Editorial by Dr. Protim Sharma - Forced Migration Project - TMYS Review March 2022

    Migration or movement of people from one place to another has been taking place since time immemorial. In fact, migration is as old as humanity. While voluntary migration or ambition-based migration can largely be dependent on pull factors such as prospect of better economic opportunities or a better life in a new territory, forced migration is a result of push factors such as armed conflicts and violence, political intolerance, racism, religious persecution, natural and man-made disasters, hunger, pandemic, gross violation of human rights, and also human trafficking. Glossary on Migration (International Organization for Migration, 2019) says that forced migration is “a migratory movement which, although the drivers can be diverse, involves force, compulsion, or coercion”. 


    Forced migration has become one of the main focus areas in international affairs in the recent times. It is also the most profound and least understood challenges of our time and  has emerged as a distinct academic field of study, along with refugee studies, in response to global refugee crises in the twentieth century.


    The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, 2014 in its Abstract (Edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh et al) observes that “Since emerging as a distinct field of study in the early 1980s, Refugee and Forced Migration Studies has grown from being of concern of a relatively small number of scholars and policy analysts to become a global field with thousands of students worldwide studying displacement, either from traditional disciplinary perspectives or as a core component of newer interdisciplinary programmes across the Humanities and Social and Political Sciences. Today the field encompasses both rigorous academic research as well as action-research focused on advocating in favour of refugees’ needs and rights and more directly concerned with influencing policy and practice.”


    TMYS Review, March 2022, under the current theme of Migration-Resettlement-Displacement, seeks to explore and understand the complexities of Migration from the perspective of Forced Migration with reference to three sub-themes, namely (i) Armed Conflict and Violence, (ii) Pandemic, and (iii) Human Trafficking. Each sub-theme has been divided into six topics for the purpose of the digital conversations and academic discussions, as well as for the essays, short stories and poems that were invited for publication in the issue. The unit with the digital conversations is an important part of the project design of TMYS Review, and for the conversations in this issue too, like in previous issues, we were privileged to have a galaxy of thought leaders and erudite scholars as our esteemed panelists from their respective domains. They have made each topic come alive with their illuminating talk in response to questions put forward by our eager project assistants.


    A Report titled Forced Migration: The Political Crisis of our Time, prepared for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate (June 18, 2020) in its Letter of Transmittal observes that “More than ever before, conflict and violence are driving people from their homes and forcing them to live decades in displacement. Warring parties are consistently ignoring humanitarian laws designed to protect civilians during conflict, leading to civilian casualties, the destruction of critical infrastructure, and mass displacement.” The number of conflicts occurring worldwide is more than 60 percent greater than it was a decade ago. In this context we may cite Emma Samman et al., in SDG Progress: Fragility, crisis and leaving no one behind, Overseas Development Institute (September, 2018) who inform us that “Within the last decade, the number of violent conflicts globally has surged by two-thirds – from an average of 93 between 2006 and 2008 to an average of 154 in 2016/17” (page 13). Then again, “There were 52 active conflicts in 36 different countries in 2018, compared to 50 conflicts in 33 countries in 2017” (Trends in Armed Conflict, 1946-2018, Peace Research Institute Oslo, 2019, page 2). The previously mentioned report on Forced Migration: The Political Crisis of our Time says that “By the end of 2018, at least 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced, primarily due to conflict and generalized violence, as well as persecution and human rights violations” (Page 16). Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) in Global Report on Internal Displacement 2019 Summary (May 2019) tells us that “Around 41.3 million people were estimated to be living in internal displacement as a result of conflict and violence in 55 countries as of the end of the year, the highest figure ever recorded” (Page 6).  In the first half of 2021 too, millions more people were forced to flee their homes due to armed conflicts, generalized violence or human rights violations. Many of them faced additional challenges due to COVID-19 and other disasters. In the 2021 Mid-Year Trends Report, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that “global forced displacement likely exceeded 84 million by mid-2021” (UNHCR Mid-year Trends 2021, page 1), which is a sharp increase from the 82.4 million reported at the end of 2020.


    It is often seen that when a migrant settles in a new land, he/she undergoes an identity crisis along with a sense of alienation. However, with time, he/she might eventually begin to adapt to the new environment and develop a new identity, but this might eventually have some impact on the host communities. Then again, an environment of war, violence or conflict not only creates extreme stressful situations but also leads to several long-term mental health problems for the victims of forced migration. Women, children and physically disadvantaged as well as the marginalised section of migrant population are the worst affected of the lot. In Indian context, the essence of partition and migration has been captured and portrayed by many authors and filmmakers. Hence, we felt an urgent need to assess and address this aspect of migration. For the sub-theme “Armed conflict and violence” we have considered the following six topics: (i) Identity Crisis and Identity Reconstruction: An Inevitable Consequence of Migration due to Partition, (ii) Psychological Trauma: A Scarring Aftermath of Forced Migration due to Conflict and Violence, (iii) Conflict and Relocation: A Menace for Women and Children, (iv) Forced Migration and its Impact on Host Communities, (v) Violence and Exodus: Representation of Migration in Partition Literature and Cinema, and (vi) War and Resettlement: The Strenuous Journey of Disabled Refugees.


