Research project: MISAFIR

MISAFIR: Population estimates and social composition of unregistered populations of the Brussels Capital Region

2018-2020 | Regional funding

Research objectives

Estimating population size and composition of undocumented migrants is a major challenge to demographers and social scientists. Past research often relied on techniques such as capture-recapture, snowball sampling, expert interviews etc.. Though yielding interesting qualitative results, these techniques can be heavily biased when applied to specific marginalised populations.

In the MISAFIR-project a demographic extrapolation technique is used, based on observed mortality in these populations. Mortality is one of the most stable and consistent demographic parameters. It can be assumed to be universally recorded regardless of peoples’ legal status. This approach is not limited to marginalized populations such as asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, but can create estimates relating to other hidden populations (e.g. circular migrants, unregistered EG-citizens and other groups of interest).

To achieve these goals, technical challenges need to be tackled. Mortality data have to be cleaned and prepared in order to isolate deaths occurring in those diverse populations. In order to extrapolate numbers of deaths into numbers concerning the living population, suitable model life tables must be constructed for each sub-population taking into account social and ethnic diversity.