Delmi had the opportunity to conduct a brief interview with Gerasimos Tsourapas, Professor of International Relations at the University of Glasgow and Editor-in-Chief of Migration Studies (OUP). Gerasimos was recently a reviewer for a forthcoming Delmi report in the ongoing return project "Return as international migration policy" funded by the AMIF-fund.

Gerasimos, what sparked your interest in research on migrants, refugees, and return in the first place?

My PhD at SOAS, University of London began as a project on how social change in Egypt was affected by return migrants from the Gulf Cooperation Council states; in looking more closely at their experiences, I began to ask questions about why they had left Egypt in the first place, and I sought to identify the diverse structures both encouraging and benefitting from such cross-border mobility. Gradually, I shifted my attention to the instrumental use of labour migration by Egyptian state actors, which became my first book. Of course, like many who have grown up in Greece and, more broadly, across the Eastern Mediterranean, my family history is also one of movement. Thus, I also suppose that something about these circular migration trajectories across the Arab world struck a chord!

Your research covers the concept of migration diplomacy. How would you define it, and how do you think it has influenced and perhaps broadened our understanding of migration policy?

Migration diplomacy examines two processes by stage in world politics. Firstly, it analyses the use migration to achieve foreign policy goals; for instance, the migration crisis created by Belarus's dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a few years back, with the aim of putting pressure on the European Union was an example of coercive migration diplomacy. Secondly, migration diplomacy examines the use of foreign policy to achieve migration goals. The recent €7.4 billion agreement between the European Union and Egypt, for instance, demonstrates the centrality of cooperative migration diplomacy. I believe the concept has enabled a focus on the extensive instrumentalisation of migrants and refugees as leverage in diplomacy today. Migration diplomacy has also highlighted the commodification of these vulnerable populations for material and economic profit, which takes place globally - or, as I term this complex phenomenon, refugee rentierism.

The Delmi project “Return as international migration policy” aims to investigate how diplomatic tools and international cooperation can promote an effective and sustainable return. Is that possible, or are decision-makers overly optimistic about the use of such tools?

I am optimistic that the Delmi project will produce useful results in its investigation of return migration diplomacy, which is truly a topic on the forefront of governments and international organisations today. Interstate cooperation and diplomacy are key for repatriation to be successful; however, this may be easier said than done. Our research on how repatriation processes operate in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis across Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey highlighted how cooperation also relies on an alignment of states’ geo-strategic and domestic political economy goals. The risk that states will act unilaterally to pursue their own interests, at the expense of the common good, remains strong.