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[Published: Wednesday June 29 2022]

 Building Resilient Migration Systems in the Mediterranean Region : Lessons from COVID-19

WASHINGTON, 29 June. - (ANA) - For thousands of years, migration has been a source of social and economic well-being for people living on different shores of the Mediterranean Sea, reveals a report published by the World Bank Group.
Whether through higher earnings for migrants, access to labor for receiving countries, or remittances for sending communities, migration has been an important driver of development in the Mediterranean region.
Economic disparities, diverging population dynamics, conflict, and climate change have all led people in the region to cross national borders and will likely continue to play roles in the future.The diversity of the migration paths, stories, and experiences of people mov-ing across the Mediterranean is unique. The southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean are home to both large sending countries such as Algeria, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia and to important destinations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey currently host and, in some cases, are transit points for large numbers of refugees while also being important senders of economic migrants.
Several North African countries are also transit hubs and at times hosts of many migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa. On the northern Mediterranean shores, many European countries have large immigrant populations while at the same time sending migrants within and outside the region.The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has severely disrupted this complex web of movements across the Mediterranean, raising questions about whether migration will continue to be an important driver of the region’s well-being. To contain the spread of the virus, countries imposed strict mobility restrictions in early 2020. However, as time passed, the economic costs of these measures have become increasingly appar-ent, including via channels that directly affected not only migrants but also their receiving and sending countries. It also became clear that the drivers of migration in the Mediterranean region are so strong that mobility restrictions can only reduce movements, not halt them entirely.
As discussed in Building Resilient Migration Systems in the Mediterranean Region: Lessons from COVID-19, the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic pro-vide key insights that can inform the response to future shocks. While some of the challenges that emerged during the pandemic are specific to public health crises, others are common to different types of shocks, including those related to economic, conflict, or climate-related factors. Ukraine’s ongoing crisis with its large refugee inflows into Eastern European countries is a tragic reminder that migration and forced dis-placement will remain relevant issues for the region for years to come. This book also shows that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated problems with the Mediterranean migration regime that predate the pandemic. Delays in admitting migrant workers in receiving countries and only partial access to key services in both source and destination countries are examples of challenges that limit the developmental impact of migration even in the absence of shocks.
This book also suggests that countries in the region were able to adapt their migration systems to address some of the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mobility restrictions were lifted, new health protocols established, migration procedures fast-tracked, and coverage of basic services expanded. These efforts show that mobility in the Mediterranean region can and should continue safely in the wake of large shocks. However, although these actions were key to addressing the pandemic’s immediate impacts, this book highlights the importance of more systematic reforms to better respond to future shocks. 
To inform this reform process, it suggests a set of actions that can help Mediterranean countries maximize the benefits of migration for all people living in the region while at the same time ensuring the sustainability of migration flows. The COVID-19 pandemic has created momentum for policy reforms. Mediterranean countries cannot miss the unique opportunity to write a new chapter in the region’s history of migration.
This report presents evidence on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on mobility in the Mediterranean region to inform policy responses that can help countries restart migration safely and better respond to future shocks. Given its unique position con-necting Africa, Asia, and Europe, the Mediterranean Sea has been a bridge between different cultures throughout human history. 
The flows of people across its shores date back to at least ancient Greek civilization and have continued in different forms since then. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a large and unforeseen public health shock that triggered immediate policy responses aimed at protecting people from the spread of the virus, including by limiting mobility within and across borders.Given the important role of migration in the economic and social well-being of the people living in Mediterranean countries and economies,1 this report presents evi-dence on the pandemic’s short- and long-term impacts on the region’s migrants and on their receiving and sending communities.
States in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are also included in the discussions given their important role as destinations of Mediterranean migrants.2 Distinguishing between new challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis and preexisting issues exacerbated by the pandemic, the report not only proposes policies for restarting migration safely amid the ongoing public health crisis; it  also recommends ways to better respond to future shocks and ensure the sustainability of migration flows. While some of the proposed policy actions focus on challenges typically arising in the context of public health shocks, other actions are suitable to respond to a broader set of shocks, including those related to economic, conflict, or climate-related factors.
Main findings
The report shows that the COVID-19 crisis significantly disrupted mobility in the extended Mediterranean region.Of all the world’s immigrants, one in every four lives in the extended Mediterranean region, which includes Mediterranean and GCC countries and economies. Almost one in every six emigrants in the world is from this region. But since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, all of the region’s countries and economies have imposed mobility restrictions of some type to contain the unforeseen public health crisis (figure O.1). 
The result has been a signifi-cant decline in mobility, as several examples illustrate:
•In France and Spain, permanent migration decreased by 21 percent and 38 percent, respectively, between 2019 and 2020 (OECD 2021)
•In Saudi Arabia, the number of work visas in the second half of 2020 declined by 91 percent relative to the same period in 2019 (Baruah et al. 2021).
•New asylum applications throughout the European Union (EU) Mediterranean countries dropped significantly in 2020.
Mobility restrictions reshaped migration flows but did not halt them entirely. Migration in the region is driven by economic motivations, forced displacement, and often a combination of the two. These drivers persisted despite the restrictions and migrants’ potential concerns about their own health, as demonstrated by the persistence of mobility flows to some countries during the pandemic. 
For instance, although arrivals of asylum seekers to Greece dipped at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and never rebounded throughout 2020 and 2021, arrivals to Spain were higher for most of 2020 than in 2019 and even higher in 2021. 
Arrivals to Italy were also consistently higher for most of 2020 than in 2019 and substantially higher throughout 2021 than in each of the two previous years.
Those who moved during the pandemic—partial closures notwithstanding—faced significant risk.More dangerous routes were more frequently used. For instance, more than 2.5 times more people used the deadliest route to Europe—from North Africa to Italy—in 2020 than in 2019.4 An increase in arrivals to Europe via the Canary Islands resulted in a doubling of fatalities in the first eight months of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 (IOM 2021). 
Migrants in West and North Africa also reported a greater reliance on smugglers, higher smuggling fees, and smugglers taking more dan-gerous routes (MMC 2020), as shown in figure O.3. Vulnerabilities to risks including domestic violence and economic exploitation were particularly severe for women.    - (ANA) -
For the full report, visit: file:///Users/alibahaijoub/Downloads/9781464818554.pdf
AB/ANA/29 June 2022 — - -

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