Migrant Organisations in Humanitarian Action

  • Zeynep SezginEmail author
  • Dennis Dijkzeul


This article applies the term ‘migrant humanitarianism’ for the hitherto neglected humanitarian activities of migrant organisations (MOs). First, it assesses the state-of-the-art on MOs in migration research and recognises common shortcomings within the existing literature. Second, it reviews humanitarian studies literature on aid actors and shows that local or non-Western forms of aid, as well as MOs have so far received only limited attention. Third, it presents the development studies on MOs’ role in their members’ country of origin, which focus mainly on remittances and the migration-development nexus. Fourth, it examines organisational studies which offer frameworks for analysing MOs in multiple countries and crises. Fifth, it discusses how neo-institutional and associational theory, as well as the transnational approach, can help fill gaps in research on MOs in humanitarian action. It then applies these theories to the Islamic Community Milli Görüs (IGMG) as a case study of MOs in humanitarian action. It shows that IGMG is a strong, autonomous actor, despite the fact that it does not fully adhere to the traditional humanitarian principles. Finally, it indicates themes for further research.


Migrant organisations Remittances Development Humanitarianism Crisis 


  1. Avant, D. (2005). The market for force: The consequences of privatizing security. Cambridge: University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, M. (2005). Humanitarianism transformed. Perspectives on Politics, 3(4), 723–854.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bartlett, C., & Ghoshal, S. (1989). Managing across borders. London: Hutchinson Business Books.Google Scholar
  4. Beneditti, C. (2006). Islamic and Christian inspired relief NGOs. Journal of International Development, 18(6), 849–859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. BMI. (2010). Verfassungsschutzbericht 2009. Berlin: BMI.Google Scholar
  6. Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (undated). Islamism. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  7. Caglar, A. (2006). Hometown associations, the rescaling of state spatiality and migrant grassroots transnationalism. Global Networks, 6(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. CEC. (2005). Migration und entwicklung. Brussels: Commission to the Parliament.Google Scholar
  9. Child, J. (1976). Organizational structure, environment and performance. Sociology, 6(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collier, P., Elliot, L., Hegre, H., Hoeffler, A., Reynal-Querol, M., & Sambanis, N. (2003). Breaking the conflict trap. Washington, DC: World Bank and Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Daume, H., Baraulina, T., Bommes, M., El-Cherkeh, T., & Vadean, F. (2007). Egyptian, Afghan, and Serbian diaspora communities in Germany. Hamburg: HWWI.Google Scholar
  12. De Cordier, B. (2009). The third pillar. Islamic development and relief organizations and the humanitarian frontline. Doctoral Dissertation, Ghent University.Google Scholar
  13. De Haas, H. (2006). Engaging diasporas. Oxford: IMI.Google Scholar
  14. De Waal, A. (2003). Human rights organizations and the political imagination. Journal of Human Rights, 2(4), 475–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Diehl, C. (2002). Die partizipation von migranten in Deutschland. Wuppertal: Leske and Budrich.Google Scholar
  16. Dijkzeul, D. (2008). Transnational humanitarian NGOs? In L. Pries (Ed.), Rethinking transnationalism: The meso-link of organizations (pp. 80–103). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Dijkzeul, D., & Moke, M. (2005). Public communication strategies of international humanitarian organizations. International Review of the Red Cross, 87(860), 673–691.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. DiMaggio, P., & Powell, W. W. (1983). The iron cage revisited: institutional isomorphism and collective rationalities in organizational fields. American Sociological Review, 48, 147–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Donini, A. (2010). The far side: The meta functions of humanitarianism in a globalised world. Disasters, 34(2), 220–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Elwert, G. (1982). Probleme der ausländerintegration. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 4, 717–731.Google Scholar
  21. Esser, H. (1996). Ethnische kolonien. In J. Hoffmann-Zlotnik (Ed.), Segregation oder integration (pp. 64–99). Mannheim: Forschung Raum und Gesellschaft.Google Scholar
