Albania, a developing Mediterranean nation with a population of 2.8 million, has experienced a significant surge in emigration. The U.K. and France are the two most preferred destinations for Albanian migrants, as these countries are home to many Albanian communities.

According to a 2022 report, approximately 70% of Albanian asylum seekers chose the U.K. or France as their destination. In just five months, from May to September, over 11,000 Albanians braved the perilous journey across the English Channel in small boats, with almost all hailing from Albania’s impoverished northern highland region.

Who Are the Albanians Leaving?

The exodus from Albania is diverse, comprising economic migrants seeking employment and asylum seekers fleeing from trafficking and modern slavery. Typically, men lead the way in this migration, with their partners and children joining them later. It is worth noting that most Albanian migrants who travel to the U.K. in small boats are young men, and while many apply for asylum, the U.K. Home Office has thus far rejected 86% of male asylum claims. Of note, there is a substantial backlog of asylum applications that remain unprocessed.

On the other hand, the U.K. approves approximately 90% of asylum claims made by women and children. Madeleine Sumption, Director of The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, notes that most of the Albanians who receive a positive decision are female, possibly due to their status as victims of trafficking. As such, these individuals are eligible for asylum in the U.K.

Why have they Left?

A recent survey conducted by the Regional Cooperation Council called the Balkan Barometer revealed that approximately 83% of Albanians expressed their desire to leave the country, citing the high cost of living as the most common reason. Additionally, the survey found that unemployment and a lack of educational opportunities made life even more challenging for young Albanians, with the unemployment rate for individuals between the ages of 18-34 reaching 60%.

Dr. Andi Hoxha of University College London has said that in the last three years, a huge earthquake and COVID-19 have exacerbated poverty and unemployment in Albania. Dr. Hoxha also noted that the government had offered little help to the most affected people.

According to the World Bank, an estimated one-fifth of Albanians fell into poverty during the pandemic. The organization reports that the rising food costs and inflation in Albania are major issues in a country where citizens spend around 42% of their income on food.

In addition to poverty and lack of opportunities, many Albanian young men and boys are being groomed by criminal gangs. A study by the organization: Asylos, which studies asylum claims, suggests that threats of violence compel many young Albanian men into criminal activity, modern slavery and sexual exploitation.

Albania-originated crime networks aim to recruit such vulnerable young males to work illegally in the U.K., notably on cannabis farms. Some young men have also fled to escape violent fallouts from local blood feuds, which are still common in Albania.

Why Now?

Except for the earthquake in 2019, Albania has not been subject to any of the usual factors that precipitate a surge in emigration. Rather, the country’s problems, including poverty, unemployment, corruption and political instability, are chronic. Since 1991 and the fall of communism, more than 40% of Albanians have emigrated. In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in Albanian migrants. Dan O’Mahoney, the Clandestine Channel Threat Commander for the U.K. Home Office, attributes the increase to the activities of smugglers.

The two most significant factors behind the increase in Albanian migrants to the U.K. are the intensified activity of criminal gangs and the heightened ability of smugglers to lure people into coming to the U.K. Organized crime networks target young men in impoverished parts of Albania, while adverts on Tiktok are used by smugglers to attract potential migrants. It has lately become cheaper to be smuggled on a small boat across the English Channel. Fatjona Mejdini of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime told the BBC that whereas migrants would previously have to pay up to £25,000 to be smuggled in a truck, now they can pay only £3,000 to £4000 to be transported by boat or dinghy.

What does the Future Hold for Albania?

Albania is emptying out, especially in its northern highlands, settlements are turning into “ghost towns” as their young people leave. In the town of Kukësiin in northern Albania, for instance, 53% of its inhabitants have emigrated. Fortunately, foreign investment, significant seasonal tourism and support from the World Bank aim to improve Albania’s economy. For example, the U.K. injected £6 million into Tirana, Albania’s capital city, while the World Bank has partnered with the Albanian government to support its agricultural industry, which employs 36% of the country’s population.

Looking Ahead

The number of Albanian migrants has declined in 2023. Last summer, they accounted for more than half of all arrivals to the U.K., but according to the most recent reports, the number is fewer than 10%. This may be because many of the Albanians who wanted to make the journey already have. Additional factors include worsening weather conditions and a pledge by the U.K. government to fast-track the deportation of illegal migrants. On the bright side, however, continued support from international organizations and countries like the U.K. could help Albania in its effort to address the root causes of emigration.

