Megan Bradley, Lead of LERRN’s Solutions Working Group, has published Colonial continuities and colonial unknowing in international migration management: the International Organization for Migration reconsidered in the Journal of Ethnic and Migrations Studies (JEMS). The full article is available online from JEMS:
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) exerts increasing power in global migration governance, yet research on IOM’s early history is scarce. Explanations of IOM’s founding and early migration management efforts are often reduced to bipolar, Cold War politics, with the US creating the organization outside the UN to sidestep Soviet interference. Such simplistic accounts fail to grapple with the ways in which its creation and early activities also reflected and entrenched legacies of colonialism and related racialized inequalities. Drawing on extensive archival research, this article analyses how colonial interests and biases also shaped IOM’s establishment, founding documents, and vacillating positions in decolonization movements. It examines the organization’s role in moving colonists out of newly independent states; facilitating settler colonial states’ preference for white migrants; and advancing western interests in having an international migration forum in which opposition to exclusionary policies was virtually non-existent. In particular, it questions the agency’s involvement in supporting white migration to Southern Africa in the apartheid era, and the sanitization of such work from IOM’s institutional history. Theoretically, the article analyses these dynamics through the lens of ‘colonial unknowing’, thereby laying the foundation for deeper, historicized understandings of IOM’s continued, contested roles in migration management.