Accessible Housing for Migrants in IndiaIndia’s urbanization rate is rising, and with it comes an influx of migrant workers. In the last 20 years, there has been a 73 percent increase in India’s urban population, with a whopping 377.1 million residents living in urban centers in 2011 alone. Though more recent migration data has yet to be released, it is still significant to note that between 2007 and 2008, urban areas experienced a 35 percent migration rate – referring to the proportion of migrants in the population – meaning that over one third of India’s urban population was temporary. Migrants travel to urban centers primarily for two reasons: work and marriage, both of which are issues that are split along gender lines. About 70 percent of all internal female migrants travel for marriage and 56 percent of all male migrants travel for employment.

This special aspect about migrants – their temporary status – has led them to be one of the most underserved groups in the urban population. Their inherently transient nature has allowed them to be taken advantage of in multiple markets – the housing market in particular, as housing options are limited due to their incapacity to purchase homes. Such limitations ensure that these migrants are especially susceptible to exploitation, as they are consistently and completely dependent upon rental options.

Consequently, the issue of housing for migrants in India is increasingly significant, especially considering that a full 27.6 percent of urban residents were living in rental homes in 2011. Much of these rental accommodations manifest themselves in the form of slums, due to the necessity to quickly address the population influxes. As a result, 68 million Indians lived in slums in 2011, due to the inability to properly and swiftly accommodate the massive population fluctuations and due to a lack of options. If slums are the only available housing, a migrant often has no real choice – they must choose between a slum and the street.

In an effort to address this housing shortage, Aarusha Homes entered the scene in 2007. Aarusha operates low-cost, high-quality hostels in four different cities in India. The hostels provide food, security, utilities and cleanliness, with some locations being single-gender and some being split. In the effort to be low-cost, Aarusha’s prices fluctuate depending on the property locations and the demographics of its renters. Income and “sharing level” (how many individuals live within an apartment) are both taken into account when determining price. Further, payments occur in advance of stay in order to sustain a pay-as-you-go model that is supportive to the transitory status of migrants. Individuals can pay for their specific housing and time needs rather than for a blanket number of months, ensuring that migrants do not have to worry about obtaining subleases or paying for unused housing, if and when their time within the given city is finished.

As of now, Aarusha maintains 21 of these facilities and are projected to impact over 87,000 lives within the next five years. If Aarusha has been able to drastically impact the issue of housing for migrants in India in their short 10-year existence – simply by diversifying the housing options available to migrants – there is surely much hope for what other improvements can be made in the future.

Kailee Nardi

Photo: Flickr

Brain Drain in IndiaThere is a common joke in Silicon Valley that the most spoken languages are Hindi and Telugu. Like many common jokes, this one reveals a staggering truth: nearly 60 percent of the engineers in Silicon Valley are of Indian origin. Over the past two decades, high-skilled migration has brought dramatic innovations to the American Information Technology (IT) sector, while leading to what some commentators have called the brain drain in India and other developing countries.

In 1990, as the American IT sector began to boom, Congress passed the H-1B program, granting visas to thousands of foreign nationals in “specialty occupations.”

A recent article published in India’s The Quint claims, “[the brain drain in India] adversely affects the quality and quantity of human capital formation, which is the bedrock of modern economic development.”

Although this is a common contention, it is far from correct.

A recent study published by the Center for Global Development suggests, “better-paid jobs [in the U.S.] incentivize [Indian] students to choose certain majors and supply a highly-educated workforce to Indian firms.” Thus, at the same time as thousands of high-skilled Indians emigrate to the U.S. every year, thousands more acquire STEM degrees in India and never leave. As for those that do find higher-paying jobs abroad, many eventually return to India when their visas expire.

Because of this, between 1998 and 2012, the Indian IT sector grew from 1.2 percent of GDP to over 7.5 percent. By the mid-2000s, India had surpassed the U.S. as the largest exporter of software.