– Samuel Chambers

Photo: Pixabay

Mediterranean Migration CrisisThe migrant boat shipwreck occurring in Italy on February 26, 2023, serves as a reminder that stronger action is necessary to address the Mediterranean migration crisis. Thousands of migrants attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat with the hope of a better future. However, the Mediterranean is a deadly route for migrants, with more than 26,000 people missing or dead since 2014.

The EU’s response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has been criticized for falling short in addressing and collaborating on the issue. Numbers of experts posit that the prioritization of borders over human lives is an uncomfortable truth that must be confronted as the deadly waters continue to claim the lives of those seeking a future free from poverty, war and violence.

Migrant Boat Shipwreck in Italy

The migrant boat shipwreck in Italy led to at least 63 confirmed deaths, including women and children. The migrants had hoped to land near Crotone in search of a new life free from poverty. About 200 migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Iran boarded the boat, which had set out from Izmir, Turkey a few days before the shipwreck.

Due to high poverty rates and extreme living conditions in countries like Afghanistan, people are seeking better opportunities through migration. The economic collapse in Afghanistan, worsened by the Taliban’s seizure of power and international donors suspending non-humanitarian funding has created a humanitarian crisis. As of mid-2021, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that 2.7 million Afghans were displaced across borders worldwide. 

The loss of lives in this incident serves as a reminder of the urgent need for comprehensive solutions to the ongoing migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Recent data shows a noteworthy surge in migrant arrivals in Italy compared to the same months in 2021-2022, with the figures tripling. While the peak of the migrant crisis in the EU was witnessed between 2014-2017, this year has seen a steep increase in arrivals, with Ivorians, Guineans, and Bangladeshis being the most represented nationalities.

Many migrants originate from countries with high poverty rates, including Cote d’Ivoire, which experienced a 6.7% rise in GDP in 2022, yet more than 11% of its population lived below the international poverty line. Similarly, extreme weather events and other factors have led to 35 million people continuing to live below the poverty line, as per recent reports.

Taking Action to Resolve the Mediterranean Migration Crisis

The Global Route-Based Migration Programme, initiated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in 2021, aims to improve the safety and dignity of people on the move, including migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and other displaced individuals, along land and sea-based migration routes in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and the Americas.

The program seeks to support 4.7 million people on the move and people in host communities annually by utilizing the expertise and reach of 57 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide. It is a tool that can be used to address the migration crisis and improve coordination and collaboration among organizations and governments, while also enhancing support and access to essential needs such as food, water, shelter, information and health care.

The Path Forward

Addressing the root causes of migration and providing support to those in need requires a collaborative effort. In a bilateral meeting on the aftermath of the migrant boat shipwreck in Italy, during a March 2023 EU summit in Brussels, French President Macron and Italian Prime Minister Meloni discussed the need for a common European solution to manage migration and aid those in need. While migration policy has been a point of tension between the two countries in the past, this meeting signifies a step toward finding common ground and working together to address the complex challenges of migration in Europe.

– Elena Maria Puri
Photo: Flickr

Migration to Turkey
Migration to Turkey has hit an all-time high as Turkey is home to “one of the largest migrant populations in the world,” hosting about 4 million refugees and asylum seekers as of 2022, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). According to the International Organization for Migration, historically, Turkey has stood as “a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants” due to its “geopolitical location on the route from the Middle East to Europe” and the conflicts occurring in neighboring countries. Turkey’s migration history dates back to the 1400s, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Conflict and Violence as a Contributing Factor

Past historic conflicts such as World War II and the Kosovo War significantly contributed to the migration to Turkey while the Syrian civil war and the 2021 Taliban offensive remain the cause of more recent waves of migration.

One of the significant conflict-induced migrations to mention is the Bulgarian Turkish emigration that took place in 1989. Turks who ended up in Bulgarian territory while it was under Ottoman rule had to leave Bulgaria due to political pressure and violence in 1989. Nearly 400,000 ethnic Turks then emigrated back to Turkey. The Bulgarian emigration prompted further waves of migration from the Balkans.

