Posted on September 30, 2020

European Leaders Fear Economic Impact of Coronavirus Will Fuel Migration

Jamie Dettmer, Voice of America, September 29, 2020

European officials fear the coronavirus pandemic will spark eventually another massive migration wave from Africa and the Middle East. “The social and economic consequences of COVID are going to get worse and that will mean more people deciding to search for a better life,” Malta’s foreign minister warned last week.

Evarist Bartolo is urging European countries to invest more in African countries to help boost their economies to generate wealth and jobs so people are less likely to migrate.

He points out that about two-thirds of asylum-seekers are economic migrants, not war refugees. Pandemic-shattered economies in sub-Sahara Africa will fuel migration in the future, he fears.

The coronavirus pandemic is acting currently as a dampener on migration, analysts say. The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration, IOM, reports approximately 50,000 migrants have arrived this year so far to Europe, largely by sea — considerably fewer than in previous years. The IOM reported that 110,669 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2019. At the height of the migration crisis more than a million migrants entered the EU, according to the United Nations.


Evarist Bartolo told a British broadcaster last week that Europe has to do much more to persuade people to stay in their own countries. “We need a new relationship with African countries so we can help to create wealth where they are, they do not risk their lives trying to get to Europe,” he said.


Research by the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit think tank based both in Washington and London, analyzes the relationship between real gross domestic product, per capita and net emigration rates in developing countries. And it suggests emigration rises along with rising incomes at first, only falling later as much higher incomes are achieved. Rising incomes for relatively poor countries or people do not immediately deter migration, authors Michael Clemens and Mariapia Mendola say.

Many migrants are not among the world’s poorest, the research suggests. In low-income countries, people actively preparing to emigrate have 30% higher incomes than others overall. Their findings suggest that economic growth in a developing country can raise the number of migrants, rather than reducing it. The poorest are without the means to pay traffickers or fund migration bids and those with better resources see migration as something akin to going to university, a likely good investment.