Far from producing a brain drain in India, Gaurav Khanna and Nicolas Morales’ study finds that the American H-1B program not only correlated with the birth of India’s IT sector but also caused a “reverse brain drain” in India.

While some have wrongly criticized the H-1B program for hurting developing economies, others have argued that free movement of labor has imposed downward pressure on American workers’ wages.

A recent article in the Huffington Post suggests that H-1B visas only benefit American tech companies that “want to hire cheap, immobile labor—i.e. foreign workers.”

Although high-skilled migration has certainly led to wage stagnation for certain occupations in the U.S., Khanna and Morales find that the influx of Indian workers has simultaneously motivated many American students to attain even more specialized degrees that lead to even higher paying jobs.

In the end, the new study released by the Center for Global development offers much-needed clarity about the complicated subject of labor migration. Overall, it finds that high-skilled migration is something to be encouraged rather than banned. Indeed, the free movement skilled labor has been proven to bring mutual benefits to both the American and Indian economies.

Nathaniel Sher

Photo: Google

poverty in oman

Oman is a country in the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, which places it in the southeastern coast of the region. The coastal regions of the country benefit from fertile soil and a beautiful landscape with impressive mountains. Despite the country’s strong agriculture and its oil, it has recently faced an economic downturn following its big investments in social welfare, causing oil prices to drop and the budget to decrease.

Economic Crisis

The aforementioned economic downturn of the country was due to a protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. The citizens demanded more employment opportunities, economic benefits, and a crackdown on the government’s corruption, which is an absolute monarchy led by the Sultan of Oman. While the government did respond to the protest by providing social welfare benefits, the result was an unmanageable budget that contributed to the poverty in Oman. The biggest concern on the economy of Oman is related to the shifting prices of oil, as the country is highly dependent on oil to generate revenue. In fact, oil can account for somewhere between 68% and 85% of the country’s entire revenue generated in a year. This is why Oman suffered a budget deficit of $13.8 billion in the year 2016, the same year global oil prices dropped.

Wages and Migrant Inequity

While the statistics don’t indicate a high rate of the country’s nationals being under the poverty line, poverty in Oman primarily affects migrant workers. Omani nationals benefit from a minimum wage at $592 a month in addition to a $263 allowance. Migrant workers in Oman do not have access to these benefits and are compensated with low wages.

Many countries in the Middle East, including Oman, employ female migrants to work in households. They are tasked with taking care of the children, cooking, and doing daily chores. Oman has at least 130,000 of these female migrant workers, and they face poor working conditions. This includes lower wages than initially promised, excessively long working hours and, according to interviews with about 59 of the workers, there are even cases of physical and sexual abuse from employers.

A Plan Forward

The state is at risk of major deficits in its budget in a case where oil prices drop, as was the case in the year 2016. To solve this, the sultan has been seeking alternative ways for generating revenue in order to reduce the risk of another economic downturn. The country has already made progress by making a development plan in 2016 to decrease its oil dependency. The plan seeks to open doors in industrialization and privatization, diversifying its sources of revenue.

According to the CIA, “The key components of the government’s diversification strategy are tourism, shipping and logistics, mining, manufacturing, and aquaculture.” Despite Omani nationals struggling to find employment opportunities due to migrant workers’ lower wages in earlier years, the country has seen an increasing number of citizens entering the job market recently. To highlight some of the progress Oman has made in previous years, its tourism industry has been opening up and contributing to the country’s GDP. 32 new hotels opened in 2018 to add over 3000 rooms to accommodate tourists, which put the country at an expected tourism growth rate of about 13% between 2018 and 2019.

COVID-19 Influence

Reports in recent months have shown a spike in Covid-19 cases among migrant workers in the Arabian Gulf countries, including Oman. Living conditions for these workers tend to be cramped and they lack access to necessary equipment and care for protection against the virus. Back in April, 16 NGOs sent letters to the gulf countries with recommendations to protect migrant workers amidst the pandemic. These recommendations include providing equal testing, medical access and continued wages for workers no longer able to work in these conditions.

