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Celebrating Graduate Student Research at the International Migration Research Centre

March 8, 2018 @ 12:30 pm - 1:45 pm

Graduate students at the IMRC discuss issues related to women and migration including regulating refugee mobility, the migration journey across borders and border enforcement at sea.

A Journey of Escape: Refugee women between war and borders
Maissaa Almustafa
Since 2011, more than five million individuals from Syria have escaped the brutal war there, to find themselves trapped between border control regimes designed to regulate refugee mobility and an international refugee system that has failed to offer protection. Both regimes have forced those who are desperate to secure safety and to seek out a new life, to undertake precarious journeys for Northern Europe where they believe they will find better protection and acceptance. However, with restrictive European “non-entrée” system, desperate refugees from Syria have been left with no legal route to these states, but for the undertaking of life-threatening journeys through Aegean and the Mediterranean Seas.

Against this context, Maissaa explores this complex journey of escape. She situates refugees at the center of her work with a particular focus on the experience of women when they are confronted with border control and a failing protection regime. Informed by original field research based on interviews and personal knowledge of the journeys, Maissaa’s presentation examines the conditions that forced refugees from Syria into these journeys, which is an ‘act of escape’ (Mezzadra 2015) and a process of identity transformation and reconstruction.

Navigating Risks across Borders: Migrant Women In Mexico
Carla Angulo-Pasel
This presentation delves in Carla’s doctoral research where she spent three months in southern Mexico learning about how borders affect the migration journeys of migrant women from the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). Carla discusses the different stages of migration, including pre-migration motivations and what the journey across Mexico looks like for migrant women. Lastly, she explores the violence of borders and the survival strategies employed by women given the dangerous and precarious landscape they encounter.

Arriving Somewhere, Not Here: Determining the Effectiveness of Maritime Interdiction Operations using Search and Rescue in the Central Mediterranean Sea, 2006 to 2015
Kira Williams
There exists little work modelling the effectiveness of maritime interdiction operations in stopping current migration or deterring future migration. In this paper, Kira tests the hypothesis that increases in maritime interdiction operational activity using search and rescue decrease migration. They form two subhypotheses based on this core hypothesis: (1) increases in past maritime interdiction operational activity decrease current migration, and (2) increases in current maritime interdiction operational activity decrease current migration. Kira tests these subhypotheses with new and detailed interdiction data from Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, using time series modelling. They reject both subhypotheses both data sets used. Increased operational activity in the past or present has no significant relationship with migration in the present. These findings support a growing body of literature which finds that increasing border enforcement at sea fails to halt migration (Collyer 2007; Lutterbeck 2006; Williams & Mountz forthcoming).

About the speakers

Carla Angulo-Pasel recently successfully completed her PhD in Global Governance at the BSIA. Her research critically examines border security and its effects on ‘unauthorized’ migration. Specifically, she investigates in the intersection of border security and human rights of female migrants.

Maissaa Almustafa is a doctoral candidate at the Global Governance Program at Balsillie School of International Affairs and she an instructor at Political Science Department at WLU. She is an affiliated researcher with the IMRC. Her broad research focuses on refugee journeys in search of protection and the impact of refugee governance policies on the lives and trajectories of refugees. Maissaa was born in Damascus, Syria, where she worked with the British Embassy in Damascus for more than 17 years as a Senior Trade & Investment Officer. Maissaa is actively involved in refugees’ resettlement in Waterloo region. In addition to sponsoring her own family, she volunteered at the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support and is now a member of WLU Steering Committee for assisting Syrian refugees and is a member of the board of directors of Reception House of Waterloo Region where she heads the policy and advocacy committee.

Kira Williams (they/them) is a research associate at University of Waterloo, instructor, researcher and teaching assistant in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, lecturer at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and employee for the International Migration Research Centre. They are currently a doctoral candidate in the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography. Kira’s research focuses on international migration, global governance, and analytical methodology. Their thesis explores how states are reconfiguring spaces at sea to manage the movement of people and shift borders in the Central Mediterranean Sea.

Women and children among Syrian refugees striking at the platform of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 4 September 2015.


March 8, 2018
12:30 pm - 1:45 pm
Event Category:


In Person
Balsillie School of International Affairs, 67 Erb Street West
Waterloo, ON N2L 6C2 Canada
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(226) 772-3001
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