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What's driving the influx of global migration?

02 December 2021 Alex Kokcharov Blanka Kolenikova Jose Sevilla-Macip Lindsay Newman, Ph.D. Petya Barzilska

Traditional drivers of irregular migration including security and conflict remain, raising risks in target countries across Europe and the United States, but also in transit countries elsewhere, including policy agendas, labor markets, supply chain resilience, and civil unrest frequency. Alongside these longstanding drivers, new push factors including the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-virus pandemic and stalled economic and health recoveries, as well as climate risks and environmental stressors, are likely to account for an influx in international migration in the year ahead.

Belarus has emerged as a new gateway for migrants attempting to enter the European Union since June 2021, raising the likelihood of security incidents at its borders, particularly with Poland and Lithuania.

According to reports by credible Belarusian media, there are up to 20,000 migrants, largely originating from the Middle East (including Syria and Iraq), currently in Belarus, attempting to cross into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Since the irregular migration intensification began in June 2021, at least 10,000 have already crossed into the EU and thousands more have been prevented from entering by Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian border guards. Until mid-November, there were some 60 direct flights from the Middle East to Belarus weekly. Upon arrival in Minsk, migrants are driven to the borders of EU and NATO member states - Poland, Lithuania, and, in fewer numbers, Latvia. Several airlines announced that they would stop boarding passengers traveling on Afghanistani, Iraqi, Syrian, and Yemeni passports to Minsk. Poland and Lithuania are also likely to deploy the additional military and police forces to areas bordering Belarus to prevent further unauthorized entry by irregular migrants. However, this will elevate the likelihood of violent incidents at the border.

Following the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, irregular arrivals into the EU at entry points in Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus are likely to reach up to 10,000 per month.

With the economy as an immediate challenge for the new Taliban government, there are multiple potential drivers of migration in Afghanistan including security issues and food shortages. In the absence of international recognition, foreign aid flows are likely to decline sharply. The number of irregular arrivals into Europe will likely be considerably less than it was in 2015 when more than 1 million irregular migrants reached Europe. Increased migrant flows from Afghanistan are likely to exceed the capacity of Bulgarian, Greek, and other authorities in the Balkans to detect all irregular border crossings.

Moderate cargo disruption from March-April 2022 across the Balkans and Central Europe is probable, with localized violent confrontations between irregular migrants and border forces also being likely.

In the one-year outlook, when weather conditions for irregular migration sea-crossings improve, cargo delays of up to a couple of days are likely to increase at the EU's external borders and across the Western Balkans. Authorities are likely to use force at the Greece-North Macedonia and Romania-Hungary border crossings with the main risks of injury and death posed to irregular migrants, NGO workers, and journalists around those borders. There is a moderate risk of right-wing and far-right groups in countries such as Greece and Serbia physically assaulting people perceived as refugees and migrants in city centers and near refugee facilities.

Water scarcity is likely to become a key migration driver in Latin America amid the prevalence of structural political factors.

Despite Latin America possessing roughly 30% of the world's freshwater resources overexploitation, mismanagement, pollution, and the impacts of climate change are rapidly increasing the region's water insecurity. The trend is particularly salient for Central America's Northern Triangle countries and is likely to become one of the key drivers of unauthorized northbound migration in the following years. Government instability and poor economic prospects in Haiti and Nicaragua have also caused a significant increase in migration flows from those countries towards the US during 2021. According to the Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS) network, all of these countries are likely to face high food-insecurity stress in the one-year outlook, mostly due to severe droughts or floods, resulting in high crop losses, particularly for self-subsistence farming communities. A slow or stalled economic recovery from the COVID-19 virus pandemic and regional governments' unwillingness to contain outflow migration flows amid the reopening of the US land border on 8 November are currently the key drivers of northbound migration. Without changes in these factors, water stress is likely to exacerbate the instability of the sub-regional political landscape and increasingly fuel migration in the following years.

Posted 02 December 2021 by Alex Kokcharov, Principal Country Risk Research Analyst, Europe and CIS, IHS Markit and

Blanka Kolenikova, Associate Director, Europe & CIS, Country Risk, S&P Global Market Intelligence and

Jose Sevilla-Macip, Senior Research Analyst, Latin America Country Risk, S&P Global Market Intelligence and

Lindsay Newman, Director, Economics & Country Risk, S&P Global Market Intelligence and

Petya Barzilska, Sr. Research Analyst II, Europe & CIS Country Risk, S&P Global Market Intelligence


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