While Oman has yet to respond to the letters, there has been a decline in Covid-19 daily cases over the past week. It peaked at an estimated 2164 new cases on July 13th but has been declining. In comparison, on July 15th, there were an estimated 1157 new cases.

Despite facing an economic downturn in 2016, the country has made strategic progress by diversifying its sources of revenue and decreasing its dependency on oil. These changes can greatly alleviate poverty in Oman.

Fahad Saad
Photo: Flickr

Kiribati Refugees
Climate change will drive migration on a massive scale in the coming years. Estimates of people fleeing natural disasters range from 25 million to 1 billion. The small island nation of Kiribati in the Pacific will be extinct by 2100. The government is trying to help the Kiribati refugees migrate with dignity, but their legal status is still in limbo.

    1. Most of the land of the Kiribati islands is less than two meters above sea level. It is therefore very vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. Its residents may have to be the first climate change refugees.
    2. In 1999, two islands disappeared underwater. The nation is made up of 33 small islands, whose land is being swallowed by the ocean at a rate of almost 4 millimeters a year. According to the U.N., the entire nation will be submerged by 2100.
    3. Even before this drastic event occurs, changes in weather patterns are likely to produce Kiribati refugees. Droughts are becoming more severe, whilst rainfall is increasing, causing flooding. The oceans are acidifying, disturbing the delicate balance of coral reefs, whose marine ecosystems are the source of many people’s livelihoods.
    4. Freshwater supply is also problematic, as saltwater from high ocean tides is polluting wells and prolonged droughts are pushing water supplies to their limits. Many residents of South Tarawa, the island housing half of the country’s 100,000 people, are now completely reliant on rainwater.

  1. In 2003, the Kiribati government cooperated with the World Bank in the $17.7million Kiribati Adaptation Program. They built coastal sea walls, planted mangroves on the shores, developed water-management plans and invested in rainwater harvesting infrastructure, to postpone the effects of the rising ocean. The project has managed to protect one of 710 miles of Kiribati’s coastline.
  2. The former president, Anote Tong, started the “Migration with Dignity” program to ensure the Kiribati refugees will move to other states with dignity. The government has increased the level of qualifications available to citizens to those of Australia and New Zealand so that they are employable.
  3. The former president also bought 6,000 acres of land in Fiji, an island nation more than 1,000 miles away. This will act as a refuge for any Kiribati residents who will need to relocate.
  4. A Kiribati citizen applied for asylum in New Zealand in 2011. Four years later he was rejected and deported back to his sinking homeland.
  5. The 1951 Refugee Convention defines refugees as those “fleeing persecution at home.” As such, the Kiribati refugees are not protected by international law. “The truth is no one agency in the system because no one could have imagined this situation 60 years ago,” said José Riera, a senior advisor to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
  6. The Paris Agreement signed this past April does little to help climate change refugees. It didn’t resolve the issue of their legal status or mandate their protection.

It is hopeful that with the help of the government and international aid, each refugee, resident and the overall island will be preserved.

Eliza Gkritsi

Photo: Flickr

 Refugees in Jordan
When the Syrian Civil War broke out, Jordan seemed a logical place to migrate. Because of its close proximity, many migrants had relatives to stay with across the border. Unfortunately, as Syria became less hospitable, the small country of Jordan became host for a massive refugee population, 664,000 people.

Newcomers struggled to integrate, and the high cost of work permits was an immense burden. In order to alleviate this, work permit fees were waived for three months, providing 20,000 refugees in Jordan with legal employment, and quotas were implemented for Syrian employment. While 80% of the 664,000 refugees in Jordan live in cities, 20% live in the city of Zaatari. According to the Wall Street Journal, Zaatari, Jordan’s fourth-largest city, is home to the fourth-largest refugee camp in the world. To a certain extent, life goes on for refugees. Those who can attend school do, and those who can work try to find jobs. However, Zaatari suffers from a lack of amenities like water and infrastructure, and many refugees work illegally, living in constant fear of discovery.

