Source: International Organisation for Migration (IOM)
COVID-19 was the defining issue of 2020, and as the United Nations celebrates International Migrants Day today and considers how we might reimagine human mobility, we mark the contributions migrants are making and the virus’ impacts on their lives. The pandemic disproportionately affects migrants who often find themselves on the margins of society. Despite caring for the sick and providing essential services, they are too often the first to lose their jobs and the last to be rehired, excluded from essential social services, unfairly ostracized as carriers of the disease and, in extreme cases, left as prey to those who would take advantage of their vulnerability.
The global pandemic highlights the crucial role of remittances for migrant families.
COVID-19 and its impacts have had far-reaching consequences and exacerbated inequalities. For the 800 million people in over 125 countries reliant on migrant family members sending money home – money that many can no longer receive – COVID-19 is more than a deadly virus; it constitutes a devastating and immediate blow to their development, imperilling their access to health, education, housing, and nutrition. The UN Network on Migration calls on public authorities, service providers, the international community, and stakeholders to together address the damaging impacts wrought by COVID-19 on remittances. In 2019, remittances were valued at an estimated US$554 billion. With mobility and employment restrictions resulting in a projected 20 percent decline in remittances, many children and families stand to lose a lifeline as a result of COVID-19 and measures put in place to reduce its spread. Recent guidance on COVID-19 and People on the Move, recognises the heightened vulnerabilities of migrant workers and their families to the immediate and long-term socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis; and urges that their inclusion in COVID-19 responses will be critical to realizing the Sustainable Development Goals
Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 14,854 in 2020; Deaths Reach 219
IOM reports that 14,854 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through mid-March 2020. That is an increase of almost 50 per cent over the arrivals reported on three principle migratory routes crossing the Mediterranean at this point last year, when IOM recorded 10,771 irregular arrivals to Europe by sea. Most of the increase can be attributed to transit along the eastern Mediterranean route linking the Middle East and Africa to Greece, which has recorded about 2,500 more arrivals through these early weeks of 2020 than were reported through this point in 2019. Arrivals also are higher to Italy – to 2,738 in 2020 compared to just 398 at this time last year – and to Malta, which has recorded 1,1135 arrivals so far this year, compared to 136 at this point in 2019. The Mediterranean’s western route to Spain shows the sharpest drop in arrivals – to 3,803 in 2020 from 5,491 last year.
Sustainable Reintegration of Migrant Returnees in Africa Tackled at “European Development Days”
Return migration has been an important aspect of increasing human mobility in recent years, with more migrants returning to their countries of origin for a variety of reasons. Return is often followed by reintegration, a complex, multifaceted process of re-including migrants into their communities and society. With this has come a wider recognition of the importance of ensuring a holistic and coordinated response that creates the conditions for sustainable reintegration. IOM, EU and partners explore the issues faced by migrants returning to countries in Africa, the governments receiving them, and the communities within which they return to, focusing on how the reintegration transformation can provide them with the support to ultimately enhance social cohesion, reduce inequalities and help them achieve something through the Sustainable Development Goals. While some migrants return to welcoming contexts and reintegrate in a smooth manner, many face challenges they cannot overcome on their own and need support in their reintegration. At the same time, individualized assistance must be balanced with community-based initiatives because it is crucial that the community is impacted positively as well.
There is also the need to review the challenges that returning migrants, communities, and governments face in relation to mental health and psychosocial well-being, labour market access, education, and culture. Crucially, they will consider the role of government actors and programmes such as the “EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration” to promote inclusive reintegration practices that respond to the priorities of individual returnees and their communities in an integrated and mutually beneficial way. Funded by the European Union and running from 2016–2020, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration covers 26 African countries in the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa. It is the first comprehensive programme to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa.
IOM Notes Plight of Families of Disappeared
On International Day of the Disappeared, IOM pays tribute to the families and loved ones of each person included in the Missing Migrants Project records – a total that today approaches 33,000 men, women, and children. No matter the context of the disappearance, the agony of even one disappearance can have deep effects on those left behind. Families missing a loved one are relentless in their faith that they will return someday, and unless they have certainty of the fate of that person, their lives become defined by an ambiguous loss between hope and grief. It may be impossible at times to determine if someone died in the context of migration. People’s remains may never be found or identified. For instance, since the Project started documenting deaths during migration, the remains of over 12,000 people have yet to be recovered from the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time the majority of those found will never be formally identified. In 2019 and 2020, IOM is carrying out a pilot research project with families searching for missing migrants along the Western and Central Mediterranean routes towards Europe. The hope is that the findings will result in recommendations for how IOM and other actors can better address their needs.