Quarterly Mixed Migration Updates, April to June 2020

This article presents the key updates on mixed migration from seven regions around the world during the second quarter of 2020. Links to the full Quarterly Mixed Migration Updates per region are included below.

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Returns of refugees and migrants to Venezuela in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 2020, more than 5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants had left their country of origin; however, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused small return flows of Venezuelans from across the Andean region toward Venezuela since March, reaching approximately 75,000 to date. Serious concerns about stigmatization of returnees and lack of food and healthcare in Venezuela persist.
  • Restrictive stay-at-home orders in the North of Central America (NCA), including El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, limit mobility, while deportations continue. Border closures across Central America, along with restrictive quarantine measures, have limited mobility within and between countries. Despite these border closures, deportations and forced returns from the United States and Mexico to NCA countries continued, including of COVID-positive
  • More than 40,000 summary expulsions of refugees and migrants from the U.S. to Mexico under public health order. A public health order issued on March 21 by the U.S. government in light of COVID-19 permits the summary expulsion of people on the move from the U.S. to northern Mexico, with virtually no screening for international protection needs; since then, more than 40,000 incidents of expulsion have taken place. Meanwhile, refugees and migrants subject to the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy face extended wait times for resumptions of immigration court hearings in the U.S.
  • Thousands of African, Haitian and Cuban people on the move stuck in Panama during the COVID-19 pandemic. Border closures across Central America due to COVID-19 have paused movements on migration routes from the Caribbean and from other continents; at least 1,900 refugees and migrants from African and Caribbean countries remain in reception centers in the Darién province, Panama, and hundreds of refugees and migrants in southern Honduras attempted onward travel towards North America in late June.

Read the full QMMU

 

North Africa

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Between April and June, most official border entry and exit points remained closed in North Africa to halt the spread of COVID-19, severely constraining cross-border mobility. Moreover, UNHCR and IOM continued to suspend resettlement and voluntary humanitarian return (VHR) procedures, respectively.
  • The number of refugees and migrants who reportedly died or disappeared along the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR) decreased this quarter compared to April – June 2019 (134 down from 253). Around half of the casualties are linked to a shipwreck in early June off the Tunisian coast, leaving more than 60 dead.
  • Some mixed migration routes appear less affected by COVID-19 restrictions: 3,859 refugees and migrants crossed the Mediterranean to Italy in the second quarter of 2020, compared to 2,253 during the same period last year.
  • In Sudan, the unofficial border crossings at Karb Eltoum, at the Libya border, and Agok, at the South Sudan border, remained open, according to IOM. At the end of June, Sudanese security forces arrested 122 Sudanese mercenaries on their way to fight in Libya. During this quarter, Libya intensified deportations of Sudanese at its southeast border.
  • IOM reports that 170 Sudanese IDPs working in Chadian goldmines remain stuck across the border and are unable to return to Sudan.
  • Intra-urban and intra-state mobility restrictions severely disrupted the livelihood opportunities of refugees and migrants across the region. In Libya, 78% of refugees and migrants applied negative coping strategies to access food. In Tunisia, an estimated 94% of those who were working before the COVID-19 crisis have lost their income. In Sudan, key informants interviewed by MMC reported large-scale food insecurity expected among refugees and migrants.

Read the full QMMU

 

West Africa

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Regional fluctuation in mobility: According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), border closures across most of the West African region in response to the coronavirus pandemic had a significant impact on regional mobility. There was a steep decline in flows in March, and an overall reduction in flows of 39% in the period January-May 2020.  It appears that this trend is beginning to reverse, however, as flows between April and May increased by 65%.
  • Malian displacement within and from Burkina Faso: Violence in northern Burkina Faso has caused the near total evacuation of two refugee camps, previously hosting more than 15,000 Malian refugees. More than 4,000 of the refugees have returned to Mali, and others have faced secondary displacement within northern Burkina Faso.
  • Influx of Nigerians to Maradi: Some 23,000 persons fleeing Nigeria were allowed to enter Niger in April, seeking refuge in its Maradi region. They were driven out by violent attacks by bandits and vigilantes in the northwestern Nigerian states of Katsina, Sokoto and Zamfara.
  • Canary Islands arrivals: The estimated number of irregular arrivals in the Canary Islands for the April-June quarter, based on a compilation of Spain Weekly Snapshots (Weeks 14-26) from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was 1,240. This showed a slight decrease over the previous quarter (1,625).  The estimated 2,865 refugees and migrants who have arrived in the Canary Islands so far in 2020 has already outstripped the total figure for all of 2019 (2,700).
  • Talibés returning to Niger: Some7,000 Nigeriens had returned from Nigeria to southern Niger from the beginning of the quarter to mid-June. The majority of these were unaccompanied minors, talibés coming back to Niger following the closure of Koranic schools in northern Nigeria due to the pandemic.