In the 1990s, amid the Bosnian War, about 20,000 Bosnian refugees fled to Turkey in search of safety. In time to come, a similar number of refugees from Kosovo and Macedonia sought refuge within Turkish borders, also due to conflict and violence in their home countries.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

The number of refugees coming from the Balkans remains relatively small compared to the scale of recent migration waves that hit Turkey. According to World Vision, as of 2021, data indicates that there are more than 6.8 million displaced Syrian refugees. Nearly 4 million of these Syrian refugees currently reside in Turkey.

The first wave of Syrian refugees came about in 2011 when the Syrian civil war just broke out. The world then had to accommodate a large number of war-fleeing refugees from Syria who are currently still unable to return to their country as the conflict rages on.

Turkey as a Country of Refuge

Hosting the largest population of Syrian refugees comes with great responsibility for the Turkish government in terms of meeting the economic and social needs of the migrants.

Turkey spent nearly $350 million of its budget on addressing the refugee crisis in 2022, according to the UNHCR. A large amount of that budget went to “realizing rights in safe environments” and “empowering communities and achieving gender equality.”

In 2021, the EU approved a budget of €149.6 million to fund the vulnerable Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. With the combined EU funding and the Turkish government’s budget for refugees, Syrian refugees are able to receive the support necessary to integrate into Turkish society and into the formal economy.

Alongside government support, there are many nonprofit organizations helping refugees. Established in 2015, Small Projects Istanbul (SPI) is an Istanbul-based nonprofit helping displaced families from the MENA region reestablish their lives through various programs. With a specific focus on youth and women, according to its website, SPI runs a number of initiatives to “promote access to education, protection, social services, psycho-social support and livelihoods.”

At present, Turkey is a major hub for war-fleeing migrants and a representative of exemplary migrant policies.

– Selin Oztuncman
Photo: Flickr

Climate-Driven Poverty in Central America 
Hurricane Bonnie is the latest of many natural disasters to hit the coasts of Central America. Along with it came heavy rains and flooding that led to widespread damage and deaths in Nicaragua and El Salvador in July 2022. However, this is not an unfamiliar situation. In 2020, Hurricanes Eta and Iota led to $2 billion worth of damage in Honduras while leaving millions of people in Guatemala and Nicaragua facing food insecurity and internal displacement. In 2021, Hurricane Grace caused landslides and fatalities in Mexico alongside millions of dollars in damage. More concerning is the fact that this pattern has only become more frequent. In the past 20 years, climate-related disasters cost Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries a combined “equivalent of 1.7% of a year’s GDP.” By 2030, extreme weather patterns could thrust as many as 5.8 million people into conditions of extreme impoverishment in the LAC region. As such, climate-driven poverty in Central America is a significant concern.

Millions of people in Central America already live in what is known as the “Dry Corridor,” an area that faces alternating bouts of drought and extreme weather events such as hurricanes. These circumstances leave the largely rural population susceptible to climate-driven poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Agricultural Impact and Food Security

According to the World Bank, in 2019, the agricultural sector accounted for 14% of total employment in the LAC region. However, around 70% of adults enduring extreme poverty in the LAC region work in the agricultural industry, a vulnerable population that faces disproportionate impacts from extreme weather events.

Job reliance on agriculture also varies by country. For instance, close to 40% of Honduras’ population engages in employment in agriculture, says the Global Agriculture & Food Security Program. Severe weather conditions have had a significant effect on agriculture in terms of employment and food output.

Hurricanes Iota and Eta ruined crops from Central America’s second growing season, affecting both small and large-scale farm operations. In the north of Honduras, the hurricanes caused a large spike in unemployment from the losses sustained in the area’s banana plantations. Coffee production, which makes up a large part of Central American exports and sustains low-income households, also saw damage to crops and irrigation systems from the heavy rains.

Beyond employment, agricultural impacts from these weather events also affect food production. The 2020 hurricanes caused an increase in food prices due to crop damage and raised costs of transportation.

The World Meteorological Organization estimates that as many as 7.7 million individuals in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua faced “high levels of food insecurity in 2021” because of the hurricanes and the exacerbating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Infrastructural Damage

July 2022’s Hurricane Bonnie left thousands of people in Nicaragua without power and water while roads in El Salvador flooded or collapsed.