  22. Fassin, D., & Pandolfi, M. (2010). Contemporary states of emergency. New York: Zone.Google Scholar
  23. Gabriel, K. (2006). Caritas und sozialstaat unter veränderungsdruck. Analysen und perspektiven. Münster: Lit Verlag.Google Scholar
  24. Galatowitsch, D. (2009). Co-development in Mali. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  25. Glick Schiller, N., & Faist, T. (Eds.). (2010). Migration, development, and transnationalization. Oxford: Berghahn Books.Google Scholar
  26. Goodhand, J. (2006). Aiding peace? Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  27. Halm, D., & Sezgin, Z. (2012). Migration and organized civil society—Rethinking national policy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Harmer, A., & Macrae, J. (2004). Beyond the continuum: The changing role of aid policy in protracted crises. London: ODI.Google Scholar
  29. Horst, C., & Gaas, M. (2008). Remittances for peace? The transnational political engagements of Somalis in Norway. Oslo: PRIO.Google Scholar
  30. IGMG. (2009a). Introductory brochure. Kerpen: IGMG.Google Scholar
  31. IGMG (2009b). IGMG Kurban’da Ümmetle Buluştu. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  32. IGMG (2009c). 11.000 kamen zur Gaza-Demonstration in Duisburg. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  33. IGMG (2009d). IGMG eröffnet Studentenwohnheim in Pakistan und drei Waisenhäuser in Bangladesch. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  34. IGMG (2010a). Die Wunden sind tief in Pakistan. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  35. IGMG (undated a). Brosür Zekat Fikre 2010. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  36. InWEnt. (2007). Migration und kommunale entwicklungszusammenarbeit. Bonn: InWEnt.Google Scholar
  37. Johnston, R. (2009). The influence of the ethnic association on the assimilation of its immigrant members. International Migration, 5(2), 147–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Korff, V. P. (2012). Between cause and control: Management in a humanitarian organization. Dissertation, Department of Sociology, University of Groningen.Google Scholar
  39. Krafess, J. (2005). The influence of the Muslim religion in humanitarian aid. International Review of the Red Cross, 87(858), 327–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Landolt, P., & Goldring, L. (2010). Political cultures, activist dialogues and the constitution of transnational social fields: Chilean, Colombian and Canadian organizing in Toronto. Global Networks, 10(4), 443–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Levitt, P., & Lamba-Nieves, D. (2011). Social remittances revisited. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lindenberg, M., & Bryant, C. (2001). Going global. Transforming relief and development NGOs. Bloomfield: Kumarian.Google Scholar
  43. López, F., Escala-Rabadan, L., & Hinojosa-Ojeda, R. (2001). Migrant associations, remittances and regional development between Los Angeles and Oaxaca, Mexico. LA: North American Integration and Development Centre.Google Scholar
  44. Mercer, C., Page, B., & Evans, M. (2009). Unsettling connections: Transnational networks, development and African Home Associations. Global Networks, 9(2), 141–161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meyer, J., & Rowan, B. (1991). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structures as myth and ceremony. In W. Powell & P. DiMaggio (Eds.), The new institutionalism in organizational analysis (pp. 41–62). Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Meyer, J. W., & Scott, W. R. (1983). Centralization and the legitimacy problems of local government. In J. Meyer & W. Scott (Eds.), Organizational environments: Ritual and rationality (pp. 199–215). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Mezzetti, P., Saggiomo, V., Pirkkalainen, P. and Guglielmo, M. (2010). Engagement dynamics between diasporas and settlement country institutions: Somalis in Italy and Finland. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  48. Oliver, C. (1991). Strategic responses to institutional processes. The Academy of Management Review, 16(1), 145–179.Google Scholar
  49. Orozco M. (2003). Remittances, markets and development. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  50. Østergaard-Nielsen, E. (2003). Transnational politics: Turks and Kurds in Germany. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. Ozkan, M. (2011). Transnational Islam, immigration NGOs and poverty alleviation: The case of the IGMG. Journal of International Development. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  52. Perlmutter, H. V. (1969). The tortuous evolution of multinational enterprises. Columbia Journal of World Business, 1, 9–18.Google Scholar
