Universitas Psychologica, vol. 16, no. 5, 2017

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana

Alfonso Urzúa

Nekane Basabe

Margarita Echeverri

Judith Gibbons

International migrations are a central theme in contemporary debates both for their increasing number, and for the complexity in understanding and addressing them. Like never before, migration is diverse, global, accelerated, and feminized, a product of linked economies, transnational movements of capital and goods, new technologies of transport and communication, and vast social and armed conflicts that are taking place throughout the world.

Worldwide, the number of international migrants is the largest known so far; it has grown exponentially over the last fifteen years, from 173 million in 2000, to 222 million in 2010, reaching 244 million in 2015. The increase in international migratory movements has been unstoppable in recent decades, although the direction of migration has often reversed, with regions of emigration becoming sites for immigration. Nearly two-thirds of international migrants live in Europe (76 million), Asia (75 million), and North America (54 million), followed by Africa (21 million), Latin America and the Caribbean (9 million), and Oceania (8 million) (United Nations [UN], 2016).

The complexity of migration is expressed in the various ways that people are displaced across borders, and in the heterogeneity with respect to their reasons for migration, region of origin and destination, socioeconomic class, gender, generation, educational attainment, ethnicity, and other dimensions (Echeverri, 2010). These factors create diversity in migrants’ social, political, economic, and cultural insertion both in their societies of origin and their destination. International migrants are often refugees (numbering 19.5 million people in 2014), traveling the world, escaping from poverty, violence, social and armed conflicts, and the precarious conditions of their countries of origin (UN, 2016).

In addition, international migrations have become feminized, both by the increased presence of women in migratory movements, and changes in the profiles of migrants. The numbers of migrant women surpass the numbers of migrant men in Europe and North America, especially those from Latin America. Thus, some studies point out that Latin American women migrate independently and serve as the first links of a migratory chain in which husbands, sons and daughters, and other relatives are later incorporated (Pedone, 2006).

In the new scenarios of migration, society is being restructured on a planetary scale. Migrant families, as dynamic social actors, are constantly influencing the ethnic, labor, demographic, economic, social, and cultural characters of cities simultaneously in all parts of the world. In the same way that trajectories of migration differ according to local contexts of origin and destination, the manner and dynamics of migrants’ incorporation differ, as there are disparate opportunities and probabilities of inclusion according to the conditions of destination cities (Glick & Çağlar, 2008).

Migration produces overwhelming consequences at the individual and social levels, in both voluntary and forced migrants, as well as in the societies of origin and destination. Thus, this special monograph addresses the topic of migration; here, diverse investigators and researchers around the world analyze the multiple psychological, social, political, and cultural variables linked to the process of migrating within the framework of current scenarios of migration, in its diversity and complexity. The articles emphasize the different processes of insertion and the migrants’ trajectories and strategies during dynamic situations and in particular contexts.

This compendium offers a view of contemporary research being carried out by research teams from social, community, and applied psychology in the Americas, New Zealand, and Europe. Attitudes and strategies of dual acculturation from the perspective of migrants are analyzed with respect to the contrast with host societies, impact on school adaptation, sociocultural adaptation, and mental health.

Another point of view is also presented - that of indigenous peoples and their attitudes towards different migrant groups. Psychosocial theories of threat perception and the contact hypothesis are employed to explain resistance to the integration and social welfare of migrants, the use of humanization to counteract prejudice, to alter stereotypes and emotions that affect acculturative preferences. Elements of the theory of social identity, such as ethnic minorities’ resistance in the face of prejudice and discrimination, are also applied. The psychosocial factors promoting resilience and mental health, such as social support and coping, dimensions of social integration, and community interventions for social inclusion, and the promotion of mental health are also explored. To complete this panorama, qualitative studies depict the life stories, motives, and migratory trajectories of migrant men and women.

Thus, the studies portray diverse migrants - those who depart and those who return, the indigenous population, African descendants, Mestizo individuals, girls, children, youth, and adults. A fabric of voices reveals the complexity and new forms and tensions of the relationships faced in these new social worlds; voices speak of social changes and conflicts, feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and the many representations and places of discrimination, racialization, exclusion, and inequity that distinguish as never before the migratory movement.

Thus, some studies show that the increasing migratory diversity collides with a strong public discourse of negative feelings towards migrants who may face more adverse conditions than in the recent past. In this hostile environment, social and cultural identities may be altered as protection in order to cope with discrimination and stereotypes, stigmatization and adversity - factors that do not promote the migrants’ incorporation in an inclusive manner that protects human rights. The analysis shows the great resistance of receiving societies to the arrival of migrant families in a hostile social climate dominated by speeches and practices of migratory control and criminalization of migration.

Here we present a space for discussion and reflection on the theoretical, methodological, and epistemological challenges involved in thinking about contemporary migration. In producing new knowledge, it is an ethical requirement that we acquire new perspectives and possibilities for relationships in the scenarios in which new identities are constructed.


Glick Schiller, N., Çağlar, A. (2008). Beyond Methodological Ethnicity and Towards the City Scale: An Alternative Approach to Local and Transnational Pathways of Migrant Incorporation. In: Pries L (ed.) Rethinking Transnationalism: The Meso-link of Organisations. London: Routledge, 40-61.

Echeverri, M. M. (2010). Vidas, voces y ciudadanías transnacionales. Jóvenes colombianos en España, en Gente de fronteras. Movilidad humana, esperanza y futuro, migraciones e identidad. Revista Javeriana, 146(766).

Pedone, C., (2006) Los cambios familiares y educativos en los actuales contextos migratorios ecuatorianos: una perspectiva transatlántica. Athenea Digital: Revista de Pensamiento e Investigación Social, 10, 154-171.

United Nations [UN]. (2016). International Migration Report 2015. Página oficial de las naciones unidas. Recuperado de http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/migration/publications/migrationreport/docs/MigrationReport2015_Highlights.pdf