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The Migration Observatory – better information for a more rational debate

29 Mar 2011

Today sees the launch of Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, a major new project that will help to inform the migration debate in the UK – and eventually further afield – and will help to make it more rational and grounded in fact.

The Migration Observatory provides independent, evidence-based analysis about migration and immigration issues in a format that can be used by anyone, and which makes clear not only what we know, but also where there are holes in the evidence.

Dr Martin Ruhs the director of the Observatory – which is based at Oxford University’s Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) – said: “What we are doing is vital. Immigration, perhaps more than any other subject, divides opinion among commentators, politicians, activists and the general public, and has consistently ranked as one of the British public’s key concerns.

“Everyone agrees that public debates and policy making need to be built around evidence, but there are huge gaps in the evidence on migration. We don’t know enough, for example, about how migrants affect public services, either in terms of contributing to services or consuming public services and benefits. There are also significant disagreements about what exactly we should measure. People disagree about even the most basic question – who do we actually mean when we talk about migrants?”

News stories about immigration are often supported by alarming facts and numbers. These can be challenging for academics and policy makers, let alone the general public, to verify or set in their real context.

It’s designed to provide a solid, independent source of analysis that anyone can use to understand migration and immigration issues. – Dr Martin Ruhs, Director of The Migration Observatory

Figures outlining key issues such as how many migrants are coming into the UK, how much immigration is costing or benefitting the UK economy, the impacts on businesses if they can’t fill vacancies with migrant workers, the increase in the population since eastern European countries joined the EU, the percentage of British people who want to see major cuts in immigration, and so on, can be nuanced, confusing, subjective and misleading.

The Migration Observatory will pick these apart and look at them from all angles, allowing users to understand the complexities of the trade-offs involved in these issues as well as analysing public perceptions and providing data and other resources in a clear and easy to use format.

It draws on expertise from academics across a range of disciplines at the University of Oxford and has been reviewed by non-experts to ensure accessibility and ease of use.

Dr Ruhs adds: “This is why we have set up the Migration Observatory. It’s designed to provide a solid, independent source of analysis that anyone can use to understand migration and immigration issues, and to see these issues in their broad context rather than simply as one isolated and often confusing statistic.”


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This Migration Observatory is kindly supported by the following organisations.

  • University of Oxford logo
  • COMPAS logo
  • Esmee Fairbairn logo
  • Barrow Cadbury Trust logo
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation logo