Supporting the social mobility of trapped populations in very poor urban areas


The CMRD completed its Migrants on the Margins 3 year research partnership and collaboration with the Universities of Sussex, SOAS, Durham and Sheffield and the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). A number of surveys were conducted which included collecting data for comparison from 4 underserved communities that have high densities of migrant populations in the city of Colombo. Along with high mobility, residents experienced issues related to income and housing, with social and environmental challenges, and were vulnerable to displacement. For further information on the research see the RGS Field Research Programme.

Researchers with colleagues in the field

Locations in Colombo

Study locations

Lunupokuna, Colombo DSD

The canal and dense housing

Samantharanapura, Colombo DSD

A street view and dense housing

Kirulapona, Thimbirigasyaya DSD

A street view and canal

Wadulla, Kolonnawa DSD

A street view and relocation


The methods used included focus groups, Q sort interviews and repeat household surveys with revisits. A number of key informant interviews were also done with officials, community leaders and other stakeholders including the development of community profiles. The household survey was done using electronic tablets with enumerators recording interviews in Tamil and Sinhala languages. Researchers used Open Data Kit software with in-house Unicode embedded language translations while linking the data bases with applications such as what3words and GPS for spatial analysis of the information. Below are photos of some of the trainings and fieldwork.


A research findings workshop and exhibition called "Migrants on the Margins: A Study on Underserved Communities in Colombo" was conducted in Colombo on 16th October 2018 with the participation of selected academics, researchers, government officials, civil society, private sector and donors at the International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES) in partnership with the University of Sussex. The half day workshop covered background to the research, methods, early findings and outputs by research team members and reflections on the study by external scholars. The exhibition included a collection of photos of the lives and livelihoods of people in the communities, capturing their "world", along with a conceptual art piece of the Colombo city. There was also a Colombo, Dhaka, Harare, Hargeisa mapping series, and the Migrants on the Margins story book by PositveNegatives. An international workshop was held in Johannesburg on 10th - 12th September 2018 with the partcipation of research teams from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Somaliland and universities of Sussex, SOAS, Durham and Sheffield, and selected partners from South Africa to share findings. A follow up workshop was conducted in UK in June 2019 to plan the second phase of the research. A number of publications in the form of book chapters and journal articles are being prepared including a working paper series by the CMRD. Some photos from the Colombo workshop and exhibition are below.