Mixed Migration

Ethiopian migrants gather in Obock, Djibouti as they wait for a boat to travel to Yemen. Photo credit: Andreas Stahl (used with appreciation).
African migrants protest outside Holot detention centre in southern Israel. Photo credit: FLASH90 (used with appreciation).

What is Mixed Migration?

The concept of mixed migration is a relatively new phenomenon and is of rising importance, both in terms of sheer numbers and with regard to political significance at national, regional and global levels. One definition frames mixed migration as consisting of complex population movements including refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants and other migrants (IOM), while another describes them as people travelling in an irregular manner along similar routes, using similar means of travel, but for different reasons (UNHCR).

This phenomenon reflects the tendencies for an increasing number of people to migrate with greater risks, in search of a better future in more affluent parts of a globalized world. It also indicates that people are on the move for a combination of reasons that fundamentally are related to safeguarding physical and economic security. Conceptually mixed migration includes.

  • Irregular migrants (dislodged by a real and/or perceived inability to thrive (economic migrants) or motivated by aspirations, a desire to unite with other family members etc. Their movement is often organized and facilitated by smugglers, although some move independently).
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers (forced migrants).
  • Victims of trafficking (involuntary migrants).
  • Stateless persons.
  • Unaccompanied minors and separated children and other vulnerable persons on the move.
The mixed migration nomenclature does not normally include Internally Displaced People (IDPs) but RMMS monitors and tracks IDPs in the Horn of Africa region as part of the larger group of ‘displaced’, and in recognition that today’s IDPs are often tomorrow’s migrants (forced, involuntary or otherwise).
Therefore, migration is closely linked to coping with livelihood problems caused by complex issues such as persecution, political turmoil and armed conflict, poverty and environmental problems arising out of factors such as climate change, population pressure, and natural disasters. In addition, social issues and emerging ‘cultures of migration’ in certain countries may create compelling push and pull factors affecting peoples’ decisions to move.

These complex tendencies in the migration sector have contributed to increasing alarm, and in some cases xenophobia, in receiving countries. A development of more elaborate policies, systems and barriers have emerged or are emerging to regulate the movement of people across borders, in particular from the South to the North, but increasingly also within the South. In the Horn of Africa region this is evidenced by confused or changing immigration policies and laws towards different groups of irregular migrants.

Contact Us

Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat
DRC East Africa & Great Lakes
Lower Kabete Road
(Ngecha Road Junction)
P.O.Box 14762, 00800
Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254 709867 000


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The RMMS is primarily funded by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss government and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development , with support from other donors for specific projects.