MPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide (immigration, migration)
MPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank dedicated to the study of the movement of people worldwide (immigration, migration)
Climate Change and Migration: Converging Issues, Diverging Funding
While climate change and migration remain high on political agendas in Europe, the exact link between the two remains uncertain. Without clarity on how different climate events might lead to more human mobility (or conversely, immobility), it is difficult for migration policymakers and development actors to align their efforts and ensure they are spending resources wisely. Investments in climate adaptation, for instance, which aim to build communities’ resilience to cope with environmental stress, have only recently begun to take human mobility into account. And so far, adaptation activities make up only a small part of Europe’s formidable climate spending.
The COVID-19 pandemic only adds to the urgency of finding innovative financing tools for climate adaptation and migration. Many of the adaptation strategies policymakers previously applied to support communities affected by sudden-onset floods or slow-onset desertification are now obsolete, for example as physical distancing requirements have complicated evacuation and relocation. And because the issue cuts across different policy portfolios, it is difficult to assign clear responsibilities.
This MPI Europe discussion, with MPI Europe's Hanne Beirens, University of Liège's François Gemenne, GIZ's Dorothea Rischewski, and the European Investment Bank's Moa Westman, explored different migration policy options related to climate adaptation and the evolving landscape of climate finance tools. Speakers also examined what funding gaps and opportunities exist for collaboration with partner countries and what funding instruments might address the most pressing needs. The conversation also explored the implications of COVID-19 for migration and climate adaptation funding approaches.
Rethinking and Restarting: What should the returns process look like post-pandemic?
COVID-19-related border closures, travel restrictions, and uncertainties as to how to safeguard the health of returnees and their receiving communities have paralyzed the migrant-return system across the globe. With a few notable exceptions, such as the United States and Sweden, most countries have halted the return of rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants, including overstayers, to their countries of origin until further notice. Authorities have paused or postponed return or removal orders, shifted to automatic renewal of immigration permits and, in some cases, opted to release migrants awaiting their return from closed detention centers (e.g., in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom).
As countries move into different phases of reopening, the question of when and how to return migrants will become increasingly pressing. How feasible will the transfer of migrants be between countries that are at different points on the containment curve? How politically desirable is it to press certain countries to readmit their citizens when the coronavirus is already testing the limits of their infrastructure?
Furthermore, the return process was already plagued by problems of low return rates, controversial returns, and overly ambitious reintegration goals.
Part of MPI Europe's webinar series exploring what the migrant-return and reintegration process might look like in the post-COVID period, this webinar highlights the opportunity the restart offers countries to rethink and improve their return and reintegration operations. Before turning to the reintegration process later this summer, this first webinar in the series showcases speakers from Belgium's Fedasil, the French Office of Immigration and Integration, and the International Organization for Migration discussing the counselling of (potential) returnees to increase the uptake of voluntary return – a return option that is generally seen as more humanitarian, practical, less expensive, and sustainable.
Migrants in Africa & COVID-19: From Emergency Measures to Inclusive Social Protection Systems
Most African states closed their borders in attempt to contain COVID-19, resulting in a loss of livelihood that has been devastating for many, including migrants, in the absence of a community-based safety net. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports migration flows in West and Central Africa were nearly halved between January and April 2020, leaving tens of thousands of people stranded and requiring assistance with shelter, health care, and food. Already under pressure to deliver health services and emergency safety nets for their citizens, host countries often lack the capacity and the resources to support migrants, especially the ones who are in transit or informal workers without legal status. As a result, assistance for migrants during this public-health crisis has often come from international organizations such as IOM, civil-society actors, or diasporas.
The coronavirus crisis has also raised longer-term questions about social protection systems in Africa and which dimensions should be set up and prioritized for funding. In many ways, the pandemic has confirmed the pressing need for social protection for everyone, particularly in terms of health care, as vulnerabilities in one group can affect overall community wellbeing. But the looming economic crisis also risks limiting the appetite of host governments and development aid donors for more ambitious protection systems for non-nationals, which may ultimately reduce the benefits of regional and continental free movement regimes that African countries have been working towards for a decade.
This MPI Europe discussion with the Acting Regional Director for West and Central Africa for the International Organization for Migration, along with representatives from the African Union and International Labor Organization explores what emergency measures have been deployed by African governments and aid actors in response to COVID-19 to assist migrants in need. The panelists also examine what the health crisis says about social protection systems, the incentives for inclusionary systems for all, who should support these mechanisms in times of crisis, and how to make (at least some of) these measures sustainable.
