When , on 11 September 2015, the Polish prime minister signed a declaration of the Visegrad Group on the migration crisis in Europe, it seemed that the division between old and new Europe stood beyond repair. In the declaration, the countries opposed any form of obligatory refugee distribution in European Union. This act, together with repeated concerns voiced by Polish politicians, pointed to another problem, which was not entirely understood by the Western public. Eastern European Member States have been caricatured, over the migration flap, as being “not-quite” European, non-democratic, selfish and ungrateful. But the domestic context was missing from the debate. It still is.
For scholars of migration policy and politics in Europe, what happened in Poland was more significant than what happened in other parts of Europe. First this was because for the first time since the 1500s immigration had become a topic of public discourse and political debate. Second, it was because a country with a less than 1% of foreign-born population, of whom perhaps 0.2% are Muslims, put on a remarkable show of xenophobia and Islamophobia. Third, it is the first time that political scientists will have the opportunity to analyze an election, where immigration is a key issue, and yet where there are almost no immigrants nor visible others.
Now, with the relocation mechanism agreed, at least by the Polish government, it is time to dig into the domestic realities that shaped the debate in Poland. It is necessary to take stock of the situation, any harm done, and consider options for the future. This is important since, without proper understanding, implementation of the program in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe will not succeed and thousands of asylum seekers might find themselves at risk.
Polish people see the idea of a refugee as fuzzy
The Polish government signed the Geneva Convention in 1991, in a year filled with chaotic inflows from the collapsing Soviet Union. The move, as many others in that period, was never discussed publicly; policymakers were busy with basic needs rather that national debates. In any case, anything that bore the stamp of European integration during that period was accepted. In fact, many people did not know (and in some cases still do not know) that Poland is party to the Convention.
Poland has never been a generous refugee host. This position stems from a rather inconvenient truth; each Polish family knows at least one Polish political refugee who emigrated during the 1980s to the West, be it as a refugee, immigrant or an Aussiedler. These were generally not political activists but people fleeing the communist regime and a lack of economic perspectives. “Na azyl” (as an asylum seeker) was the most secure emigration strategy from communist Poland after the martial law was imposed. On 13 December 1981, well over 100,000 Polish people, who were outside Poland, were given the option to stay by generous Western governments. At the same time, only 4,500 thousand political prisoners were expelled from the country. The vast majority of Polish people passing through the camps in Austria, Greece and Italy to reach Canada, USA or Australia in the 1980s were thus migrants looking for a better life in a more democratic environment, and not strictly political refugees persecuted for their activities. In fact, the most prominent activists never emigrated. So, yes, Poles benefited from the generosity of the hosting states. Yet, the way in which they benefited has left its mark; they see the asylum system as naïve and prone to error.
This skepticism is fuelled by two recurrent images: people smuggled to the Greek and Italian coasts, who are able to pay thousands of euros for the trip, and Syrian families living in destitute conditions in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and of course in Syria. In the Polish national imagination, a refugee is a war refugee, a person without any funds, fleeing an imminent threat without a time to gather their belongings; in other terms the second group. So far European leaders and the media have failed to relate the first group (people blocked along EU borders) to the idea of penniless war refugees.
The people pouring into Europe are seen, then, as non-deserving. In the best case scenario they are “bogus”, in the worst, terrorists. Polish public opinion is much more interested in helping people blocked in Syria or in the Middle East than people, who paid twice the average Polish salary to get to the EU. It is clear that the idea of what constitutes a real refugee is quite different in the Polish and Western imagination; one is built on first-hand experience, the second is built on ideology. This dualism can explain at least part of the miscommunication between the East and the West.
Multiculturalism – a forgotten history
Poland was a multicultural country until the Second World War when over 30% of the population belonged to ethnic minorities. Well into the 1700s (until its partition), Polish society had a tradition of tolerance for religious and cultural diversity, including tolerance towards Muslims. These were the Tatars, who had served in the Polish army since the 1600s and who had supported it in the wars against Turkey. However, by the 1930s, Polish society had failed to become democratic or egalitarian, reflecting the anti-Semitism and xenophobia present in many European countries at that time. One example is the apartheid system for Jews in 1930s Poland. Communist rule cleared Poland of ethnic minorities within post-1945 borders, creating massive often chaotic and dramatic population exchange. Polish people were sent to Poland from the lands assigned to the Soviet Union and from Germany, while non-Polish Poles moved in the other direction. This continued well into the 1960s when Jewish Poles and Polish Germans, especially, were expelled. Foreigners were not welcome in great numbers, quite the opposite. In this situation, post-communist Poland did not have a multicultural society or even think too much about integrating minorities. Good work has been done in meeting the needs of historic minorities under the Council of Europe Framework Convention on National Minorities. However, their number being very small, fewer than 2%, they have been off the radar and have not interfered with the idea of a homogenous Polish catholic nation.
