Despite the high interest and concern around the rising phenomenon of mixed migration, there are virtually no systems in place nationally or regionally to monitor the mixed migration flows. Policy formation, political debate and programming is taking place in a context that is predominantly data-poor, or even data free. The challenge is considerable due to the clandestine nature of these smuggler-dominated movements and the disparate routes used and methods of movement. In mid-2014 the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) created the Mixed Migration Monitoring Mechanism Initiative (4Mi) as an attempt to address the need for better data. The 4Mi is an innovative, low-cost approach to collect and analyse data on mixed migration flows, initially out of the Horn of Africa. Through a network of thirty locally-recruited monitors in strategic migration hubs in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, the 4Mi project tracks Eritrean, Ethiopian, Djiboutian and Somali people on the move.
The context – a data challenge
Monitors are local individuals, members of existing agencies and others forming a network around key migration ‘nodes’ and ‘hotspots’. The monitors use a custom-designed mobile phone application to submit real-time data on mixed migration issues in their locations. Collaboration with existing refugee and migration–focused agencies in the region is maximized. Monitors are in the public and private sectors – their key capacity is their knowledge of their locality and contacts with people on the move or those who have contact with people on the move. All 4Mi applications are controlled by 4Mi management and when new reports need to be added or existing questionnaires need to be adapted this can occur simultaneously through the smart phone network.
The scale and scope of mixed migration movement means that a project like 4Mi can only find and illuminate certain pieces of the mixed migration puzzle. Other agencies and authorities may have other pieces of the puzzle, which, when added together allow us to understand and track mixed migration phenomena better.
The information presented by 4Mi is not representative of all persons involved and factors driving mixed migration. Analysis provided is therefore solely based on interviews and questionnaires conducted by 4Mi field monitors with Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis involved in mixed migration. Subsequent interpretation of the data is at the discretion of the reader.
While RMMS recognizes the methodology of 4Mi as less than scientific, the interviewee selection and sampling process is less than random or standardized, and its collection and interpretation potentially open to bias, in the current context, there are no other approaches to data gathering. Therefore, 4Mi’s methodology of employing a homogeneous purposive sampling technique is guided by the need to effect a systematic sampling strategy.
The current data visualization and mapping sections should be understood as 4Mi’s beta release presentation, as 4Mi is continuing to develop enhanced interactive, filterable, and logical data presentation tools. This will allow a diverse user-base to access information specific to their interests, both geographically and/or functionally: including not only additional information sets but also expand the filter options for both the data visualization and mapping, allow visualization of country-specific conditions and cultivate more effective visualizations for communicating various types of data.