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Stay, return, or move on: Comparing the life strategies of forced migrants in the transit countries of Colombia, Jordan, Mexico, and Turkey (ForMOVe II)

Mexico, Turkey, Jordan, and Colombia are important transit countries in two of the most important migration corridors in the world: the Middle East and the Americas. The first two countries are in a delicate position as "bottlenecks" and checkpoints of forced migration to the U.S. and the EU, while the other two have become relevant transit countries of migration in recent decades. In general, the challenges posed by forced migration are concentrated in the Global South and transit countries; that is, places that have not been selected as final arrival countries but have become unavoidable stages on the way to the desired destination. Transit countries often lack the resources to provide the adequate legal, economic, and social infrastructure for asylum procedures, labour market integration, or legalization of legal status. Moreover, migrant's aspirations for the future are often modified by migration processes and adapted to the institutional environments of the transit countries. All these factors influence the biographical projects—their routes, their stops, the length of stay at each point of their journey—and ultimately their desired destinations. Given these constraints, migrants must constantly redefine and evolve their life course strategies and biographical projects as they decide to stay, return, or continue their journey.

In this project, we aim to understand and explain the factors that influence forced migrant's biographical projects and aspirations when making these decisions. We propose a theoretical model (the ‘VESPER’ model) that considers the current social entanglements in their migration trajectories, their past experiences, their socialised values, and attitudes, as well as their preferences, expectations, and resources.

Our methodology combines mixed-methods data collection: a standardized event-based survey, biographical interviews with migrants, semi-structured expert interviews, and ethnographic visits to selected transit migration sites. The project has two guiding questions:

1) How do migrant's projections about their future lives influence their decision to stay, return, or continue their journey?

2) How do the factors of current social entanglements, past experiences, socialized values and attitudes, specific preferences, expectations, and resources influence these biographical projects?