Integration, Transnational Mobility and Human, Social and Economic Capital Transfers (ITHACA)

  • Triandafyllidou, Anna (PI)
  • Gropas, Ruby (CoI)
  • Markova, Eugenia (CoI)
  • McKay, Sonia (PI)
  • Isaakyan, Irina (PI)

Project Details


ITHACA (Integration, Transnational Mobility and Human, Social and Economic Capital Transfers) was a two-year research project (December 2013 - November 2015) developed by a consortium led by Professor Anna Triandafyllidou, who headed the Cultural Pluralism Research Area at the Robert Schuman Centre, part of the Global Governance Programme. 

The project was funded by the European Fund for Integration of Third Country Nationals, Community Actions.

Over the past decades, rich empirical research in the field of transnational migration studies has highlighted that migrants engage in transnational mobility for several reasons ranging from economic profit to emotional or political ties with their country of origin. They develop transnational business, trade, investments, or social and cultural programmes and circulate between their two countries.

ITHACA studied the links between migrants’ integration and their transnational engagement and explored the interconnections between the migrants’ integration process and their transnational mobility by asking three key questions:

> What drives migrants to be transnationally engaged and mobile?
> Which dimensions of integration affect migrants’ engagement in transnational mobility?
> Which factors may encourage or hinder transnational mobility?

The methodological approach brought together statistical analysis, secondary sources and qualitative empirical research. Stakeholders and transnational migrants were interviewed in four EU countries (Austria, Italy, Spain, UK) and five non-EU countries (Bosnia, India, Morocco, Philippines, Ukraine) using a mixed-method (quantitative and qualitative) survey.

It put together a database of approximately 330 quantitative questionnaires and semi-structured interviews with stakeholders and transnationally mobile individuals. The researchers looked at the conditions that may facilitate or obstruct transnational engagement practices, and investigated how such practices may change throughout the migrant’s lifecycle.

It focused on the Indians, Bosnians-Herzegovinians, Filipinos, Moroccans and Ukrainians in the host countries of the UK, Italy, Spain and Austria. The holistic approach to integration (Ager and Strang, 2008) was taken as a main reference. It distinguished four domains, all assigned equal weight:
> makers and means (employment; housing; education; health)
> social connection (social bridges; social bonds; social links)
> facilitators (language and cultural knowledge; safety and stability)
> foundation (rights and citizenship).

ITHACA explores the interconnections between the integration process and transnational mobility of migrants and aims to answer three key questions:
> To what extent, and in what ways, do integration conditions in the country of destination encourage transnational mobility?
> What are the conditions in the country of origin that may encourage transnational mobility?
> What type of transfers take place through the transnational mobility of migrants

The objectives of the research project were to:

> study the links between the migrant integration process and transnational mobility
identify the links between the social and economic integration process and transnational mobility
> particularly the role of economic integration (employment, skills, capital)
the impact of mobility conditions (secure stay status or citizenship, ease of circulation, visa policies)
> the role of conditions and policies at the country of origin (bilateral treaties framing remittances, economic investments, civic and cultural cooperation and development)
produce new knowledge that will help the destination countries forge appropriate policies for integration that are also conducive to transnational mobility for migrants who are settled there.
> produce new knowledge that will help the countries of origin to develop policies that facilitate transnational mobility of returned migrants with a view to achieving development outcomes and preventing brain drain
promote dialogue among policy makers and civil society actors from both source and destination countries?

Key findings

The research in the UK examined the simultaneous processes of migrant integration, transnational mobility and capital transfers through the prism of different typologies of transnationalism, modified and reshaped by changing personal and family structures/circumstances, migration rules, economic and political developments, in the origin and at the destination.

It utilised a wealth of data from 78 Bosnian-Herzegovinian, Ukrainian, Indian and Filipino migrants in the UK, 18 returnees in India and Ukraine, and eight stakeholders. A couple of interviews captured the voice of the migrant second-generation.

The study showed that transnationalism could exist without physical travel to the origin. Undocumented status prevented transnational mobility but the strong engagement was maintained through the regular remitting and the sending of goods, donating to hospitals, and everyday talking to family members on the phone and social media. On a few occasions, transnational activism was practiced without physical travel.