Two years ago, Hurricane Eta and Iota destroyed government buildings, hospitals and thousands of homes in Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In total, ReliefWeb reports that Eta and Iota caused damages equating to $1.86 billion in Honduras, $742 million in Nicaragua and $775 million in Guatemala. Rural areas faced the harshest impacts as floods, heavy rains and landslides hit homes, streets and community centers. The hurricanes also caused water contamination after damaging the sewage systems, threatening the clean water supply.

Migration and Displacement

Both in 2020 and 2022, many families suffered major losses after the destruction of their homes by the hurricanes,  pushing them into extreme poverty. Hurricanes Eta and Iota in 2020 displaced 1.5 million people in Central America, as the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimated.

Alongside food insecurity, poverty and violence, extreme weather events are a major factor in migration in Central America, driving thousands to the United States every year. According to the Brookings Institution, migration from countries like Guatemala to the United States connects to rural impoverishment and “agricultural stress linked to climate change.” Internally, migration from rural areas to urban centers across Central America is also becoming more common due to employment instability in agriculture.

Globally, the 2022 World Migration Report states that extreme weather events and disasters lead to the displacement of more individuals than conflict and violence, and the number will only grow without prompt intervention.

Policy Implications

The World Food Programme and U.N. Environment Programme-backed initiatives are encouraging climate resilience policies to eliminate climate-driven poverty in Central America. For example, the WFP introduced climate risk management practices, including insurance initiatives meant to protect people living in regions susceptible to extreme weather events. The WFP also introduced “forecast-based finance” techniques in countries such as the Dominican Republic, which will provide aid to 10,000 people in the event of the country anticipating a climate disaster such as floods. As of 2021, the WFP estimates that its “climate risk management solutions” assisted around 441,000 people in the LAC region.

CityAdapt, an organization working with the U.N. Environment Programme and funded by the Global Environment Facility, implements “nature-based solutions” in cities and peri-urban regions in Mexico and El Salvador. It uses natural ecosystems to fight the effects of extreme weather changes, promoting “green and blue infrastructure such as urban parks, green roofs and facades, tree planting, river conservation,” and more, according to its website. CityAdapt also launched an online course in 2020 for 40 cities within 14 Latin American countries to educate people on nature-based solutions to address extreme weather conditions.

While the end goal is to prevent the occurrence of extreme weather events, these innovative and resilient approaches have the power to reduce the impact of climate-driven poverty in Central America and other vulnerable regions.

Ramona Mukherji
Photo: Flickr

Climate Migration
As global temperatures continue to rise, those in the hottest regions of the world face an impossible choice. They can either endure malnutrition, economic malaise and political instability or run the gauntlet of relocating to greener pastures. Affecting more than 20 million people every year, climate migration poses a serious threat to countries in Central America, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As people relocate domestically and internationally, they strain their new community’s and their own recourses, leaving both vulnerable.

Exacerbating Already Existing Issues

In Guatemala, climate migration exacerbates many of the issues it already faces. Rapid increases in temperature as well as prolonged droughts followed by violent flooding have destroyed agricultural harvests, forcing many into overcrowded urban centers or seeking refuge in the United States. Since much of the country’s economy is dependent on agriculture, this will increase malnutrition and poverty rates, damaging an already struggling nation.

These effects will only become worse as temperatures continue to rise, with 1.5 million people expected to flee Mexico and Guatemala every year by 2050, according to The New York Times.

Similarly, climate migration in other regions can cause dramatic economic and political harm. Sub-Saharan Africa is particularly vulnerable to this, as increased temperatures quicken a process known as desertification, in which arid land becomes unusable while coastal regions succumb to rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters.

For the Philippines and many island nations, marine life degradation and higher sea levels threaten the livelihoods of millions reliant on the sea, creating a host of political and economic issues, according to the OECD report. This will only lead to increased climate migration and further internal disruption.

Affecting the Progress

Looked at from a larger perspective, climate migration threatens to undo decades of progress in the fight against global poverty. Both the United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council have highlighted the current and potential threat that climate migration poses. In regions like the Sahel desert, water shortages have catalyzed armed violence, displacing more than 3 million people, according to UNHCR. Should the international community ignore this pressing issue, climate migration could become an even greater issue.