Islam and Polish society
Apart from c. 10,000 Polish Tatars, Muslims in Poland are, almost by definition, foreign. There are fewer than 100,000 of them, most of them refugees. The biggest group are Chechens. Yet, until now, this inflow barely registered among the general public. People did not really know that Poland takes in refugees from Chechnya or ignored it in the name of the well-developed idea of the common enemy: Russia. Chechens were not seen as a threat because they fled Russia. The same happened with people fleeing the war zone in Bosnia. Their religion was not an issue, their status as war refugees was more important. Polish people, like other Eastern Europeans, formed their ideas of what Islam is from sensational and biased Western media coverage of honour crimes in Germany, burning cars in Sweden, genital mutilation in Norway, teenagers from the UK fleeing to ISIS, and terrorist attacks across Europe; they did not get to know Muslims personally. There was no counter-discourse available against this steady diet of fear. Emigration to the UK acerbated the fear discourse, as Polish emigrants, on the margins of the UK labour market, took over condescending British discourses on Muslims and visibly different foreigners (e.g. a word “pako” for Pakistani Muslim did not exist in Polish language before 2004). The sudden change in media discourse from “terrorists” to “refugees” is not understood.
The active engagement of the Polish military in Iraq and Afghanistan did not help the case of Muslims in Poland. Poland was used for secret CIA prisons (with torture) and thus the idea that a Muslim was a radical Islamist settled in.
Polish migration and integration policy
Polish policy towards foreigners was shaped by the restrictive approaches promoted by the EU in the 1990s. As a country with no prior experience nor expectations, Poland could have developed a different open borders policy (which it was prone to promote until 1995), but was stopped by the EU accession requirements. This stance had clear consequences: when studying Polish political debates at that time we can see an opposition to closure across political ranks, while the final restrictive outcome was a question of meeting EU convergence demands. 
Importantly, Poland focused on asylum and borders as the two policy areas where the EU had clear requirements. Legal migration and integration were left practically unattended. Until the summer of 2007, when the Polish government (run then by a right-wing populist party) rushed through the first of a series of bills opening the Polish labour market to temporary workers from the Eastern Neighbourhood. There was no opposition to the bill and there was no real public debate about this issue. Integration was seen as rather unimportant because of the small numbers of foreign nationals in the country and those there tended to integrate on a “DIY” model. The belief that Poland attracts only Ukrainians, who can easily melt into Polish society, slowed down any initiatives that might have prepared the society for an increased number of visibly different minorities. This happened as the top second group coming to Poland were first the Vietnamese and then, the Chinese.
The worst possible moment
The present refugee crisis happened at the worst possible moment for the government. As the pro-European Polish governing party braced for elections in October, any false move would cost them re-election. The main opposition party has taken the political line of Fidesz in Hungary and its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who openly admires Viktor Orban. This situation required a move to the right by the leading centre party. Still, it seems, they will lose the election.
The problem, however, is bigger; as Polish sociologists explain, the pendulum in education that leaned more to the right after 1989, created a generation of people brought up with admiration for a nationalist vision of society and despising any expression of left-wing beliefs labelling them “communist”. It must be remembered that in Eastern Europe this is worse than “fascist”. Also, the brutal economic transformation strengthened selfish survivalism. There is no tradition of left-wing parties in Poland. In this context, the government had to build its negotiating position on the public back home. At the same time, the years of non-information and “immigration-not-our-problem” discourses backfired. Even when the relocation mechanism is finally agreed in detail, it is hard to predict how it will be implemented by the right-wing government that will take power next month.
The move by Russia to engage in Syria may yet bring Poland to the common EU table on migration issues and assure its cooperation. For the right-wing nationalists Russia is still a greater danger than Muslim terrorists.
Challenges to the implementation of the program
There are three main challenges to the implementation of the relocation program in Poland:
- Implementation might prove difficult in a society that now has a majority openly hostile towards Arabs (by definition Muslim, the nuanced discourse is absent) and only a minority interested in a more pragmatic approach. It is clear that an information campaign is long overdue.
- It is unclear how the mechanism wants to keep people in a place they do not want to be. For all their political talk, one point stands: refugees do not want to stay in Poland. They see low wages, an inexistent welfare state and a bumpy economy. But also they are not part of a bigger ethnic community, so they are deprived of a much needed community safety net, not to mention a greater probability of being singled out. Labour market integration measures must be elaborated and introduced, as it is only through the labour market that new refugees will stand a chance of integrating and of being accepted. EU-wide support is needed.
- Refugees in Poland receive slightly over 300 euros: this is not a sum anybody can live on in a big Polish city. Poverty is the greatest enemy of visible minorities in a largely xenophobic country. Thus the mechanism means more funds from the richer countries to complement this salary allowing for successful integration and preventing secondary movements.
