Migration to Europe is declining, but the problem has not disappeared

9. 3. 2021
Migration to Europe from the Middle East and Africa has been declining in recent years. Last year, less than 100,000 migrants came from these countries, compared to the record year of 2015, less than a tenth. The coronavirus pandemic has slowed down migration, the borders of European Union countries are closing and the willingness of states to accept more newcomers is declining. Nevertheless, this problem has not disappeared and especially young people from North Africa continue to dream of a better life in Europe, says Robert Stojanov, a migration expert from the MENDELU Faculty of Business and Economics. The motivation of visitors to Europe has changed quite significantly. Most are no longer fleeing the war but are looking for better living conditions. Climate change is also behind migration.

With each year, the composition of migrants changes according to the countries from which they come. “If in 2015 about half a million people came to Europe from Syria, then today the majority are immigrants from North Africa. These include Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. “Most people are now coming from Tunisia, this country is experiencing a political crisis associated with the Arab Spring, which began there ten years ago,” said Robert.

The motivation of visitors to Europe is also changing. Years ago, when civil wars raged in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, security and the political situation in the country were the main reasons for emigration. These reasons have often replaced others. “War conflicts are no longer latent. People migrate mainly for economic and personal reasons. Besides, young people do not feel the possibility that they could enforce in their country and prove something there,” said Robert.

The next wave of migration is complicated by the situation around covid-19. Most countries are closing, so newcomers tend to move mainly to more liberal Spain and Italy, which are becoming key immigration countries. “Covid has slowed down immigration significantly, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach destination countries such as Germany or France. Immigrants also know this through their networks, so interest has dropped significantly. Now they are no longer welcome and with the pandemic, this is all the more true. The borders are closed,” said Stojanov, according to whom the determination of further development is like divination from a crystal ball.

“At a time when the pandemic crisis will continue and movement in Europe will be limited, I believe that the number of migrants will decrease or stagnate,” said Stojanov. At the same time, however, he draws attention to another major topic, for example, the great exodus within Syria began years ago, and that is the effects of climate change. People lose basic resources and move to large agglomerations that are not ready for it.

“Climate change is affecting the whole world and the consequences, such as the increased number of natural disasters and the intensity of environmental change, are disrupting food production systems, natural ecosystems, with an impact on global and local economies. Climate change is transforming our planet, society, economy. We are forced to adapt to it, but where it is no longer possible, there is a process of displacement, migration, movement,” Stojanov describes long-term processes.

Apart from the Sahel, he mentions low-lying islands, which are negatively affected by sea-level rise, as the places that are most at risk worldwide. Areas of large river deltas and cities on the coastal areas also have problems. According to Stoyanov, current development aid is poorly targeted. Development agencies and donors’ governments often focus on projects to support the „adaptation in situ” of people in affected areas. However, it is often a mistake that does not work. “Local people know best if they are still able to adapt or have to leave. Urban areas should have some plans, they should count on migrants to prevent the growth of slums. They should have an infrastructure ready for visitors. In time, there will be nothing left but to relocate people even planned,” says Robert Stojanov.

Contact for more information: Mgr. and Mgr. Robert Stojanov, Ph.D., robert.stojanov@mendelu.cz
Faculty of Business and Economics, Mendel University in Brno

Migration to Europe via the Mediterranean (2015-2020)


Number of migrants













Source: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

PHOTO: Migrants from Asia at Břeclav railway station in the Czech Republic at night on September 1, 2015

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