Posted on January 19, 2024

Migration to Europe Will Increase in 2024, Thinktank Says

Lisa O'Carroll, The Guardian, January 17, 2024

Migration to Europe will increase in 2024 as people try to reach the continent before the introduction of new laws aimed at cutting the number of arrivals, a leading thinktank has said.

Unsettled by multiple election campaigns in Europe, including the UK, and the US, during which immigration will be a divisive topic, many of those looking to come to Europe will rush to arrive before the system changes, predicted the Austrian-based International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).

“I call it the closed-shop effect. People will hear all these measures on migration announced in election campaigns and will think they have to be here [in the EU] before they come into force,” said Michael Spindelegger, the director general of the ICMPD.

He urged politicians to redouble efforts to create legal routes and partner with private enterprise to set up recruitment and training centres in the African and central Asian countries from where many migrants are coming to Europe.

The war in the Middle East and the prospect of Donald Trump regaining power in the United States would lead to huge flows of people, according to the ICMPD’s annual report.

A US crackdown on migratory routes could result in a rise in the number of Venezuelans and Colombians using visa-free visitor routes to Spain. New migration laws agreed by the EU late last year would initially be a magnet rather than a deterrent for many who would try to get to Europe before they come into force later this year, the report said.

Spindelegger, a former vice-chancellor and foreign minister of Austria, said: “I think we will see more refugees coming to Europe, even bigger numbers than 2023. Election campaigns will be about quick fixes, but we also know that there is not one solution and these quick fixes will not lead to a decrease of migration.”

Contrary to the xenophobic message of many anti-immigrant, far-right politicians, Spindelegger said Europe needed migrants if the EU was to maintain a sufficiently robust workforce, with shortages across the bloc.

The EU commissioner Ylva Johansson recently cited the need for 1 million more workers in the EU to keep pace with demographic change, saying it was “a challenge to do that in an orderly way”. Spindelegger said the numbers were much higher, with 1 million needed in Germany alone and 500,000 in Austria.

If the private sector cannot recruit, it will simply move investments elsewhere, Spindelegger warned. “We have to make sure companies are not waiting some years before they get the workers they need. If they don’t get [them] within a short period of time, companies will move out in a different country and we lose the investment. So we have to speak up about the need for migrants.”

Private sector partnerships with EU governments offered “a much bigger range” of legal opportunities for migrants and political outcomes than the usual bilateral agreements involving development aid and loans, he said.

The thinktank has helped launch 100 projects involving private companies training people in countries outside the EU to give them a route to employment in a partner country, including an initiative in Nigeria supported by the German and Austrian governments to train people as plumbers and electricians.

Spindelegger said more political attention was needed if those legal routes were to work, citing one example where people were trained as part of a legal migration partnership with the German government but fell at the final hurdle when the interior ministry failed to provide visas.

Final data from the EU for 2023 is expected to show more than 1m asylum applications were made in 2023, up by about 20% on 2022 and the highest number since 2016, according to the ICMPD.