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Hein de Haas gave the Wolfson London lecture entitled Human Migration: Myths, Hysteria and Facts, on 4 March 2014.

Migration is an issue that can raise high hopes for migrants and deep fears among native populations. Sometimes this fear amounts to outright hysteria: you only have to think of the British press stories about the likelihood of a rush of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants when they gained full mobility rights in Europe. A few months earlier, when a boat full of migrants sank off Lampedusa, Italy, politicians and media talked about an ‘invasion of migrants’. ‘Something needed to be done’, they said, otherwise the situation would get out of control.

There are a number of so-called fundamental truths about human migration that are based on flawed assumptions about its nature, causes and consequences. Governments’ responses to migration are often based on these flawed assumptions and, as a result, immigration policies often fail to meet their stated objectives. I will discuss seven such ‘migration myths’ to illustrate that much common-sense thinking about migration is not based on facts.