Solutions

However, it is not too late to curb the effects of climate migration. With the threat of mass environmental exodus, more organizations have spotlighted the issue, urging nations to protect climate refugees. The Biden Administration emphasized climate migration in a report before the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) released a report in 2021 on how countries like the United States could prevent climate migration from worsening. One proposed suggestion was that the U.S. should allow those fleeing climate-related disasters to seek refugee status.

As more focus is drawn to this alarming phenomenon, increased research is allowing scientists to make estimates as to where climate migration will be strongest and how to fix the issue in the long run, according to The New York Times. Environmental protection policies and aid toward refugees are solutions that tackle the problem from important angles and are becoming more prominent as migration due to weather becomes a larger part of the fight against poverty.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Pixabay

 Migration in Brazil
As one of the largest and most populous nations in the Americas, Brazil has long served as a safe haven for immigrants around the world. In fact, migration in Brazil includes people from Europe, Asia, South America and Africa. Immigrants in Brazil, in turn, have brought many economic and cultural benefits to the nation.

First Wave of Brazil Migration

Brazil’s first wave of non-colonial immigration began in the late 1800s; from 1870 to 1930, between 2 and 3  million migrants from Europe, Asia and the Middle East sailed to the nation in search of a new home. The abolition of slavery spurred the influx of foreigners. Landowners around the country believed that immigrant laborers would help Brazil form a wage-based economy similar to European countries. However, in 1891 Brazilian elites also sought to “whiten” their nation by enacting racist laws which welcomed European immigrants while banning those from African and Asian nations. Brazilians saw Japanese immigrants as an exception to this rule. They viewed Japanese immigrants as essentially European in their mannerisms and industrial habits. In 1935, a federal deputy commented, “The Japanese colonists are even whiter than the Portuguese.”

Continued Brazil Migration

Brazil has aggressively sought out foreign workers to grow its economy. After World War II, for example, the government encouraged workers from Spain, Syria and Lebanon to move to the country, correctly assuming that the laborers would aid Brazil’s industrial sectors. By 1970, 115,000 Spaniards and 22,000 Syrian-Lebanese called Brazil home.

In the following decades, the nation saw a wave of Korean immigration. These families, like those before them, saw Brazil as a land of social mobility. They purchased cheap visas into Bolivia or Paraguay and used the relaxed border laws to enter Brazil.

Informality Supports Undocumented Immigrants

Brazil’s attitude towards immigrants stands out in its informality. While undocumented immigrants do not always receive encouragement to enter Brazil, there remain no current policies that discourage them. In addition, Brazil’s government has frequently created legalization programs that help unregistered citizens gain documentation. The three most recent of these programs gave more than 100,000 foreigners the right to permanent residency in Brazil.

More than 40,000 of those 100,000 foreigners originated from Bolivia. The country of 11 million has struggled for years financially, and as a result, many have flocked to the surrounding nations of Chile, Peru and Brazil. Currently, more than 130,000 Bolivians officially reside in Brazil, although the Brazilian Embassy in the Bolivian La Paz estimates that in total, more than a million Bolivians live within Brazilian borders. This leaves a vast majority of these immigrants undocumented and subsequently subjected to long hours and low pay in the clothing factories and sewing shops where they typically work.

Venezuela: The Largest New Immigrant Population

The largest immigrant population currently residing in Brazil, however, is not Bolivian but Venezuelan. Venezuela is currently experiencing the largest recorded refugee crisis in the history of the Americas, due to political turmoil and widespread poverty. Brazil’s government has been generally supportive of these immigrants. In August 2018, for example, when the state of Roraima requested to close its border with Venezuela, the Brazilian Supreme Court denied the request on constitutional grounds.

Currently, Brazil houses more than 260,000 Venezuelan refugees. The government has granted asylum to more than 20,000, and a two-year residency permit was made available to purchase in 2017 if certain applicants do not qualify for asylum. A 2020 program titled Operação Acolhida (“Operation Welcome”)  funds more than 10,000 plane tickets to help Venezuelans travel to Brazil and is helping 50,000 to get to cities around Brazil. 