- The distrust of non-war refugees are rooted in Polish national experience and thus will be very difficult to change. It would be worth debating the underlying assumptions of the European asylum system and how to implement it when many Europeans (not only Eastern Europeans) do not believe in its principles. More debates, more awareness is needed, not least in this field.
- Since 2001, Western European countries have allowed mindless Islamophobia to grow unchecked. Only the mass murder performed in their name by Breivik turned the attention of the European leaders to this problem. But it was already too late, and horror stories found fertile ground where they cannot be checked against day-to-day reality: Eastern Europe. There is an urgent need to address this issue now, across the EU, with large scale actions. Otherwise one form of extremism will lead to another.
Without more EU support Poland and other newcomers to the refugee-takers table, Muslim immigrants will become frustrated and insecure. Their radicalization might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must act now.
Cfr D. Stola Kraj bez wyjścia. Migracje z Polski 1949–1989, IPN, Warszawa 2010. We do not know, however, the exact share because such estimates were never provided. E.g. In the 2003 study of 100 returnees to Poland performed by Institute of Public Affairs, more than 60% of those claiming refugee status abroad were in fact bogus asylum seekers. Also, the diaries of Polish people describing the life in the transit camps shed light on the real motives of the emigrants.
A. Weinar, Polityka Polski wobec cudzoziemców 1990-2003, Scholar, Warszawa, 2006.
Raising questions over the Swiss vote against mass immigration – A Policy Brief by Prof. Vincent ChetailPosted: March 12, 2014
The recent short victory of the ‘no’ to mass immigration in Switzerland raises several questions: How come a country with a successful economy says no to immigration? What are the implications of this vote beyond the issue of freedom of movement within the European Union?
These were the questions posed by Professor Vincent Chetail, Director of the Global Migration Centre and Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute Geneva, on 27 February 2014 at the EUI during his lecture on “The Swiss vote against mass immigration, freedom of movement and international law: a preliminary assessment”. The lecture was followed by a stimulating discussion chaired by Professor Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy-Director of the MPC, in which Professor Adrienne Héritier, Professor of Comparative and European Public Policy, acted as discussant.
A policy brief by Professor Chetail follows his lecture at the EUI, the full text of which can be found HERE. The author identifies a number of treaties contrary to immigration quotas and examines the different options available to Switzerland since the popular vote.
Highly-skilled migrants seem the solution for European needs in terms not only of growth but also for innovation.
Does research provide evidence for this general impression?
Measuring innovation is very complex. Two proxies are used to measure innovation in production: the registration of patents; and total factor productivity.
The registration of a patent at the national or European level is done only if there is the intention of implementing the innovation, because it is very costly: thus the number and the citation of patents are used to capture the innovative behavior of firms.
Total Factor Productivity captures, instead, the unexplained effect on growth in production, which cannot be attributed to the increases in production inputs, and that capture the final effect of innovation.
The research was carried out along two broad lines:
- A first strand of research focuses upon the production of patents directly by foreigners. Thus it looks at the effect of more open legislation that favour the entrance of foreign migrants: e.g. in the USA H-1B visa policy, which facilitated the entrance of highly-skilled foreigners with higher education in Mathematics and Sciences and the variation in the number of patents registered by foreign nationals after the introduction of the norm.
The conclusion is that the more open but specific the visa policy is on highly skilled in Science and Technology, the more patents will be registered by foreigners.
This strand of research is in favour of a more open highly-skilled migration policy. The result is, however, conditioned for the USA, which is a special case. The USA is able, in fact, to attract highly-skilled workers in large numbers for the wage premium offered , the high probability of highly-skilled jobs, as well as the language, English, which reduces the initial cost of migration, not to mention the open nature of American society. This also increases the return of a move, which frequently has started before in the education phase.
Thus the results related to the US should be taken cautiously in Europe because they are limited to a very favorable context where the internal mobility of firms is impressively large.
- The second and broader direction of the research is, instead, upon the effect of migrant workers in the production at regional, sector or firm level on innovation measured both by patents and by TFP. The evidence in this strand of research is much broader with many country cases and international studies.
Highly-skilled migrants have a positive effect on the production or implementation of innovation. The analyses at local level show that diversity in national origin of workers leads to a positive impact. This though disappears at sector or frequently at firm level.
The diversity measure is very challenging because it is not only the total amount of migrants, but also its composition that is relevant for innovation.
If, on the one hand, the diversity index comes from the idea that there are complementary skills among migrants from different national backgrounds, the lack of strong evidence at firm and sector levels suggests a likely penetration of migrants of different origins in different sectors. These complement each other in the innovation process. More research in this field should be carried out to direct migration policy properly.
