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Podcast: Borders and Belonging

In our new podcast, Maggie Perzyna debunks myths about migration

with the help of experts from around the world

What's the difference between human smuggling and human trafficking? Did migration myths drive the 2016 Brexit vote? Do border walls stop migration?

Maggie Perzyna wants to dispel migration myths about why people leave their homeland and the changes they bring in the societies they move to.

Maggie is a researcher with the Canada Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Migration & Integration program and this new podcast is Borders & Belonging. Maggie will talk to leading experts from around the world and people with on-the-ground knowledge to explore the individual experiences of migrants: the difficult decisions and many challenges they face on their journeys.

She and her guests will also think through the global dimensions of migrants’ movement: the national policies, international agreements, trends of war, climate change, employment and more.

Borders & Belonging brings together hard evidence with stories of human experience to kindle new thinking in advocacy, policy and research.   

Top researchers contribute articles that complement each podcast with a deeper dive into the themes discussed.


For episode transcripts, links to related articles, references and the biographies of guest experts, visit: (external link) 


Why We Build Border Walls: Since the 1990s, the world has seen a spike in border wall construction. What is driving the increase?

  • The episode begins with a reflection from journalist Todd Miller on the dangers facing undocumented migrants along the US-Mexican border. Host Maggie Perzyna is then joined by Douglas Massey (Princeton University) and Elisabeth Vallet (University of Quebec at Montreal).

How has Brexit Changed the UK for Migrants? Despite the well-documented benefits of labour migration, much of the discussion before the referendum in the UK argued that it was a bad thing. Now, a few years on, are labour shortages painting a new picture or are migrants forever stigmatised?

  • Alex Bulat, a Romanian-born councillor on Cambridgeshire County Council, provides a voice from the ground. Bridget Anderson (Bristol University) and Aija Lulle (Loughborough University) talk to host Maggie Perzyna about fear of migration and why they feel hope for the future of migrants in the UK.

Human Smuggling or Human Trafficking? Why the Difference Matters: Politicians sometimes talk about human smuggling and trafficking as if they were the same thing. It’s not always because of ignorance: they want to gain support for blocking the flows of all migrants and refugees.

  • In this episode we hear from Luca Stevenson of European Sex Workers Rights Alliance, who explains that, even with sex workers, we have to look at what drives them to the trade in the first place and recognise that laws to prevent trafficking can cause vulnerable women even more harm. Host Maggie Perzyna speaks with Kamala Kempadoo (York University) and Gabriella Sanchez (University of Massachusetts) who argue that we need to look deeper at the systemic injustices behind smuggling, at what drives people to risk everything for a chance of a better life.

When AI is managing migration, should we be afraid? Climate change and other disasters are displacing ever more people. Could artificial intelligence help predict impending crises and where humanitarian aid will be needed? Could algorithms be used to match refugees to regions where they will have the best chance of thriving? And what happens when you take human judgement out of the process, or if data is used to exclude some migrants unjustly?

  • Hilary Evans Cameron (Toronto Metropolitan University) starts off the discussion with a refugee case to show that human-decision making, itself, can be dangerously unreliable. Then host Maggie Prezyna speaks with experts Ana Beduschi (Exeter University) and Tuba Birca (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), who walk us through what AI is, how it works and what are its risks, pitfalls and potential for good.

Why has China become an international student hub? For years, many students from China sought to further their studies in countries like the US or the UK. But in the past decade or so, China has itself become a hub for international students. In this episode, two leading researchers will shed light on this phenomenon, and help us understand how and why China has become such a popular destination for students globally.

  • Hear what it's like to be a foreign student in China from Aya, who fled the war in Syria with her family and sought refuge in China when she was only 13 years old. Then host Maggie Prezyna speaks with experts Obert Hodzi (University of Liverpool) and Ben Mulvey (University of Glasgow) about the advantages and challenges of studying in China.

The migrants that the West doesn’t talk about: From the way Western media and politicians talk about migration, you’d never guess that only 30% of refugees, asylum seekers and economic migrants are heading for the Global North. Instead, most people on the move like this are travelling from one country in the Global South to another.

  • Hear from Vani Saraswathi, a journalist who has spent years documenting the experiences of migrants working in the Gulf states. Then host Maggie Prezyna speaks with experts Nicola Piper (University of Sydney) and Joseph Teye (University of Ghana) to explore the unique patterns and challenges of South-South migration.

Are migrants the answer to labour shortages? Nations in the global North are struggling with labour shortages dubbed in the media as ‘the great retirement' and ‘the great resignation'. Unemployment rates are running at near-record lows. As a result many nations are letting more temporary migrant labourers in to fill the gaps. Is this a good idea?

  • Hear from Syed Hussan, executive director of the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, a group in Toronto, Canada, that comprises farmworkers, domestic workers and refugees, many of them are undocumented. Then host Maggie Prezyna speaks with Armine Yalnizyan (Atkinson Foundation Fellow on the Future of Workers) and Martin Ruhs, (Migration Policy Center at the European University Institute) on the complexity of the labour shortage and how the migrant labour piece fits into the economic puzzle.

Should we call people cliamte refugees? As temperatures rise around the planet, floods, drought and deforestation are forcing people in the Global South from their homes and livelihoods. The media likes to call them climate refugees, but is that accurate? This episode will unpack the catchy phrase and guide us through some of the nuanced intersections between the environment and migration.

  • Hear from Daniela Paredes Grijalva, who saw firsthand the consequences of a natural disaster on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and the displacement it caused. Then host Maggie Perzyna speaks with Kathleen Hermans, senior researcher at the Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO) in Halle, Germany, and Robert McLeman, professor of geography and environmental studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, and a policy adviser on the effects of climate change and global migration patterns.

Are Ukrainian refugees still 'temporary'? Since February 2022, over 19M Ukrainians have fled their country. Almost half probably remain spread across the world, most of them in Europe. They are considered temporary refugees – but are they really temporary? Where are these people, and what challenges face their host countries?

  • This episode begins with Aleksandra and Michał Miszułowicz, a couple in Poland who helped resettled thousands of Ukrainian refugees as soon as the conflict began in 2022. Host Maggie Perzyna is then joined by Izabela Grabowska (Kozminski University in Poland and Centre for Research on Social Change and Human Mobility) and Yuliya Kosyakova (Otto Friedrich University Bamberg and Research Institute of the Federal Employment Agency in Nuremberg).

Does brain drain hurt the Global South? Many countries are mining the Global South for one of its vital natural resources – its people. This creates a ‘brain drain’ of professionals and academics leaving the Global South in search of better opportunities abroad. Why exactly is this happening, though, and what is the socio-economic harm done to the countries left behind?

  • Hear from Kevin Njabo, who is a conservation biologist that grew up in Cameroon but had to go to Nigeria to study and the US to pursue his academic career. Then host Maggie Perzyna turns to two esteemed researchers delve into this topic: Ninna Sørensen (Danish Institute for International Studies) and Manuel Orozco (Inter-American Dialogue and Harvard University Center for International Development).

 Borders & Belonging is a co-production between the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Migration & Integration at Toronto Metropolitan University and openDemocracy. The podcast was produced by LEAD Podcasting, Toronto, Ontario. 

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