Searching MH370

photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet via photopin cc

photo credit: U.S. Pacific Fleet via photopin cc

After days of speculations and rumors, attention seems to have moved away from the passengers who boarded the MH370 flight with stolen passports. It is possible that they were ordinary irregular migrants, some even suggested they were refugees, in search of a better future . While what went on on the aircraft is obviously of great relevance, firm answers are hard to find unless the aircraft or its wreckage are found. This takes me to a few questions and hypotheses to which, perhaps unsurprisingly, mainstream media have to date paid little attention.

After 9/11, would an aircraft that suddenly disappear from civilian radars but is still traceable on military ones AND on an unauthorized route trigger a (very) rapid military response including interception and eventually shooting down? Is it then possible that the international ‘search’ for the above aircraft is (at least for some of the parties involved) more about NOT finding it or covering up any evidence? Finally, given the nationality of most of the passengers on the flight, which countries (not many is my hypothesis) would have the political capital to take such decision autonomously – or unless authorized to do so?

If the latest news from Reuters are correct, there was plenty of time for that kind of conversation to have happened and decision to be taken. Interestingly, despite the new evidence, Reuters’ unnamed sources only mention sabotage or hijacking as possible explanations for the disappearance of the plane.


The Arab Spring and Human Mobility: International Symposyum, University of Oxford, 20 March 2012

Migration in its various forms has been a key part of the popular uprisings that spread across North Africa and the Levant in 2011. The columns of vehicles escaping from cities and villages under siege in Libya, the boats crammed with Tunisians crossing the Mediterranean Sea and landing on the island of Lampedusa, and the numerous Egyptian émigrés and university students returning to Cairo to join the protests in Tahrir Square are a few examples of the ways in which human mobility intersects current events in North Africa and the Levant.

The ‘North Africa in Transition: Mobility, Forced Migration and Humanitarian Crises’ workshop organised by the Refugee Studies Centre (RSC) and the International Migration Institute (IMI) at the University of Oxford on 6 May 2011 offered a platform to begin exploring how these events have impacted existing patterns of mobility in the region and generated new ‘mixed’ migration flows. Panelists observed that the regional crises had prompted some economic migrants to become forced migrants; pushed forced migrants into irregular migration channels; and made multiple migrant groups, including seasonal and long established migrants, ‘involuntarily immobile’. Panelists also observed that apart from large-scale displacement within and from Libya, migration patterns from most other countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, seemed to have remained remarkably unaffected by the political turmoil, in stark contrast with predictions made by some politicians, journalists and researchers about mass displacement.

To build on this event and take stock of further political and economic developments in the region, the RSC and IMI are organising a second international symposium on migration and forced migration in North Africa and the Levant on 20 March 2012 with the participation of international scholars, practitioners and policy makers. This second workshop will examine the extent to which the Arab Spring has shifted migration dynamics and migration and
refugee governance.

The workshop will address the following questions:

  • How have varying processes of political, economic, and social contestation in North Africa and the Levant affected human mobility?
  • To what extent have events transformed or impacted the institutional behaviour and responses of international organisations and civil society groups working in the field of migration and refugee protection?
  • How have publics and governments in North Africa and the Levant positioned or repositioned themselves in relation to issues of asylum and migration?