Before the grace period, work permit costs ranged from $170 to $1,270. From April to July, work permits were free for refugees. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the story of Khaled, a Syrian man who, as his family’s sole financial provider, is proud to finally be working legally in his new home at a farm. BBC wrote about a Jordanian farmer who is happy to finally have a consistent source of legal labor.

The reception of free work permits for refugees was not entirely positive. Work permits are sponsored by fixed employers, and many employers are hesitant to make the commitment. Refugees in Jordan working odd, short-term jobs are not eligible. Furthermore, many Jordanians are frustrated by the program due to lingering unemployment rates. Between the influx of refugees and the loss of trade from neighboring countries, Jordan’s economy is lagging. These factors resulted in the number of Syrian permit recipients falling short of the country’s expectations. However, the BBC remains optimistic. Just last month, an agreement was reached permitting Jordan to sell to the European Union duty-free in exchange for fulfilling Syrian employment quotas.

The previously mentioned farmer is proud of his 350 workers and happy that they can “live with dignity.” While less than half of the expected work permits were distributed, UNHCR is still calling the initiative a success. Twenty thousand Syrian workers are now protected under Jordanian law, and recent measures should continue to encourage employment.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Flickr

Brain Drain
Brain drain is a rampant epidemic detrimentally impacting developing nations across the earth. As a result, businesses and political figures are making fantastic efforts to reverse brain drains on both a national and global level.

What is Brain Drain and Why is it Happening?

According to Merriam-Webster, brain drain is defined as, “a situation in which many educated or professional people leave a particular place or profession and move to another one that gives them better pay or living conditions.”

The term brain drain was first coined around the 1960s when Great Britain experienced a high percentage of British scientists and intellectuals leaving the country to find better careers in the U.S.

Since then, many other countries such as Greece, Lithuania and a number of African nations have experienced brain drain at an alarming rate.

The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reports that brain drain stems from a wide range of economic, social and political conditions. Most of these conditions are observed in developing countries where the careers of citizens are stifled from issues such as poverty, political instability and lack of technology.

These conditions make developed countries more attractive to those with a degree or a specialized skill. Countries such as the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have been gaining a significant amount of doctors and nurses from abroad.

Migration Abroad

In 2006, the U.S. received roughly 213,331 doctors and 99,456 nurses from abroad. Research from the WHO estimated that brain drain resulted in a global shortage of 4.3 million healthcare workers. Countries experiencing brain drain lose educated working-class employees by anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of workers.

In just 2011 alone, Lithuania reported 54,000 migrating to find work in the U.K. The continent of Africa loses one in nine university graduates to Western nations. In addition, Greece estimated that 160,000 to 180,000 college graduates have left the country for better opportunities.

Though developed countries can benefit from receiving these educated migrants, the sheer amount of incoming, educated people can overwhelmingly disadvantage various sectors within developing countries.

However, there is hope to reverse brain drain as seen from the efforts of nations such as Lithuania, the UAE and many African countries.

Lithuania

Business leaders and government officials in Lithuania are combating brain drain through a series of university mergers. University mergers are when multiple universities unify in order to foster stronger university brands. The plan is that these university mergers will attract current citizens and international students to study in Lithuania.

Marius Skuodis, a former citizen of Lithuania, has returned to his country because of the new opportunities provided within the university mergers. He plans on pursuing his PhD at Vilnius University, despite having to accept a lower salary.

Skuodis is quoted saying that, “Lithuania offered me career opportunities I could not expect in the UK.”

UAE

The UAE has also made gallant strides in turning brain drain into a brain gain. The UAE is a nation that suffered from brain drain as well as high levels of violence for numerous years.

Recently, businesses have made tremendous efforts in the UAE to improve the quality of life for workers and residents. These efforts have turned the UAE into a thriving nation with one of the highest standards of living for citizens in the world.

Africa

In Africa, reports indicate that brain drain has slowed substantially within the continent. A study in 2014 from South Africa’s Adcorp, stated that 359,000 highly skilled South African workers had returned to work in their countries of origin.

