(En)forced Mobility

A man, a refugee, is seen through the barrier of steel fencing.

Alongside the Mobility Info Points (MIP), in 2019 some On the Move members have set up a working group on (En)forced mobility to share practices, common actions, and advocacy tools, and, when opportunities arise, to share their experiences in public sessions. This group has been expanded from organisations working specifically on (en)forced mobility to organisations and initiatives that wish to act more on the issue, considering the increase of involuntary mobility in the arts and cultural sector.

The working group is facilitated by Mary Ann DeVlieg, founder of On the Move and International Arts Rights Adviser.

What do we mean by (En)forced mobility?

(En)forced mobility refers to an artist or a cultural professional whose mobility is not purely voluntary. It can be linked to taking up a professional opportunity in another country or region, such as a performance, exhibition, residency or study, but there is a definite element of constraint.

An artist / cultural professional may have moved location to avoid censorship and persecution, armed conflict, natural disasters, violations of human rights including freedom of sexual orientation, extreme poverty, or other difficulties that made them need to leave their home. They may be constrained to stay in a country they assumed would only be a temporary stay, due to pandemic health restrictions. Their visa may be temporary; their civic status may be in flux: they may have been denied citizenship, be seeking asylum, have gained (or not) refugee status, be clandestine or simply classed as a migrant.


  • Report of the working group discussions in 2018 (Lisbon) and 2019 (Prague) - Document edited by Mary Ann DeVlieg, with inputs from Cité Internationale des Arts, MobiCulture, Arts and Theatre Institute, Touring Artists, IGBK, Cultuurloket, Wales Arts International / Arts Council of Wales. ARC-Artists at Risk Connection, Howlround and Tamizdat.
  • (En)forced Mobility, an On the Move supported session in partnership with Howlround, 9 June 2020 - A one hour online session with representatives from ICORN, Howlround, Touring Artists and Cité Internationale des Arts - video of the discussion on (en)forced mobility.
  • Safe Havens Conference Global Stream, 12 and 13 November 2020 - online (including a working session on changes and solutions related to the Covid-19 situation and relocation issues on 12 November with OTM members including Cité international des Arts, alba KULTUR and Artists at Risk Connection.
  • The (en)forced mobility group met twice in 2021:
    • In February 2021, to look at the situation of artists in exile, who have been made even more precarious by Covid. Under the initiative of OTM member, Touring Artists. Invited organisation: Martin Roth Initiative.
    • In November 2021, under the initiative of Alba Kultur to discuss initiatives, forms of (collective) action and advocacy related to the situation of Afghan artists.
  • The (En)forced Mobility group met four times in 2022: in March, May, September and October 2022. The conversations were articulated around issues at stake (including the war in Ukraine, the situation in Afghanistan, etc.) and the need to coordinate actions. Throughout the year, the discussions and sharing of experiences were driven much more by a willingness to think beyond ‘emergency’ matters and to consider longer-term relocation and subsequent potential/temporary integration of artists and cultural professionals in new local/national artistic and cultural scenes.
    • The sessions were also the occasion to exchange with external guests such as Marita Muukkonen and Ivor Stodolsky from Artists at Risk, as well as with the artists Kioomars Musayyebi (from Iran, based in Germany) and Nge Lay (from Myanmar, relocated to France). The last October session provided the space to discuss a potential common project proposed by Moving Artists.

Other resources

Photograph: Mohammed Abakar. Taken as part of a project in Lesbos in collaboration with Mathieu Perot on Lesbos Island. Mohammed Abakar is a member of the Atelier des Artistes in Exil in Paris.