Any migration policy which favours the entrance of foreign citizens is thus beneficial, in general, for innovation at territorial, sector and firm level. The results on the beneficial effects of diversity are not yet universal and there is not enough evidence to justify changing the point system, which concentrates on the quality of the migrant- for a quota system which selects by nationality.
The general conclusion is that inflows of highly-educated migrants favour innovation but also the variety of origin of the migrants can play a positive role at least at the regional level. Thus a more open migration policy for the highly-skilled will prove positive for innovation.
For more, see the MPC Policy Brief Innovation and Human Capital: the Role of Migration (Venturini A., 2013)
By Alessandra Venturini, Deputy Director of the Migration Policy Centre and Professor of Political Economy at the University of Turin
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre
There is a long-standing debate on the fiscal impacts of immigration and its effects on the welfare state. Proponents of relatively uncontrolled migration suggest that migration can help to resolve recent and future fiscal problems; migration is thus presented as a critical factor in the survival of the welfare system. Opponents claim that immigration breaks the very logic of the welfare system as a closed system with an important role of membership: they would argue for an exclusionary stance towards immigrants. In public debates immigrants are commonly blamed for burdening state and local budgets and for negatively affecting welfare payments and other services enjoyed by non-migrants.
Most empirical studies available conclude that immigrants use social welfare more than natives. Most of those differences, however, disappear when accounting for the structural characteristics of immigrants, and particularly for their labor market status. The overall net fiscal position of immigrants depends to some extent on their socio-demographic characteristics (age, skills, marital status, family status etc.). However, their status is also strongly system dependent: in countries with more flexible labor markets and relatively less generous welfare systems immigration affects the welfare system in a positive way. Empirical evidence proves that the problem often lies not in immigration itself but rather in the construction of the welfare system. Sometimes welfare systems are responsible for weak incentives to be economically active and for the creation of entry barriers into the labor market for immigrants through upward pressure on minimum wages. The structure of immigration and migration strategies influence the net fiscal position of immigrants (and at the same time they are shaped by the structure of the welfare system). Generally, the net fiscal impacts of immigration are small (+/- 1% of GDP) and they cannot explain the very heated public debate on that issue.
A review of the theoretical and empirical literature concerning the effects of immigration on welfare reveals a number of issues that are important in the policy–making context. First, many European countries will need more immigrants to sustain their welfare systems. Second, immigration policies need to be more selective (and not only with respect to age and skills) if countries want to maximize the positive impact of any inflow. Third, steps for legalization are critically important in improving the net fiscal position of immigrants. Fourth, labor market absorption remains one of the most important factors shaping both immigrants’ well-being as well as their net fiscal contributions. Last but not least, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of welfare policies, which often tend to put immigrants in the “poverty trap” rather than assimilating them out of the welfare.
This blog post is based on the new EUI Working paper “Are immigrants a burden for the state budget?” (Pawel Kaczmarczyk).
Pawel Kaczmarczyk, Former Robert Schuman Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre and Vice director of the Centre of Migration Research at the University of Warsaw
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre
Boeri, Tito. 2010. Immigration to the Land of Redistribution. Economica 77(308): 651-687.
Borjas, George J. 1995. The Economic Benefits from Immigration. Journal of Economic Perspectives 9(2): 3–22.
Boeri, Tito, Hanson, Gordon and Barry McCormick (eds.). 2002. Immigration Policy and the Welfare System. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Collado, Dolores, Iturbe-Ormaetxe, Inigo, and Guadelupe Valera. 2004. Quantifying the Impact of Immigration on the Spanish Welfare State. International Tax and Public Finance 11: 335-353.
Dustmann, Christian, Frattini, Tommaso and Caroline Halls. 2010. Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK. Fiscal Studies 31(1): 1-41.
Hansen, Jorgen and Magnus Lofstrom. 2003. Immigrant Assimilation and Welfare Participation: Do Immigrants Assimilate Into or Out of Welfare? The Journal of Human Resources 38(1): 74-98.
Nannestad, Peter. 2007. Immigration and Welfare States: A Survey of 15 Years of Research. European Journal of Political Economy 23(2): 512-532.
OECD. 2013. The fiscal impact of immigration in OECD countries. In: OECD. International Migration Outlook. Paris: OECD.
Social remittances are ideas, know-how, norms, values, knowledge, behaviour, practices and skills that migrants bring home with them or that they send home from abroad. These can promote or deter development in home countries, (Levitt, 1998, 2001, and Levitt and Lamba-Nieves, 2011). Levitt (2001) argues that social remittances are, in fact, more important than financial remittances. She mentions four types of social remittances that are transferred from migrants to their home countries: norms, practices, identities and social capital.