Economists have noted that this accomplishment was possible due to the policies that governments and businesses have put in place in order to encourage workers to come back home.

Finding a solution to reducing brain drain is no easy feat, as it requires both businesses and governments to coincide with one another to tackle the issue at hand. Businesses and corporate leaders need to implement solutions to create more job opportunities with quality benefits for those with desired skills.

Governments need to strive for policy changes that encourage workers to return to their countries. However, if governments and businesses can work together to make substantial legislation changes, many nations may follow suit and reverse their brain drain into a brain gain.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Economic_Central Africa

A Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing took place on April 19 regarding the Alliance for Prosperity Plan. The five-year initiative for economic development in Central America is the result of a joint partnership between El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and the United States. The partnership intends to address the issues of poverty and violence that lead to the flight of migrants to the U.S.

One of the panel members, Elizabeth Hogan of the Latin America And Caribbean Bureau at the U.S. Agency for International Development, stated,“As you know, social development and economic growth in Central America have been stymied by a dramatic rise in crime and violence — particularly in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.”

According to a roadmap provided by the three countries, the approach will focus on revitalizing the Central American economy by stimulating growth, improving public safety and enhancing social and legal institutions to increase trust in the state.

Major steps to implement the economic strategy include attracting private investment, modernizing infrastructure projects, as well as  promoting the textile, tourism and agricultural industries. Anti-violence measures include strengthening security, promoting social programs and creating transparent public institutions.

The United States Congress required that 25 percent of assistance to the governments of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras be withheld until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies that each government is taking effective steps to combat human trafficking and provide development services for its citizens.

On the part of the United States, the White House has pledged to expand access to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for “vulnerable individuals and families” from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The Obama Administration is aiming to provide a safer and legal alternative to the dangerous journeys Central Americans are taking at the hands of human smugglers.

Additionally, Mercedes Garcia, a research associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, warns that to avoid long-term issues, aid must remain focused on empowering citizens rather than creating “precarious employment opportunities, like those offered to unskilled workers by most foreign corporations.”

With continuous monitoring and communication, leaders are hopeful that this alliance can boost economic development in Central America and improve U.S. relations with its neighbors. President Juan Hernandez of Honduras said at a meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank,“A peaceful Central America, with opportunities for its people, with justice and security, will be of great benefit not only for our citizens but also for the United States and other peoples of the world.”

Taylor Resteghini

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in EuropeLast year, there was a record high of 220,000 refugees in Europe seeking asylum. According to The Guardian, more than 900,000 people have sought refuge by sea to Greece or Italy due to civil unrest.

Syrians made up the largest part of this group, having fled their home country because of the 4-and-a-half year civil war that has taken the lives of over 200,000 Syrians, according to the New York Times.

The reasons why people become refugees are not hard to conjure – war, religious or social conflict, violence – but how these refugees secure their safety can be a long, stressful process.

The first step in seeking refuge is often finding a place that allows one to be close to their families, but far enough away from any threat of violence. According to The Guardian, it is almost impossible for Syrians to be granted legal access into other Arab countries.

This leaves places like Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon as places to escape, though refugee families in the Middle East no longer receive financial assistance from the UN due to funding shortcomings. These countries do not offer secure legal statuses to refugees either, which can prevent them from having the right to work.

These stipulations explain why so many refugees are traveling to Europe for refugee or asylum status by boat. According to the Guardian, more and more Syrians who become refugees in Europe are using the Balkan route – traveling by sea from Turkey to Greece and then walking through Macedonia and Serbia to reach European Union (EU) territories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHQ88y-A6iw

Open Society Foundations, an American organization whose mission statement is to “build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens” works with the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that works to guarantee that international law protects the rights of refugees in its member states.

According to Open Society Foundations, if an asylum seeker or refugee is traveling through several EU countries, the CEAS allows one EU country to send that person to the first EU country they have reached, as long as that country maintains the rights of asylum seekers.