Addressing Equity Concerns for English Learners: Where Do Native Language Assessments Fit In?
With major budget cuts inevitable post-pandemic and school systems disrupted across the United States, states may find it difficult to develop or sustain important supports for English Learners (ELs). One such support is allowing ELs to take annual state standardized tests in their native language. Federal law requires ELs to be given accommodations to ensure that their scores on standardized tests accurately reflect what they know in reading, math, and other subjects. The law also encourages—but does not require—states to offer native language assessments as one type of accommodation. Research shows that such assessments are effective in improving test scores.
However, only 31 states offer native language assessments, and those that do typically only offer them in Spanish and for math. Further, little research or guidance exists to help states figure out to whom the assessments should be given, and in which languages, grades, and subjects. In the last few years, advocates in several states, including California, Florida, and Illinois, have sought to expand the role of native language assessments as part of their accountability systems, seeing them as critical to ensuring policymakers, practitioners, and the public have accurate information about ELs’ academic achievement.
This webchat marks the release of an MPI report on native language assessments, and offers an introduction to the key policy and practical considerations in their implementation. MPI’s Margie McHugh and Julie Sugarman also discuss the role of native language assessments in the current educational environment.
Beyond the Border: U.S.-Mexican Migration Accord Has Ushered in Sweeping Change in Mexico in Its First Year
Following months of rising Central American migration through Mexico to the United States, the U.S. and Mexican governments on June 7, 2019 signed a joint declaration pledging to work together to manage and reduce irregular migration. The accord effectively marked a new era in the development of Mexico’s immigration enforcement and humanitarian protection systems. To avert the imposition of tariffs on Mexican goods threatened by President Donald Trump, the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador agreed to deploy its recently created National Guard to combat illegal immigration and accepted the expansion of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, also known as Remain in Mexico) along the entirety of the U.S.-Mexico border. In turn, the Trump administration agreed to expedite asylum processing for migrants waiting in Mexico under MPP and committed to addressing the conditions driving migration by investing in economic development efforts in southern Mexico and Central America.
While the full effects of the U.S.-Mexico cooperation agreement will take years to unfold, the Migration Policy Institute has assessed the changes during the accord’s first year. At the agreement’s one-year anniversary, MPI researchers Andrew Selee and Ariel Ruiz Soto engaged in discussion with former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson, former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Gerónimo Gutiérrez, and journalist Angela Kocherga about the changes it has sparked. The panelists also discussed how the agreement, coupled with U.S. policies designed to narrow access to asylum, has increased demand for humanitarian protection in Mexico, exposed significant weaknesses in the systems for protecting vulnerable migrants and exacerbated precarious conditions for migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border. As both countries face mobility challenges due to COVID-19, speakers explored how these changes may affect the future of U.S.-Mexico relations.
Humanitarian Protection in an Era of Pandemic
The rapid closures of borders around the world have been among the most dramatic migration-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 130 countries have introduced entry restrictions at their borders, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates. While these closures have virtually suspended leisure and business travel across the world, the effects are proving even more severe for refugees and migrants fleeing danger. Crossing an international border to a country of safety and filing an asylum claim is no longer possible in many places—a seismic shock to the foundations of a post-World War II international protection system that relies on the goodwill of national governments to grant access to their territory for those in need.
The pandemic has also placed into stark relief the unique vulnerabilities forced migrants now confront in the face of outbreak. The reception facilities where many asylum seekers live while awaiting a verdict on their claim invite outbreaks, even in high-income countries with well-run asylum and reception systems. Infection is likely to spread even more rapidly in severely overcrowded facilities, such as the camps on the Greek islands and informal settlements in Mexican border cities where migrants awaiting U.S. asylum hearings are massed. In developing countries where access to proper health care is limited even for nationals, the consequences of the pandemic could be disastrous for refugees who often live in densely packed housing with poor sanitation. At the same time, the suspension of resettlement operations by IOM and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has closed off a crucial lifeline for the especially vulnerable.
Speakers on this webinar consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected—and perhaps, remade—the global protection systems. Meghan Benton, Director for Research of MPI’s International Program, is joined by MPI colleagues, Kathleen Newland, Hanne Beirens, Sarah Pierce, and Susan Fratzke, for a free-flowing conversation regarding the effects of the pandemic on asylum systems in Europe and North America, as well as those in developing regions, where 85 percent of refugees remain. In addition to considering the immediate effects the crisis has had on national asylum systems and on refugees themselves, the conversation looks ahead and begin to assess the implications for the principle of asylum and access to protection in the future.
View MPI's resources on COVID-19