Social remittances can be diffused by migrants as well as by refugees. They are transferred when migrants return or visit their home countries; when non-migrants visit their family and friends in the destination countries; or when a letter (or phone-call, fax, email, video…) is received (Levitt and Lamba-Nieves, 2011).
Social remittances do not only affect family relations, economic and social well-being, gender roles, class and race identity. They also have a substantial impact on political, social, cultural, economic and religious participation. They can challenge people’s ideas, beliefs and views about, among other things, democracy, politics, institutions, health, culture, society, religion, technology, science, business, economics, education, and gender issues.
A new EUI Working Paper (Akkoyunlu, 2013) addresses the effect of migration on women’s empowerment in Turkey, 1960-2011. The number of women in the Turkish parliament is chosen as a gauge of women’s empowerment and is explained by the emigration rate, the relative education of women to men, and by a measure of democracy. A particularly relevant study (Lodigiani and Salomone, 2012), finds that migration to countries with higher political empowerment for women significantly increases the share of women in parliament in the home country: this work is a major inspiration for Akkoyunlu (2013). However, their data cover 1960-2000 and migration data is available only by decade. The data in Akkoyunlu (2013) are annual and cover the post-2000 period, when there was a major shift upwards in terms of the parliamentary participation of women in Turkey.
The results of the study can be summarised thus:
- A 1% increase in the ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary schools increases women’s parliamentary share by 7%. This is a very large effect. A 1% increase in emigration rate increases, meanwhile, the share of women in parliament by 0.50%. This is also a significant impact. Thus, emigration contributes to women’s empowerment in Turkey. In addition, a 1% increase in the measure of democracy increases women’s parliamentary share by 0.25%, suggesting that democratization encourages the empowerment of women.
- The destination-specific effect of emigration on women empowerment is very important: Turkish emigration to the West encourages women’s empowerment in Turkey. The effect is striking. A one percentage point increase in migration to the EU and OECD countries increases the share of women in the Turkish parliament by 7 percentage points in the long-run, almost the same magnitude as the education variable. Turkish migration to the West conveys, to non-migrants in Turkey, values, norms, and practices that contribute to women’s empowerment as much as does the education of women. In contrast, emigration to Arab countries had comparatively less impact on women’s empowerment; likewise emigration to Russia and the CIS countries did not particularly affect women’s parliamentary share. Emigrants to Arab countries are more likely to support the religious parties and their ideologies in Turkey. Religious parties in Turkey, e.g. the Welfare Party, activated millions of women to circulate the party’s ideology by going door to door. But women did not have many places in the representative and administrative systems of the party. In fact, there was only one woman from the Welfare Party in parliament during the period examined here. This might explain the low impact of emigrants to Arab countries on women’s parliamentary share in Turkey.
- The results are robust for the inclusion of asylum seekers and refugees in the emigration data.
- The paper suggests that migration, and thus social remittances should be accepted as an important component in development for both sending and destination countries. Migrant women’s organisations or migrants’ organisations that seek to empower women in the destination countries should, according to Akkoyunlu, be supported and encouraged by destination country governments. These organisations should be linked to organisations in the home countries by the sending country governments. The author suggests too that more formal dialogues through conferences, seminars, and workshops should be established and strengthened between migrants and non-migrant communities by both sending and destination country governments and NGOs. Then, the social, political and cultural problems of the sending countries should be investigated and better understood by destination countries, and the migrants should be understood as a central element in understanding these problems. They offer solutions as well as contributing to non-migrant communities in the home countries through ideas and knowledge, not to mention through norms and values accumulated in host countries.
Şule Akkoyunlu, Robert Schuman Fellow at the Migration Policy Centre.
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.
Akkoyunlu, S. (2013). Migration-Induced Women’s Empowerment: The Case of Turkey. EUI Working Paper RSCAS, MPC Series 2013/77.
Levitt, P. (1998). “Social Remittances: Migration Driven Local-Level Forms of Cultural Diffusion”. International Migration Review, 32(4), 926-948.
Levitt, P. (2001). The Transnational Villagers. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Levitt, P. and D. Lamba-Nieves (2011). “Social Remittances Revisited”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37(1): 1-22.
Lodigiani, E. and S. Salomone (2012). Migration-induced Transfers of Norms. The Case of Female Political Empowerment, IRES Discussion Paper 2012-1.
To what extent are migration issues articulated in programs of political parties in the EU Eastern Partnership countries and in Russia?Posted: June 4, 2013
In post-Soviet states the impact of migration and induced social risks (brain-drain, aging, depopulation, etc) are now a reality. Yet, little is known about the extent to which migration rhetoric has evolved and penetrated into the political party programs of European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries– Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine–, and in Russia.
