Editorial: The Well-being of International Migrants in Rural Areas: Bridging the Migration-Development Nexus

Philomena De Lima, Belinda Leach, David Radford, Seema Arora-Jonsson

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The presence of international migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in rural regions of Europe, North America and Australia has received growing attention as a means of facilitating development and the sustainability of rural regions and communities. Interventions to attract, recruit and retain international labor migrants and concerns about shortages of labor and skills in the context of aging populations and high levels of outmigration of the young and economically active in rural areas, have received increased research attention (Garela et al., 2018; de Lima and Carvajal, 2019; Haugen, 2019).

The debate and evidence on the contribution of migration to economic and social development in rural regions and elsewhere has evolved over time, and is ambivalent, messy and uncertain (Bastia, and Skeldon, 2021). As the articles in this issue reveal, migration to rural areas is imbricated in the dynamics of geopolitics and power hierarchies and changing national socio-cultural, economic and political circumstances. This development-migration nexus provides an important lens to highlight the multilayered relationship between the two, giving rise to both positive and negative impacts (Raghuram, 2009, 2020). The privileging of receiving countries' perspectives and instrumental arguments for recruiting transnational migrants are prominent in the academic and policy literature in rural regions of Europe, North America and Australia. National and EU policy discourses and policies on rural development often privilege notions of “unchanging” white rural areas which can counter policies on migration and “integration,” thus undermining substantive “integration” efforts in relation to migrants in receiving communities (Arora-Jonsson, 2017). With few exceptions (e.g. Preibisch and Hennebry, 2011; Preibisch, 2012; Bolokan, 2020; Dabrowska-Miciula and de Lima, 2020) there is a dearth of theoretical and empirical literature exploring migrants' wellbeing and their human rights within rural development discourses, a reflection of the presence of disciplinary silos in relation to migration, “development” including rural development, and wellbeing.

The overall aim of this special issue is to explore, illuminate and develop a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between migration, rural development, and the wellbeing of migrants, drawing on multiple perspectives, experiences, and methods in different national contexts. Taken together the papers demonstrate the importance of drawing on diverse theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches and of challenging persistent binaries (e.g. internal and international migration; sending and receiving countries) as well as exploring the experiences of different categories of migrants including refugees. The special issue also highlights a plurality of issues and experiences that form part of wider discourses associated with migration and development in rural areas, such as the economic contribution of migrants to host and home regions, the exploitation of temporary migrant workers in agriculture (and increasingly in other sectors as well) and the broad challenges of formulating ethical and practical policies. It also draws attention to novel areas of research inquiry. Here, we highlight a selection of these relatively underexplored issues discussed by the contributors which merit further discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-8
Number of pages5
JournalFrontiers in Sociology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2022


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