A newly-appointed Reader at Edge Hill University and international expert on child migration, Dr Zana Vathi, served as lead researcher on a project examining the current refugee crisis.

The project concerns the strain put on developing countries such as those in the Western Balkans, which hundreds of thousands of migrants are transitioning through in order to reach developed European nations, following the crises in Syria and conflict-stricken regions and countries in Asia and Africa.

Dr Vathi said:

Dr Zana Vathi

Dr Zana Vathi

“While Western European countries have a long history of immigration and a developed legislation and infrastructure in place, other countries through which these migrants transit, or even settle in, are being transformed from developing countries of out-migration into immigrant-receiving countries.

“The Western Balkan countries are among those struggling to cope with the intense waves of migrants and their varied needs. With a recent history of persistent out-migration and due to their economic problems, these countries are particularly affected by migrant waves, while struggling to provide adequate support to them and the pressure to comply with EU law as part of their EU accession agreements.”

To address these issues, and to pay due attention to the experience of unaccompanied minors in these recent migrations, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) funded the regional situation analysis led by Dr Vathi to investigate the legal, policy and institutional response of the Western Balkans towards these migrant flows.

“I was fascinated by this project” explains Dr Vathi. “I have long experience with migration studies, but in the case of the Western Balkans, most research has looked at emigration, or repatriation and return of migrants. Rarely, if ever, research has investigated immigration into this region. Even more importantly, I found this project interesting as it acknowledges the importance of migration journeys and aims to build capacity in a region that lacks immigration legislation and infrastructure and is unprepared to receive substantial waves of migrants. It is a fact that a very high number of recent migrants are not located in the Western Europe, but indeed in developing countries which are carrying the burden of providing for a high number of migrants. However, most of the attention is put on what is happening in the West.”

Dr Vathi presented the findings of the project in Tirana, Albania in September in a workshop that brought together dozens of representatives of governments of Western Balkan countries, and national and international NGOs. A report summarising the findings of the project is due for publication by the IOM in late 2015.