about the main countries of origin of refugees and displaced people. Multimedia projects and interactives are also really interesting options. Refugee Republic is an indispensable interactive documentary that explores daily life in a Syrian refugee camp, and it has received several awards. On the other hand, 4Mi Interactive, by the Mixed Migration Center, is a very useful portal for exploration and visualization of data. They have also published an interactive on the impact of COVID-19 on mixed migration. 

Screenshot taken from Refugee Republic’s website.

Another interesting project is Missing Migrants, from IOM, which records incidents in which migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers have died in the process of migrating. Let’s not forget that these collectives don’t migrate for no reason, but because it’s their last option. The project hosts the only existing open-access database of records of deaths during migration on the global level. 

Finally, you should closely follow ITFLOWS, a project which Open Cultural Center has been collaborating with and that has just reached its first year. Its purpose is to provide accurate predictions and adequate management solutions of migration flows in the European Union, using multiple sources of information, including extensive and qualitative interviews with migrants, refugees and displaced people. In the end, ITFLOWS will propose tailor-made solutions for practitioners and policymakers for managing migration. 

Books, films and photography 

For those who prefer to get to know real and personal stories, books and films are the best source. “We are not refugees”, written by the Spanish journalist Agus Morales, is a book of not only one but many stories; the ones from those exiled by violence that have not been given asylum. Morales travels to Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Central America, and the Congo. He also stops at the refugee camps in Jordan, and even at the headquarters of the Tibetan government exiled in India. By bringing us stories that reveal the individual pain and the global scope of the crisis, the book directly appeals to our conscience. It is available in Catalan, Spanish, English, Italian and Polish.

“Mamadú va a morir” is another book from another great journalist, the Italian Gabriele del Grande, as his last name advances. It is a great report that talks about the victims of clandestine immigration, the feared and non-existent invasion of Africans to Europe, and the new guardians of a cemetery called the Mediterranean. Del Grande takes us into this barbarism through Mamadou, one of the 40,000 people who have died in the Mediterranean this 21st century, although many more do not even appear as figures in the cold statistics. The book is available in Italian and Spanish. 

On the other hand, our book “My Friend!” must be in this list too. As a project created in the refugee camp of Cherso, the book explains the journey of refugees to reach Greece through the words and drawings by the children in the camp. Abdul, Elaf, Amar and Heva are some of the children who illustrated and explained their personal stories: their life in Syria, before and during the war, the journey to Europe, life in the camp in Greece and their dreams for the future. The book teaches us about their reality and helps us to understand that their dreams and hopes are not so far removed from the dreams of our own children, siblings, nephews and nieces, and even those we used to have when we were younger. 

Regarding films, “Adú” and “Mediterráneo” are perfect options. “Adú” tells three moving stories converging in Melilla, Spain. The main character is Adú, a 6-year-old boy who starts a desperate journey with his older sister to reach Europe. The film has been nominated for multiple awards, and has won the 2020 Goya Awards for Best Director, New Actor, Sound & Production, and Direction. 

On the other hand, “Mediterráneo” has been released this October, and it tells the origins of the Spanish NGO Open Arms. It’s a story about a few good men who risked their own life to save many others, and the film is set on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2015, Open Arms operates to protect those who try to reach Europe by sea, fleeing from armed conflict, prosecution or poverty. 

Finally, for those who are more into visuals, we recommend following the work from the Spanish photojournalists Santi Palacios and Anna Surinyach. Both of them are professionals specialized in conflicts and migration and refugee issues, and have covered several migration crises for many years. 

This is a really short list of reliable sources made by professionals, and therefore a good starting point for those who want to approach migration from zero. However, there are many other options. Do you know any? Leave it in comments!