The country experts of the CARIM-East project conducted a pilot examination of migration rhetoric in the programs of political parties of Russia and EaP countries in 2012 (Moldova in 2011). This policy brief is based on the comparative review of their research (see the bibliography below for detail).
In the late 1990s migration debate centred on dramatic emigration trends and brain-drain (Bobrova 2012, Chelidze 2012, Chobanyan 2012a, Mukomel 2012, Oprunenco 2012, Rumyansev 2012, Tolstokorova 2012). In the 2000s migration dynamics changed for some post-Soviet states. From emigration countries Ukraine, and recently also Georgia, became transit routes for migrants (Tolstokorova 2012, IOM 2008). In Azerbaijan the expansion of the energy and construction sectors attracted immigrants from Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and post-Soviet Central Asian republics (IOM 2009). As migrants gradually established their residence in destination countries, migration debate refocused on the issues of integration and rights of migrants.
However, the programs of political parties of EU Eastern Partnership countries remained distant from realities of migration and provided little discussion of migration issues.
There are several patterns that emerge from comparative analysis:
1. Role of political parties limited, migration barely mentioned in party programs
In some countries, such as Azerbaijan and Belarus, the political impact of political parties is quite limited. In Azerbaijan, the New Azerbaijan Party has been the ruling party and has won the majority of seats in all parliamentary elections in the last 18 years since 1995 (Rumyansev 2012). In Belarus the number of political parties has decreased from 40 parties in 1990 (Bobrova 2012) to only 15 registered political parties in 2012 (Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus 2012). This trend is also evident in the parliament of Belarus.
The limited role of political parties in the political system largely shapes the extent of their impact and contribution to policy-making. In Azerbaijan migration issues have only barely been mentioned in the programs of political parties (Rumyansev 2012). The emphasis has been on the refugees and the internally displaced persons from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that have largely dominated the migration discourse in Azerbaijan (Rumyansev 2012). In Belarus, despite reference to human rights, ethnic non-discrimination, preservation of cultures of minorities, the revival of the culture of Belarussians, migration issues are barely mentioned (Bobrova 2012).
In these circumstances, it is the government that is the initiator of migration policies or the legislative reforms on migration. In Azerbaijan, for example, “[the] Members of the Parliament] … do not introduce anything new to the debate on migration” and “… laws [are] drafted by the government, the content of which as a rule is not seriously debated or criticized” (Rumyansev 2012:1).
2. Migration rhetoric typically problem-centred, not migration policy-centred
When migration issues are incorporated in the programs of political parties, then the emphasis is on trends and causes of migration rather than the migration policy itself. The migration debate remains heavily linked to domestic problems, such as socio-economic challenges (e.g. unemployment), demographic (e.g. low child-birth, depopulation) or is entangled with minority issues (integration, preservation of the titular nation and its culture, rights of ethnic groups or migrants). Here are a few examples:
In Armenia programs of political parties frequently used migration to accuse national authorities of Armenia for bad handling of country’s socio-political and economic development. The party programs frequently emphasized commitment to create new jobs and reduce emigration, halt depopulation by increasing the birth-rate, develop mechanisms to encourage return migration or repatriation of the diaspora (Chobanyan 2012a).
In Moldova, the Communist government (2001-2009 years) referred to migration as a “caprice” and failed to admit the high emigration of Moldovans and the poor economic conditions that caused this migration (Oprunenco 2012). Thus, such issues as the brain drain, risks and benefits of labour migration, rights of migrants were frequently included in the programs of opposition parties (Oprunenco 2012). And yet, as an apparent paradox, the Communist government of Moldova consolidated Moldova’s migration system, established bilateral cooperation on labour migration and adopted various policy programs targeted at engaging Moldovan labour migrants for Moldova’s economic development (Oprunenco 2012).
Russia and Ukraine (and also Belarus) have been favourite migrant destinations among the former Soviet states. Thus, here the migration rhetoric of political parties has been linked with ethno-politics and integration issues. In Ukraine migration issues proposed to the parliament have usually been confined to ethno-politics, and have been entangled with language and minority policies (Tolstokorova 2012). In this context the policy objectives on migration have been framed as conditional on solution of larger social challenges, such as diasporas, rights of ethnic minorities, national identity, etc, and such issues as the rights of Ukrainian migrants abroad, immigration of foreigners, brain drain have become only selectively emphasized, politically manipulated and have avoided targeted policy response (Tolstokorova 2012).
In Russia the public has been divided between pro-immigration and anti-immigration attitudes, so have the political parties (Mukomel 2012). Due to the expansion of the public support for radical nationalist and xenophobic attitudes in the 2000s, to retain their electoral support, some political parties, such as Just Russia, have taken a more moderate position on migration, others, such as Yabloko or the Right Cause have refocused their migration rhetoric on advocacy for ethnic/migrant tolerance and anti-nationalism, whereas the United Russia has even been reluctant to articulate a position on migration in its party program to not alienate their electorate (Mukomel 2012).