There were examples of engagement in different modes of transnational mobility at different stages of respondents' lives. The demanding profile of transnational entrepreneurs was only identified in eight interviewees, Indian and Bosnian. There were transnational activists among the Filipinos, Bosnians and the Ukrainians. Philanthropic activities were registered towards all origin countries in the study, with the largest share of resources flowing to India.

The representatives of the 'transnational business class' were business graduates, sometimes headhunted and working in the City of London. They seem to be more cosmopolitan than transnational, with limited socio-cultural integration in the host environment. The latter loses significance against their dynamically changing work prospects, subject to migration and family status.

Physical mobility made transnational engagement much more feasible. Obtaining British citizenship or a permanent status was an important goal of most migration projects. The freedom of movement is likely to outweigh the 'British-ness' objective.

The integration of Indians and Filipinos in the UK was facilitated by English language proficiency on arrival and India-born in particular had the highly transferable cultural capital. For Filipinos, the social capital was an asset carried from the Philippines or acquired upon arrival through connections with ethnic associations. Filipino workers were identified in several sectors of the economy.

Time of arrival in the UK was an important predictor for one's challenges upon arrival in the UK, including obtaining permanent legalisation status, naturalisation, access to housing and employment. The recent years in the UK have been characterised by increasingly restrictive migration rules. As a result, several respondents in high skilled jobs considered moving to countries like the USA and Canada, where they expected more favourable migration policies.

The nature of transnationalism and the frequency of travel evolves in conditions of military conflict - the current one in Ukraine and the past conflict, with spill-over effects through more than 20 years, in Bosnia-Herzegovina - shifting political circumstances, migration rules and macroeconomic conditions.

Family support during travels between the UK and the origin countries was an important facilitator of transnational mobility. Reverse remittances were registered from parents in the origin who were supporting their children's' postgraduate studies in the UK. The pattern was most persistent among Indian respondents. The subsequent successful economic integration in the UK leads to transnational practices of a passive economic nature in the form of investment in commercial or residential properties, and financial investments.

The study in the UK argues that stable political situations in the home country and lack of conflict are the foundations of transnational mobility. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine appeared to be a significant impediment on the transnational practices in the east of the country (the war zone). The months of turmoil have taken their toll on the country; its struggling economy discourages investment and business activities. Similarly, the war in the former Yugoslavia dating back over 20 years still mars the transnational engagements in the area.

The challenge remains to develop a holistic framework for understanding migrant transnationalism, devoid of - as much as it is feasible - methodological nationalism.

Publications and journalism

Non solo rimesse economiche: i migranti regolari sempre più transnazionali, Redattore Sociale, 20 October 2015.
Migrant Integration and Transnational Mobility, MET, 19 October 2015.
“Dieci ore da casa”. Il documentario sulla mobilità dei migranti in Europa, Carta di Roma, 13 October 2015
La communauté marocaine en Espagne est “parfaitement intégrée” en dépit de la crise économique et des différences culturelles (universitaire),, 19/09/2015
Migrants as International Bridge-makers, Austrian DiePresse.Com, 13/08/2014

ITHACA Documentary: Ten hours from home:  A short film on transnational mobility and integration by Alberto Bougleux

Prince arrived in Austria from India 25 years ago as a student. Today, he owns a famous exotic food market in Vienna and is actively engaged in charity projects in his hometown and around the world. 
Myroslava left Ukraine when she was 22 and moved to Naples. She worked, became fluent in Italian and eventually married a fellow national. Now she’s proud to be back home, in spite of the war. 
Samir instead settled in London as a refugee from Bosnia. Today he trades products from across the Balkans to counteract his nostalgia for Bosnia. 
At 17, Khalid hid underneath a truck in Tangiers and crossed the Gibraltar strait seeking a future on the other side. 
Shot in Austria, Ukraine, Spain and the UK, the documentary explores the meaning and feelings of living across two faraway countries as an everyday option. Seven stories from Bosnia, Ukraine, Morocco, India and The Philippines shed new light on transnational mobility as a way of life.

Effective start/end date1/12/1330/11/15


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.