Mutually Beneficial into the Future

Brazil has gained many cultural benefits from the enormous amount of immigrants living within its borders. School children and adults alike enjoy Japanese manga and anime; similarly, Brazilian jiu-jitsu would not have been possible without the sumo wrestling the Japanese brought. Kibe, a simple croquette that bars and street carts around Brazil sell, comes from the Middle East via Lebanese immigrants. Stores owned by Korean families provide many items in a typical Brazilian’s wardrobe. 

Some organizations worry that as President Jair Bolsonairo continues to lead the country, Brazil will become less hospitable to migrants. One of the president’s first moves in office, after all, was to pull out of a United Nations migration accord that had been signed the previous month. “We will never withhold help to those in need, but immigration cannot be indiscriminate,” he wrote on Twitter. Still, it seems that the principles of migration in Brazil have generally stayed the same under Bolsonairo. The nation continues to house many from struggling Latin American countries; this February, it also became the first nation in the world to grant humanitarian visas to Ukrainians. 

Migration in Brazil has been a symbiotic process for many years. Brazil has been hospitable towards immigrants, more so than most large countries; and those immigrants have repaid the nation through their work and their culture. One hopes this relationship is able to remain mutually beneficial long into the future.

– Finn Harnett
Photo: Flickr

Migration to Italy from North Africa
The migration scenario in Italy has evolved considerably in recent years. The request for residence permits for family reasons or protection has drastically increased and the geography of origin is changed. Sea landings from the North African coasts today constitute the main migratory mass toward Italy, a phenomenon that has reached critical proportions over time. Here is some information about the migration to Italy from North Africa.

A Snapshot of the Migratory Flows of the Last Decade

In the last decade, the flow of Italian coast landings from Africa has often reached critical thresholds. The beginning of the Arab Spring and the revolution in Tunisia brought approximately 60,000 people and immigrants to Italy in 2010.

The conclusion of the revolution in Tunisia in January 2011 ended with the interim election of President Mohamed Ghannouchi. This led to a brief period of stagnation in landings in Italy. A new conflict outbreak from Libya brought a new peak in migratory flows two years later.

Since 2014, these landings have reached dramatic thresholds. Between January 2015 and January 2018, the Italian Institute for International Political Studies estimates that the threshold of 180,000 landings per year was reached. These numbers were unmanageable for coast guard rescue teams in the event of shipwrecks and for the capacity of the Italian reception centers.

The February 2017 critical situation led the Italian foreign ministry to sign an agreement with the Libyan government. The three-year agreement required the Italian government to provide economic aid and technical support to the Libyan authorities and the Coast Guard to reduce the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea while Libya improves the conditions of its migrant reception centers. After two years, the number of landings on the Italian coasts dropped from 200,000 in 2017 to 15,000 in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to various consequences with heavy repercussions on international mobility. Contrary to tourism, the effects of the pandemic on landings in Italy and Spain, have been opposite. In 2021, there were 67,000 landings in Italy.

Political Response to the Crisis in Europe

Numerous key elements gravitate around the landing of migrants in Italy. Italy does not bear all of the migration crisis expenses ranging from the rescue missions to the logistics and reception of immigrants aimed at guaranteeing livelihood and health care.

The EU commission has allocated the “2014-2020 Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund” for the integrated management of the phenomenon of migratory flows in asylum, integration and repatriation.

The situation in the reception centers is stable as the number of landings today is not so critical. It is natural to consider whether Italy will be able to withstand the pressure in the future if the 2017 figures are reached as the number of migrants housed in official Libya detention centers grew in 2021.

Europe has not developed a concrete plan on the redistribution of immigrants on European soil that will integrate and extend the Malta agreements on the subject, stipulated between Italy, France and Germany. For this reason, only 2% of the 53,000 people who disembarked from 2019 to mid-2021 moved to other European countries.

The Response to the Political Crisis in Italy

On the Italian side, one of the reasons for the rate of irregular immigration from Africa is the fact that Italy’s regular entry channels for non-EU citizens in the last decade have progressively reduced. The reasoning comes from the effect of the 2008 crisis and a political measure dictated more by the nationalist aversion to the increase in landings in recent years than by the objectivity of the figures.