  53. Pirkkalainen, P. and Mahdi, A. (2009). The diaspora–conflict–peace–nexus. Accessed 14 February 2012.
  54. Portes, A., Escobar, C., & Walton, R. (2007). Immigrant transnational organizations and development. International Migration Review, 41(1), 242–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pries, L. (2008). Transnational societal spaces. In L. Pries (Ed.), Rethinking transnationalism (pp. 1–20). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  56. Pries, L. and Dijkzeul, D. (2011). Activities of migrant organizations in humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (AMOHC). Proposal for DFG Research Grant.Google Scholar
  57. Pries, L., & Sezgin, Z. (Eds.). (2010). Jenseits von ‘Identität oder Integration’ grenzen überspannende migrantenorganisationen. Wiesbaden: VS.Google Scholar
  58. Pries, L., & Sezgin, Z. (Eds.). (2012). Cross-border migrant organizations in comparative perspective. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  59. Proudlock, K., Ramalingam, B., & Sandison, P. (2008). Improving humanitarian impact assessment: Bridging theory and practice. London: ALNAP.Google Scholar
  60. Rauh, K. (2011). NGOs, foreign donors, and organizational processes: Passive NGO recipients or strategic actors? McGill Sociological Review, 1, 29–45.Google Scholar
  61. Reindorp, N. (2002). Trends and challenges in the UN humanitarian system. In J. Macrae (Ed.), The new humanitarianisms: A review of trends in global humanitarian action (pp. 29–39). London: ODI.Google Scholar
  62. Rosenow, K. (2011). Organizing Muslims and Integrating Islam. Muslim Umbrella Organizations in Germany in the 21st century. PhD thesis, Ruhr-University Bochum.Google Scholar
  63. Rosenow, K. and Sezgin, Z. (2011). Activities of Muslim migrant organizations in humanitarian crises. Paper presented at 2nd World Conference on Humanitarian Studies at Tufts University, 2 June 2011.Google Scholar
  64. Savage, K., & Harvey, P. (Eds.). (2007). Remittances during crises: Implications for humanitarian response. London: ODI.Google Scholar
  65. SCF UK. (2004). Global impact monitoring guidelines 2004. London: SCF UK.Google Scholar
  66. Schiffauer, W. (2010). Nach dem islamismus: Die islamische gemeinschaft milli görüs. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  67. Schmelz, A. (2007). Die kamerunische diaspora in Deutschland. Eschborn: GTZ.Google Scholar
  68. Schmitter, P., & Streeck, W. (1999). The organization of business interests. Cologne: Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.Google Scholar
  69. Scott, J. (2000). Social network analysis: A handbook. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  70. Seybolt, T. (2007). Humanitarian military intervention: The conditions for success and failure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Sezgin, Z. (2008). Umbrella organizations of Turkish migrants: A comparative analysis of migrants’ claims-making in Austria and Germany. PhD thesis, University of Leipzig.Google Scholar
  72. Sezgin, Z. (2010). Turkish migrants’ organizations in Germany and their role in the flow of remittances to Turkey. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 12(3), 231–251.Google Scholar
  73. Singer, P. W. (2007). Corporate warriors: The rise of the privatized military industry. NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  74. Soysal, Y. (1994). Limits of citizenship: Migrants and postnational membership in Europe. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Stoddard, A. (2002). Trends in US humanitarian policy. In J. Macrae (Ed.), The new humanitarianisms: A review of trends in global humanitarian action (pp. 39–49). London: ODI.Google Scholar
  76. Suchman, M. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–640.Google Scholar
  77. Thränhardt, D., & Weiß, K. (Eds.). (2005). SelbstHilfe. Wie migranten netzwerke knüpfen und soziales kapital schaffen. Freiburg: Lambertus.Google Scholar
  78. UN (2006). International Migration and Development. Report of the Secretary General A/60/871.Google Scholar
  79. Vermeulen, F. F. (2007). The immigrant organizing process: The emergence and persistence of Turkish immigrant organizations in Amsterdam and Berlin and Surinamese organizations in Amsterdam, 1960–2000. Amsterdam: IMISCOE Dissertations.Google Scholar
  80. Yurdakul, G. (2009). From guest workers into Muslims: The transformation of Turkish immigrant associations in Germany. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Development StudiesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed ConflictRuhr-University BochumBochumGermany

Personalised recommendations