Unfortunately, only a small portion of asylum seekers are monitored this way, and the systems in Greece, Hungary and Italy have tried to block transfers of citizens with court orders. Some people who become refugees end up back in the south where their journey began.

Groups like Open Society Foundations are crucial in helping refugees and asylum seekers partake in legal movement for work and family without violating any human rights.

Because of the large influx of refugees in Europe, Open Society Foundations find it vital to develop effective policy proposals that will lead to a progressive and successful European asylum system.

Revisions under the European Agenda on Migration state that immediate action will be taken by the EU in order to prevent further deaths and improve conditions for those seeking refuge in Europe. This includes increased funding to Frontex and Europol, two organizations that focus on border control and defense of the EU, respectively.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: European Commission, Open Society Foundations, The Guardian 1, The Guardian 2, The New York Times
Photo: The Telegraph

fighting_poverty
This year, more than 800,000 people have entered the EU from the Middle East and Africa. Recently, EU leaders met in Malta to discuss the handling of the migrant crisis.

EU leaders decided to institute a €1.8 billion fund for African countries to tackle problems that contribute to the refugee crisis, such as a lack of economic opportunity, climatic shock and ethnic conflict. This action supplements the U.N.’s decision to give $53 million in emergency aid to Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Chad and Sudan.

By funding development assistance programs in Africa, EU leaders are taking proactive measures to improve the livelihoods of people in their home countries. However, as attention continues to be given to the refugee crisis, donors are focusing more on providing humanitarian aid to refugees after they have left their home countries. While both humanitarian aid and development assistance are critical, one cause should not eclipse the other.

When funding for development assistance is diverted to humanitarian aid, money does not go to the root causes of the current crisis. Migrants from Africa are fleeing climatic shocks, ethnic conflict and a lack of opportunity for making a livelihood.

Implementing development assistance programs to support the African people within their communities, as the European Commission voted to do, could help reduce the number of migrants in the future. Thus, development financing serves as a proactive measure with strong long-term payoffs.

In order to make a substantial difference in the long run for the millions of people at risk for displacement due to conflict, climate change or a lack of opportunity, fighting poverty and development financing could not be more important. As people in destination countries for migrants continue to consider options for addressing the crisis, it is critical to consider the underlying causes of the problem.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: BBC, CERF, The Guardian
Photo: Google Images

middle_eastern_migrants
As Middle Eastern migrants travel to Western Europe, many must make the voyage across the Balkan Peninsula. Hundreds of migrants, half of whom are from Syria and Afghanistan, stop in Belgrade, Serbia as a jumping-off point into Hungary. The majority of migrants claim to be headed to Germany, while some say they plan on arriving in Sweden.

Around 500-700 people take up temporary residence in Belgrade’s parks near the city’s central transportation lines. Here, they generally wait 2 days for transport into Hungary. As they wait, they battle temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a lack of supplies.

A total of 60,000 migrants have entered Serbia through Macedonia and Bulgaria during the first six months of the year though it is speculated that the numbers could indeed be higher.

Fortunately, Serbian organizations, restaurants, and people have begun distributing aid. Mikes House, a cultural and designer house, has distributed water, food and clothes. Residents of the city have also begun to gift old clothing along with water. Many simply come to speak to migrants and share stories.

On April 12, Belgrade authorities began to park water tanks in the parks and have organized services to clean the parks and rid them of garbage.

Médecins Sans Frontières has also started providing general healthcare to the migrants as their journeys take a brief pause in the northern Balkans.

All of this comes at a time when Europe as a whole experiences major surges in migration due to one of history’s largest refugee crises. Germany, in particular, has had to raise its projected influx from 450,000 at the beginning of 2015 to a projected 800,000 by the end of the year.

As a contingency plan, on August 10 the European Commission approved 2.4 billion euros of aid for the next six-year period, in the hopes that it may help curb the strain many countries will be feeling as migrants begin to settle within state borders.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: BBC, Reuters, Ukraine Today
Photo: BBC