In some post-Soviet states more than in others political party programs have also debated the actual migration policy of the country, and have proposed legislation or a policy framework on migration. This has been rare in the South Caucasus and more prevalent in Russia and Ukraine where migration debate has largely been determined by the multi-ethnic structure of the society and has centred on the risks and benefits of inflow of migrants and the conditions of their integration in the society.
4. What next?
While the research of CARIM-East country experts focused on post-Soviet states with fragile democratic systems, migration is politicized also in West European consolidated democracies. But in emergent democracies where policy frameworks are new and still need to adopt to the country specificities to become effective, this political manipulation can lead to inaction in policy-making or result in frequent shifts of migration politics, allow xenophobic stereotypes to penetrate into policy decisions, can delay the economic development of the country and even make the country more receptive to external pressures on certain policies. For example, due to the highly politicized nature of migration, the political elites have often failed to adopt policies to potentially not be blamed for resulting migration trends, such as in Armenia, where the draft Law on Regulation of Overseas of Employment, drafted in 2001 and modified several times since then has to date not been adopted by the parliament of Armenia. In the opinion of the experts, “[t]he main reason for not adopting the Draft Law so far is mainly explained due to the cautious attitude of politicians towards migration issues, particularly, those, which are related to regulation of overseas migration, since the perception of general public is that the Government actions only would encourage emigration from Armenia” (Chobanyan 2012b: 3).
“This only confirms that that there is substantial role that the civil society and international organizations can play to increase the awareness about migration issues and the migration policy among the political actors and the society in large. To increase the emphasis on migration issues in political party programs, the civil society organizations could conduct advocacy campaigns to push the migration issues into agendas of political parties. This should also increase the involvement of multiple actors in migration policy-making. Second, this should also have a counter-balancing affect on political parties that use migration as an election card: the civil society can monitor that political parties remain consistent in positions on migration they take on the paper (in the party programs) vs. during elections and when they achieve power, and can expose those political parties that do not have a (consistent) position on migration policies” (Makaryan 2013:12-13).
Shushanik Makaryan, Former Research Assistant to CARIM-East, Faculty Affiliate at Population Research Institute of Pennsylvania State University, USA
The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.
The interested reader can also consult the comparative review by Makaryan (2013) or the detailed country-specific discussion for Armenia (Chobanyan 2012a), Azerbaijan (Rumyansev 2012), Belarus (Bobrova 2012), Georgia (Chelidze 2012), Moldova (Oprunenco 2012), Russia (Mukomel 2012), Ukraine (Tolstokorova 2012).
Bobrova, A. (2012). “The Role of Migration in the Political System of Belarus”, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/107, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Holding Republican Referenda. (2012a). Facts about Political Parties in Registered in the Republic of Belarus, per 25 June, 2012 (in Russian), accessed Feb. 7, 2012
Chelidze, N. (2012). “Migration in the Agendas/Programmes of Political Factions and Political Parties in the Parliament of Georgia, 2011“, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/34 RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Chobanyan, H. (2012a) “Migration Rhetoric in Armenian Political Parties’ Programs“, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/102, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Chobanyan, H. (2012b) “Migration Emigration and Diaspora of the Republic of Armenia“, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/30, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
IOM (2008) Migration in Georgia: A Country Profile 2008.
IOM (2009). Azerbaijan Labour Market Survey Report.
Makaryan, S. (2013) “Migration Rhetoric in Political Party Programs: Comparative Review of Case-Studies of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine“. CARIM-East Research Report 2013/28, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Mukomel, V. (2012). “Migration Rhetoric in Program Documents of Russian Political Parties“, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/112, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Oprunenco, A. (2012). “Migration Issue in Programs and Platforms of Political Parties in Moldova“, CARIM-East Explanatory Note 11/21, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Rumyansev, S. (2012) “Political Parties and Problems of Migration in Azerbaijan” (in Russian), CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/53, RSCAS: European University Institute, Italy.
Rustavi 2 Broadcasting Company. (2011). Labor Party calls for blocking Readmission Treaty with EU, March 1, 2011, accessed March 10, 2013
Tolstokorova, A. (2012) “Migration Rhetoric in Programs of Political Parties of Ukraine” (in Russian) CARIM-East Explanatory Note 12/41,
Lessons from the earthquake in Haiti: A survey on the IDPs and on the resettled households (April 2012)Posted: May 7, 2013
The following is a summary of the research report n°3 of the ACP Observatory on Migration “Quelles Solutions Après le Séisme en Haïti: Une Enquête Auprès des Déplacés Internes” prepared by Youssef Courbage (BRIDES), Frantz Fortunat (BRIDES), Pierre Guedj (BRIDES) and Thibaut Jaulin (MPC-EUI) (ACPOBS/2013/PUB03).
The earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010 resulted in a great number of casualties and massive destruction, in particular in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, with an estimated 220 000 deaths, 300 000 injured and 1,5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). More than three years after the earthquake, in April 2013, the number of IDPs is estimated to be 320 000, scattered across 385 camps, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The living conditions in the camps are extremely difficult due to lack of hygiene and security, threat of expulsion, lack of resources, etc. The implementation of resettlement programs (T-shelter, reconstruction of houses, rental assistance) is complex, and such programs do not always meet the IDPs’ needs.
Following the recommendations of the National Consultative Council (NCC) in Haiti, the ACP Observatory on Migration commissioned a study on the IDPs’ human development and rights. The Migration Policy Centre (MPC) at the European University Institute (EUI), a member of the consortium of the ACP Observatory, coordinated the research project, and the Bureau de Recherche en Informatique et Développement Economique et Social (BRIDES), based in Port au Prince, conducted a survey among the IDPs.
The survey was carried out in March/April 2012. It compares the living conditions of three different groups: households in the camps, resettled households, and a control group. The survey focused on the camp of Sainte-Thérèse (Pétion-Ville), on a sample of resettled households (formally living in the camps of Place Boyer and Place Saint Pierre – Pétion-Ville); and on a sample of households living in the immediate neighbourhood of camp Saint-Thérèse (control group).
The study first focuses on demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Most indicators (with the exception of the education background) demonstrate that the IDPs in the camps are poorer than the other two groups. For example, IDPs in the camps have a higher percentage of women as the head of a household; the average size of the household is smaller due to the lack of space; fertility and mortality rates are higher; unemployment rate and proportion of informal employment are higher; emigration rate (internal and external) is higher; school attendance is lower; etc. Such results are due the impoverishment of the households in the camps and the over-representation of low-income households in the camps.
Moreover, the above-mentioned indicators improve among the resettled households, whose results are closer to that of the control group. It is noteworthy that the percentage of women who are the head of a household decreases among the resettled group, which indicates that men tend to return to their household after resettlement. Furthermore, the unemployment rate is lower among the resettled group, which indicate that resettlement is positively correlated with employment. However, it is noteworthy that the percentage of informal employment remains high among the resettled group, and that employment might actually pave the way to resettlement, rather than the contrary.
Furthermore, the study deals with sources of income and expenses. It confirms that few households can rely on a regular source of income, in particular in the camp, and that financial assistance from relatives in Haiti and abroad is a major source of income (and the first one for a significant proportion of households in all three groups). The survey also shows that resettled households face greater expenses than the control groups, in particular because most do not own their accommodation and pay a rent. Such result highlights a risk of impoverishment among the resettled group once exhausted the rental assistance provided for one year in the framework of resettlement programs.
In addition to the very difficult living condition in the camps, the study also sheds light on problems faced by the other groups, such as overcrowded accommodations, lack of running water and waste disposal, etc. Regarding health care, the survey shows that households in the camps usually choose public hospitals and community health centres, while the other groups choose private hospitals more frequently. It is noteworthy that women in the camp usually give birth in hospitals, while the proportion of women who give birth at home is higher in the other groups. However, access to antenatal health care is less common among women in the camps, in contrast with the other groups. Moreover, preventive practices against the cholera (e.g. washing hands) are widespread among all respondents, but a minority drink treated water, in particular in the camps. In addition, most of the respondents in the camps are aware of at least one case of cholera in their immediate environment.
The study also shows that the perception of security improves among the resettled group, in contrast with the camps, and that the former have a better opinion of NGOs’ actions. However, most respondents in all groups are not aware of the actions implemented by community organizations and, to a lesser extent, by NGOs. Finally, it is noteworthy that the main channel of information in the camps is the télédiol (word of mouth), while the other groups usually rely on the radio.
Based on these results, the authors make the following recommendations:
– To continue with the closure of IDP camps on the condition that resettlement solutions are found for each household;
– To maintain aid programs in the camps until solutions for resettlement are found;
– To develop resettlement programs tailored to the IDPs’ needs;
– To monitor the situation of resettled households;
– To support and organize urban development, in particular housing (including earthquake safety standards), basic infrastructure and public services (water, sanitation, waste disposal, public transports);
– To support community organizations, and promote NGOs’ communication with the population.
The ACP Observatory on Migration is an initiative of the ACP Secretariat, funded by the European Union and implemented by IOM with the financial support of Switzerland, IOM, the IOM Development Fund and UNFPA. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the author and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), the European Union, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the other members of the Consortium of the ACP Observatory on Migration, the Swiss Federation or UNFPA.
Thibaut Jaulin, Former MPC Research Fellow