    Any narrative of displacement, including forced migration, is the result of few other drivers as well. So, apart from generalized violence, we see movement of people because of severe climate-related events, such as droughts, floods, extreme weather conditions and also widespread diseases like the plague or pandemic. We know that the Covid 19 pandemic “has affected day to day life and is slowing down the global economy. This pandemic has affected thousands of people, who are either sick or are being killed due to the spread of this disease” (Abid Haleem et al in ‘Current Medicine Research and Practice’, March-April, 2020). The pandemic and the pandemic induced lockdown across cities have led to unprecedented exodus of population. The worst sufferers have been hundreds and thousands of migrant workers, and their sudden dislocation has jeopardised their lives. After a large number of workers suddenly being rendered jobless, their children too were forced to relinquish their pursuit of education, and look for ways to sustain their families. Their dreams were defeated in no time, and they are forced to assume some occupational role.


    We have also seen how the pandemic has wreaked havoc on the mental health of those who were forced to migrate, those who lost their jobs, those who witnessed deaths or lost family members to the disease. The pandemic has led to unprecedented hazards to mental health on all counts, and psychological trauma of those affected by the pandemic has emerged as a significant area for research and enquiry. With many women losing their employments, prostitution has become an inevitable choice for many.  Work-from-home has become the new normal with the pandemic on the loose, and because of the closure of offices, factories and business establishments, men had to come back home in huge numbers. On the domestic front it would be interesting to see if men's attitude and response to domesticity and womanhood has undergone any transformation. In the wake of the pandemic, many front-line workers such as doctors and nurses, as well as journalists and security personnel had to leave their hometowns to work in different towns and cities. Taking these into consideration, we have proposed the following topics for our second sub-theme, which is on “Pandemic” as a cause of Forced Migration. They are (i) Pandemic and the National Exodus, (ii) Children in the Pandemic and the Defeat of Dreams, (iii) Pandemic, Migration, and Mental Health, (iv) Have Men Really Come Home, (v) Pandemic and Prostitution, and (vi) Front-line Workers in the Pandemic.


    Human trafficking is another driver of forced migration. The female gender is the easy prey to the menace of trafficking. Human trafficking has long been recognised as disproportionately affecting them along with child victims. “Among the mass waves of migration, women and girls are more vulnerable and easily become prey to traffickers. In terms of migration policies, migration-supportive policies and migration-restrictive policies have different gender impacts… To successfully protect people from the risks of being trafficked in their migration, different factors should be considered, especially gender and policy issues, and anti-trafficking policy must be gender responsive to successfully respond to specific needs of trafficked victims” (page no Duong K.A., in Winterdyk J., Jones J. (eds) The Palgrave International Handbook of Human Trafficking. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). With labour and employment opportunities shrinking, women fall easy victims to the evil design of the human traffickers. These women  are often forcibly translocated to a different city and made to embrace the oldest profession of the world, which is prostitution. So, they become the victims of double exploitation of forced labour and sexual slavery, not to speak of the mental trauma they go through. So, it becomes imperative to explore sex trafficking, and also its surrounding abolitionist discourse. The abolitionists say that sex work is a product of patriarchal social structure and intrinsically exploitative; whereas advocates of pro-sex work movement posit that sex work is work and can be wilfully chosen as a means to make a living. Then, even though homosexuality has been decriminalised in India, equality is still a long way as the queer community rampantly suffer from violence and trafficking. There is need for strict human trafficking legislations to address these issues. So, for the third sub-theme on “Human Trafficking”, we have arranged discussion programmes and interviews on the following topics: (i) Anti-trafficking Legislations - A Review of Intervention and Prevention Programmes, (ii) Sexual Slavery - Double Exploitation of Female and Minor Victims in Trafficking, (iii) Human Trafficking and Mental Health - Consequences of Trauma and Beyond, (iv) Child Trafficking - Investigating the Complex Cycle of Abuse, (v)  Profits and Poverty - Understanding the Economics of Labour Trafficking, and (vi)  LGBTQ+ Communities and Trafficking - Tracking Victim Vulnerabilities and Discrimination.


    The titles must have given you a glimpse of the wide range of topics covered under each sub-theme of ‘Forced Migration’. In this last of the series of four issues on Migration-Resettlement-Displacement of TMYS Review, in collaboration with the Global South Colloquium, University of Victoria, we have tried to investigate issues of forced migration in the context of the sub-themes mentioned above. As many as fifty-six renowned scholar-delegates had given insightful interviews about their views and stories of migration, displacement and resettlement. The best write-ups in each category of essay, short story and poetry have been carefully picked up for publication in this issue. While compiling the essays, emphasis was given to the lived experiences of the writers, and creativity and relevance were taken into consideration while selecting the short stories and poems.


    We are confident that the digital repository of the conversations with those from the field and academia, and selected written pieces by young scholars and writers published in this issue of TMYS Review will prove to be a valuable contribution to the knowledge base on forced migration, through which a part of our history could be re-written and future course of action decided.


                Dr. Protim Sharma

                Editor and Project Lead:

    TMYS Review March 2022

                Associate Professor & Head,

    Department of English

                Dikhowmukh College, Sivasagar, Assam, India.


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