This general closure also underwent replication in the acceptance of international asylum applications by Italy. The change in Italian legislation has meant that the number of permits granted for humanitarian and special protection in 2017 went from 28% to 1% in 2021. The closing trends, which many other European Union countries have followed, are somewhat unjustified, especially since the numbers of landings in recent years are growing.

The third crucial element to consider in this matter is the integration of those who land on the Italian coasts and its close correlation with employment. It is the integration that allows populations who leave their countries driven by wars, violence and poverty to be able to work while rebuilding a life and contributing to the economies of the host countries.

The Italian Institute for International Political Studies states that the difficulty of integrating refugees into the labor market of the country of destination is considerable. According to estimates, after more than a decade from the first entry into the country, the employment rate remains only slightly higher than 50%. This is due to the high general unemployment rate that has plagued Italy since the last global economic crisis and COVID-19 aggravated this further.

Looking Ahead

Over the past year, the number of migrants and refugees who lost their lives trying to reach Europe by sea was 896, a figure more than double the numbers in 2020. Italy’s inadequacies on this matter are still many and cannot be justified by the lack of a lasting and coherent political governance caused by the numerous changes of government. By its divisive character, immigration is often at the center of the media and political debate, becoming a salient point of electoral programs.

The current and past efforts represent a good starting point for improving the national emergency reception and integration plans for migrants to prepare Italy to face the possible future aggravation of these migratory flows. The country will require assistance to face refugees’ continued migration to Italy as many deaths occur at sea.

– Francesco Gozzo
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Migration in India
The migrant population is a large driver of India’s economy. India has one of the largest migrant economies in the world. Many Indian workers travel hundreds of miles to work in certain areas of the country to support their families back home. GDP growth rose by over 8% between 2005-2012. In addition, over 137 million people escaped poverty as a result of large-scale migration. There is tremendous potential in using migration in India as a poverty alleviation tool based on past numbers. The Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 (MGNREGA) is the primary national legislation of the nation geared towards solving its poverty crisis. However, it stagnated as of late due to COVID-19. Migration is a tool towards recovery from the consequences of COVID-19 and it offers a long-lasting solution to poverty in India.

About MGNREGA

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) is a poverty alleviation legislation. It went into effect in August 2005. The act guarantees a hundred days of wage employment in any given financial year to rural households who have adults willing to volunteer for unskilled manual labor. The MGNREGA focuses on empowering women both socially and economically. The act also focuses on providing green and decent work by conserving natural resources. Although the MGNREGA is successful to some extent, greater poverty alleviation demands the use of migration as well.

Many Indian policymakers fail to recognize the potential benefits of migration. They often view it as a response to tragedy instead of those seeking greater economic freedom and opportunity. The MGNREGA originally intended to provide 100 days of work, now only providing  50 days of work in the majority of Indian states. Migrants can find higher-paying and more stable work within large urban areas and cities. MGNREGA reform is necessary along with the implementation of new migration legislation in order to further mitigate poverty in India.

The Benefits of Large Scale Indian Migration

Based on the same rate of migrant increase in the 2010s, over 56 million individual migrants would have traveled in 2020. Those benefiting back home in rural villages would have totaled 224 million, had COVID-19 not occurred and MGNREGA not reduced Indian migration. In comparison, 37 million families will benefit from MGNREGA during the fiscal year 2020-2021 according to the rural development ministry. Migration benefits a much higher percentage of the Indian population in poverty than MGNREGA does.

Migrants additionally have an easier time assimilating to their destination once their financial situation improves with higher quality work and wages. Women working in agriculture in the Eastern Indian state of Bihar can more than double their daily wages by moving to Patna, the capital of Bihar. Men from Bihar can increase their earnings even more at an increase of approximately 66% by relocating to Punjab and can have an even higher earning potential if they decide to move to major cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Delhi or Mumbai.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Migration in India

India’s lockdown period due to the COVID-19 virus lasted over a year, beginning on March 25, 2020. As a result, migration throughout the country came to a standstill as trains and planes stopped operating leaving many Indians trapped. Many migrants lost their jobs due to the toll the virus took on major Indian industries and were far from their homes without any options to get back.

