This report represents the final publication of the first phase of the Legatum Institute’s work on the issue of necessity-driven migration.

New report highlights urgent need for innovative solutions to tackle necessity-driven migration around the world

The Legatum Institute has today published a new report highlighting the urgent need for innovative solutions to address the challenges of today’s unprecedented levels of people movement around the world, in particular the limited choice and agency of necessity-driven migrants, the extreme risks they face in fleeing their countries of origin, and the uncertain futures they experience on arrival in countries often hostile to their presence.

The report, entitled Lives in limbo: case studies of necessity-driven migration, focuses on four nations at the heart of the challenge posed by necessity-driven migration: Nigeria, Turkey, Venezuela, and Bangladesh. These four case studies illustrate the complexity of today’s people movement phenomenon. Each demonstrates why this phenomenon is shaped by insecurity – whether human, economic, or environmental – making these journeys of necessity rather than opportunity.

The case studies shine a spotlight on individual or overlapping drivers for migration, on the evolving responses of destination countries, and on the continuing absence of an effective response. They demonstrate that some Nigerians have little alternative but to resort to hazardous irregular migration to escape extreme poverty; that Turkey’s ability and willingness to continue to host large numbers of Syrian refugees is under strain; that many of those fleeing Venezuela are unlikely to return; and why so few sustainable options exist for safeguarding Rohingya refugees.



  • In 2015 Nigeria featured among the major countries of origin of irregular migrants to Europe. But recent statistics indicate that the impact of combined EU and Italian efforts to curb this trend have been successful as the number of Nigerians travelling to Europe has declined by 80% and the country accounted for just 5% of arrivals in 2018.
  • However, current policy interventions have garnered criticism for penalising migrants as stringently as those traffickers and smugglers who seek to profit from their journeys.
  • Given the severity of Nigeria’s socio-economic challenges, irregular migration to Europe is likely to continue to be viewed as an attractive option by many. Addressing these ‘push factors’ must be a priority for the Nigerian government and its European partners.


  • For more than three years, Turkey has hosted the world’s largest population of refugees, including 3.6 million Syrian nationals.
  • However, following the launch of Turkey’s recent incursion into north-eastern Syria and with surveys suggesting more than 85% of Turks are united over the need to repatriate Syrians, the fate of these refugees is more uncertain than ever.
  • Supporting Turkey to provide effective and sustainable conditions for Syrians – including adequate employment and education – is of paramount importance.


  • An estimated 4 million Venezuelans have left the country since 2014, fleeing an ongoing and escalating political and economic crisis, and this is predicted to rise to more than 8 million in total.
  • The response of neighbouring countries so far has been remarkable, with around half of all necessity-driven migrants offered sanctuary in Colombia and other nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. However, it is unclear whether the region will be able to continue to absorb additional Venezuelan migrants.


  • There are now more than 900,000 Rohingya Muslims seeking sanctuary in Bangladesh having faced violence and persecution in Myanmar.
  • To date, the Government of Bangladesh has sought to maintain national and international focus on repatriation as the solution, placing the responsibility on Myanmar to create suitable conditions for a safe and dignified return.
  • However, it is increasingly clear that there is little prospect of the imminent start of repatriation for Rohingya Muslims so the international community should do more to support Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya until the situation in Myanmar is resolved.

Commenting on the publication of the report, CEO of the Legatum Institute, Philippa Stroud, said:

“Formulating an effective and appropriate response to today’s people movement phenomenon requires us to acknowledge our shared humanity, and to treat necessity-driven migrants with respect and compassion. However, this is a challenge that remains widely misunderstood, by both the public and policymakers alike. This report highlights the complexity of the challenge, as well as the need for innovative new solutions to address it.

“People are forced to move when their lives or livelihoods are threatened, whether by conflict or persecution, by persistent poverty, or by environmental catastrophe or degradation. As well as illustrating the extreme vulnerability of necessity-driven migrants, our research has shown how common push factors overlap to create unique dynamics of displacement, leaving some of the world’s most vulnerable people facing lives in limbo, at intolerable risk. We must redouble our efforts to identify and implement the solutions required to tackle the humanitarian challenge of our generation.”

Alastair Masser, Director of the Legatum Institute’s Global People Movements programme, said:

“These are familiar challenges that require new solutions – and urgently. Given the extreme vulnerability facing the necessity-driven migrants, it is imperative that we collaborate and think differently to create an effective response. Solutions need to both address the long-term, systemic drivers of necessity-driven migration and prioritise the welfare of migrants themselves. Together, the four country case studies in this report make a compelling case for a more considered policy approach.”



This report represents the final publication of the first phase of the Legatum Institute’s work on the issue of necessity-driven migration. The first two reports, published in June 2018 and April 2019, examined the issue of necessity-driven migration at the global and regional level, with the latter examining the four regions we consider to lie at the heart of today’s migration challenge: sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, Latin American and the Caribbean, and Asia. To find out more about the Legatum Institute’s Global People Movements programme, visit:



Alastair Masser

Alastair leads the Legatum Institute’s Global People Movements programme, which examines the challenges posed by necessity-driven migration. Prior to joining the Institute, he spent almost a decade in politics serving latterly as a Special Adviser in two posts under David Cameron. He holds a PhD in War Studies from King’s College London, examining UK-Nigerian development and security cooperation during the coalition government. Alastair is an alumnus of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) and has taught at the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Services Command Staff College (JSCSC) at Shrivenham.

Will Edwards

During 2019, Will served as a Research Assistant with the Global People Movements programme. He is passionate about equality of opportunity and eager to understand how regional dynamics affect the movement of people across the globe. Prior to joining the Legatum Institute, Will was Operations Associate at Fire Tech, a pioneering company that inspires children to become confident technology users and prepare them for a tech-driven world. He organised technology camps across the UK and internationally, and was a curriculum author. Will is also a professional drummer, composer, and music producer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in academic Music from the University of York and a Master of Arts in Jazz from the Royal Academy of Music.

Hannah Rose Thomas

During 2019, Hannah served as a Research Assistant with the Global People Movements programme. An English artist, her portraits have been shown at the Houses of Parliament, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, GCHQ, DfID, Lambeth Palace, The Saatchi Gallery and Durham Cathedral. Three of Hannah’s paintings of Yezidi women were chosen by HRH The Prince of Wales for his exhibition Prince & Patron in Buckingham Palace during the summer of 2018. In August 2017 Hannah organised an art project in Northern Iraq with Yezidi women who had escaped ISIS captivity, and in April 2018 for Rohingya children in refugee camps on the Myanmar border. Hannah has been selected for the Forbes 30 Under 30 2019 and is a recipient of the European International Women’s Leadership Award 2019.