Mixed migration refers to flows of people moving for mixed reasons, including migrants and forced migrants. The term migrant refers to people who move to a foreign country. People migrate for a variety of reasons. Migrants are different from forced migrants and are treated differently under international law. Migrants, especially economic migrants, choose to move in order to improve their lives, while forced migrants including refugees and internally displaced people are forced to flee to save their lives or preserve their freedom.
However distinguishing among these groups is difficult, as the causes of mixed migration are often complex. People are frequently on the move for a combination of reasons that are related to safeguarding both physical and economic security. Migration is very much 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.
Differentiating between a migrant and a refugee is also challenging in light of the frequent phenomena of changing status en route; an internally displaced person or IDP, for instance, may become a refugee in a neighbouring country, only to move on to other countries as a migrant in search of improved livelihood opportunities. This does not change the fact that the individual was forced to leave their country because of conflict and may be unable to return. Their legal status is nevertheless changing, depending both on their own choices and on the policies of relevant authorities.
In mixed migration flows, migrants and forced migrants make use of the same routes and means of transport to get to a destination. If people composing these mixed flows are unable to enter a particular country legally, they often employ the services of human smugglers and embark on risky sea or land voyages, which many may not survive.
This means that irrespective of their legal status as a migrant or a forced migrant, many of those included in these mixed migration movements are vulnerable to hazards and violations of their human rights, including trafficking, inhuman treatment and loss of life. These developments have amplified the need for the international community to address the plight of people involved in mixed migration and to do so through a comprehensive approach that tackles protection gaps and identifies durable solutions.