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For the first time in history, in 2022 the number of people forced to flee their homes due to war, organized violence, fear of persecution and human rights violations surpassed a hundred million. The general background of this development is well known: the Russian war against Ukraine, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, violent struggles in Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 lockdowns, devastating effects of climate change (that are not even officially registered as forced migration until now), and fragile states unable to defend the “monopoly of legitimate use of force” (Max Weber). Much of this was foreseeable, and the current situation seems not just an ephemeral peak. In the 21st century, forced migration is one of the most challenging human dynamics. Despite international efforts like the Global Compact on Refugees (2018) or the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (2020), neither the international community nor national states or societies seem to be prepared for coping with this situation.

A guiding assumption for this special issue is that forced migration is affecting more and more people, while the internationally agreed institutional mechanisms for its humane management gets weaker. The classic regime of refugee protection established with the 1951 Geneva Convention could not cover great part of forced migration, let alone “mixed migration”. Despite some exceptional cases, the international migration governance is mostly characterized by “organized non-responsibility” of nation states. This Research Topic of Frontiers in Human Dynamics aims at addressing forced migration in its social contexts and offering conceptual analysis and explanations for the following question: Given the social relevance and complexity of forced migration, why is it so difficult to tackle its root causes and are the societal and institutional responses for its management so weak?

In public discourses the prevailing tendencies are those of marginalizing (forced migration is only dealt with, when many refugees knock at the door), decontextualizing (fading out the complex social, economic, political, cultural and environmental conditions as well as life courses that migrants come from), dehumanizing (addressing not the humans but “the problem of forced migration”), externalizing (other states or agencies should manage the “problem”) or instrumentalizing (taking forced migrants as scapegoats or pretexts for claims making).

Against this background, the Research Topic aims at:

- shedding light on the complex, multidimensional human contexts of forced migration that spans from refuge/asylum seeking up to mixed migration,

- focusing on forced migrants as affected and especially vulnerable humans as well as agents of their own destiny,

- questioning the rigid normative definitions of asylum seeker, refugee, forced migrant, and economic migrant as understood by international organizations and states,

- analyzing the entanglements of collective and corporate actors between states and civil society that hinder or promote humane dealing with forced migration.

We welcome papers from social science disciplines, especially sociology, human/social geography, anthropology, and political science.

Keywords: forced migration, refugee protection, international migration governance, asylum, mixed migration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

For the first time in history, in 2022 the number of people forced to flee their homes due to war, organized violence, fear of persecution and human rights violations surpassed a hundred million. The general background of this development is well known: the Russian war against Ukraine, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, violent struggles in Sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 lockdowns, devastating effects of climate change (that are not even officially registered as forced migration until now), and fragile states unable to defend the “monopoly of legitimate use of force” (Max Weber). Much of this was foreseeable, and the current situation seems not just an ephemeral peak. In the 21st century, forced migration is one of the most challenging human dynamics. Despite international efforts like the Global Compact on Refugees (2018) or the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (2020), neither the international community nor national states or societies seem to be prepared for coping with this situation.

A guiding assumption for this special issue is that forced migration is affecting more and more people, while the internationally agreed institutional mechanisms for its humane management gets weaker. The classic regime of refugee protection established with the 1951 Geneva Convention could not cover great part of forced migration, let alone “mixed migration”. Despite some exceptional cases, the international migration governance is mostly characterized by “organized non-responsibility” of nation states. This Research Topic of Frontiers in Human Dynamics aims at addressing forced migration in its social contexts and offering conceptual analysis and explanations for the following question: Given the social relevance and complexity of forced migration, why is it so difficult to tackle its root causes and are the societal and institutional responses for its management so weak?

In public discourses the prevailing tendencies are those of marginalizing (forced migration is only dealt with, when many refugees knock at the door), decontextualizing (fading out the complex social, economic, political, cultural and environmental conditions as well as life courses that migrants come from), dehumanizing (addressing not the humans but “the problem of forced migration”), externalizing (other states or agencies should manage the “problem”) or instrumentalizing (taking forced migrants as scapegoats or pretexts for claims making).

Against this background, the Research Topic aims at:

- shedding light on the complex, multidimensional human contexts of forced migration that spans from refuge/asylum seeking up to mixed migration,

- focusing on forced migrants as affected and especially vulnerable humans as well as agents of their own destiny,

- questioning the rigid normative definitions of asylum seeker, refugee, forced migrant, and economic migrant as understood by international organizations and states,

- analyzing the entanglements of collective and corporate actors between states and civil society that hinder or promote humane dealing with forced migration.

We welcome papers from social science disciplines, especially sociology, human/social geography, anthropology, and political science.

Keywords: forced migration, refugee protection, international migration governance, asylum, mixed migration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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