Reducing poverty in India is no small task as it possesses the second largest population in the world. Passing anti-poverty legislation that provides migrants in India more options to travel within Indian borders for work could create millions of new jobs and greatly benefit both the Indian economy and people.

– Curtis McGonigle
Photo: Flickr

Social inequality in GermanyResearch shows that levels of social inequality in Germany could increase COVID-19 transmission rates among people experiencing poor living and working conditions. Evidence does not conclusively determine that poverty directly causes Germany’s COVID-19 cases. However, it is apparent to scientists and medical professionals that a large number of COVID-19 patients come from low socioeconomic standing. In 2015, 2.8 million German children were at risk of poverty. The influx of migrants flowing into Germany has also increased rates of poverty in Germany.

Poverty and COVID-19

According to the CIA World Factbook, 14.8% of the German population lives below the poverty line as of June 2021. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the North Rhine-Westphalia area has the highest number of COVID-19 cases. The area is home to Gelsenkirchen, the most impoverished German city based on a 2019 report by the Hans Böckler Foundation.

Risks of Overcrowding

Overcrowded living areas are more susceptible to airborne illnesses, medical sociologist Nico Dragono said in an interview with The Borgen Project. In 2019, 8% of Germans lived in overcrowded dwellings, meaning there were fewer rooms compared to inhabitants. This percentage has increased in recent years, according to Statistisches Bundesamt (German Federal Office of Statistics).

In November 2020, statistics showed that 12.7% of the population residing in cities lived in overcrowded dwellings. Comparatively, 5.5% reside in small cities or suburbs and 4% reside in rural areas. Dragono says that social inequality in Germany plays a significant role in the spread of disease across the country’s large cities. This especially impacts those living in close proximity to others. “Infections clustered in the areas of the city where the poor live because there simply was no space,” Dragono says. He says further that with many people living in one household, traveling to school, work and other places holds an increased risk of bringing infections into the home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated on February 26, 2021, that COVID-19 is transferable through respiratory droplets from people within close proximity of each other. This puts those in poverty at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Those living in areas such as refugee camps and impoverished neighborhoods are especially vulnerable. Therefore, social inequality in Germany may contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Migrants Potentially at Higher Risk

Dragono says that, unlike the United States, Germany does not document patients’ ethnicities. In other words, Germany cannot collect the demographics of who contracts COVID-19. He said it appears the association between COVID-19 and social inequality in Germany is universal for migrants and non-migrants. However, many hospitals across Germany reported that close to 90% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit have an immigrant background, according to Deutsche Welle.

“Migrants are more often poor because they do many of the bad jobs,” Dragono says. There are indications that COVID-19 is more prevalent in the areas inhabited by migrants. “Migrant workers, as they grow older, many have diseases, because in general, they are doing hard work… so their hospitalization rates could be a bit higher.” Dragono says Germans’ social status and income determine how much access they have to quality resources. It is easier for upper-class citizens to purchase masks and use personal travel and they do not have to rely on public transportation or low-quality protective gear.

On June 5, 2021, the German health ministry came under fire regarding a report that dictated its plan to dispose of unusable face masks by giving them to impoverished populations. However, the health ministry released a statement that all of its masks are high quality and receive thorough testing. Any defective masks are put into storage.

Assistance From Caritas Germany

As the virus continues to spread, many organizations are extending assistance to disadvantaged citizens in Germany. Some services translate COVID-19 information into migrants’ languages or modify other services to fit COVID-19 guidelines. Caritas Germany, one of the largest German welfare organizations, typically operates childcare services, homeless shelters and counseling for migrants.

To comply with COVID-19, Caritas began offering online services such as therapy and counseling. The organization also travels to low-income areas and focuses on providing personal protective equipment to those working with the elderly. Many Caritas volunteers use technology to maintain distance while also maintaining communication with patients. Since the beginning of the pandemic, hundreds of volunteers have trained in online counseling.

However, Dragono says that while the country has systems in place to avoid broadening the poverty gap, the serious implications of COVID-19 on social inequality in Germany are yet to emerge. Fortunately, organizations are committed to mitigating some of the impacts of COVID-19 on disadvantaged people in Germany.

– Rachel Schilke
Photo: Unsplash