Read the full QMMU

 

East Africa and Yemen

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants remain stranded throughout the region due to border closures and other restrictions, including in Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen. Many face stigma and discrimination amid COVID-19 fears.
  • COVID-19 border closures result in historic lows of East African arrivals to Yemen, but at least 14,500 refugees and migrants trapped within Yemen.
  • Ethiopian returns from Saudi Arabia slow this quarter, with only 3,144 Ethiopians returned between April and June.
  • Uganda temporarily opened key border crossings along its western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo to allow Congolese refugees to cross the border to escape violence and access humanitarian relief.
  • Unrest in Ethiopia about the killing of Oromo singer and activist on 30 June sparks fears of mass crackdown on Oromo population and increasing concerns for the situation of Oromo in the country.
  • Ethiopian migrants stranded in Lebanon among unrest caused by impact of Lebanon’s economic downturn and COVID-19 restrictions.

Read the full QMMU

 

Asia

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Rising concerns over COVID-19 cases in refugee camps, shelters, and immigration detention facilities across the region: The first COVID-19 cases were detected in a refugee camp in the Cox’s Bazar region and in a refugee shelter in Indonesia, where overcrowding and limited sanitation supplies exacerbate the likelihood of an outbreak. Numerous cases were also recorded in detentions centers in Thailand and Malaysia.
  • Rising xenophobia and abuse against Afghans in Iran: In May, 17 Afghans were murdered by Iranian border guards while attempting to enter Iran irregularly from Herat. This incident occurred amid rising abuse of Afghans across Iran, increased arrests and deportations of undocumented Afghans, and the murder of three Afghans in central Yazd province.
  • Returning migrant workers face discrimination and unsafe quarantine conditions: As hundreds of thousands of migrants return to their homelands due to job loss amid widespread lockdowns, they have been subject to unsafe quarantine conditions and met with mistrust and stigma due to fears of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Fears border closures could increase instances of exploitation and trafficking: With borders closed and regular avenues of recruitment temporarily suspended, there are growing concerns over the possibility of rising incidents of debt bondage, trafficking, and exploitation as migrants seek employment opportunities abroad.
  • Immigration crackdowns in Malaysia: Amid rising xenophobia, Malaysian authorities have conducted a series of police raids, resulting in the arrest and detention of refugees and migrants. Meanwhile, Malaysia has pushed back several boats carrying hundreds of Rohingya trying to seek protection.
  • Continued concerns over immigration detention conditions in Australia: Numerous protests have been held in Melbourne and Sydney,  protesting overcrowding and high-risk conditions in immigration detention facilities. A chronically ill refugee held in an immigration detention facility has launched a landmark case in the high court, seeking his release to protect him from contracting COVID-19.

Read the full QMMU

 

Middle East

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • COVID-19: Despite an ease of COVID-19 government restrictions in most countries in the region, the COVID-19 outbreak and economic downturn is impacting the entire region. Protection concerns around refugees’ and migrants’ access to healthcare and employment remain. In Lebanon, Ethiopian domestic workers were ‘dumped onto the street’ by their employment sponsor, reportedly because of the sponsor’s inability to care for them.
  • Repatriation of migrant workers: COVID-19 reportedly prompted several GCC countries and countries of origin to organise mass repatriations of migrant workers. The COVID-19 pandemic is allegedly also used as an excuse by employers to terminate contracts, withhold salary pay and deport or force migrant workers back to their home countries.
  • Arrivals in Greece: Compared to the previous quarter, there has been a decrease in new arrivals in Greece via sea (-7,022 or 93% decrease) and land (-1,819 or 89% decrease). The quarterly trend is downward, but the monthly trend is upward. The sea arrivals increased in May (+189 or 485% increase) and June (+35 or 15% increase), as did the land arrivals in May (+21 or 54% increase) and June (+73 or 122% increase).
  • Arrivals in Turkey: A total of 17,377 arrivals in Turkey were recorded during this quarter, which is a 62% decrease from the previous quarter when 46,183 arrivals were recorded (-28,806). The majority of arrivals are from Afghanistan (40%) and Syria (17%).
  • People apprehended/rescued in seas around Turkey: 2,674 people were apprehended/rescued in the seas surrounding Turkey, whereas the total of the previous quarter was 9,053 (-6,379 or 70% decrease). In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is interesting to observe an upward trend for the number of apprehensions in the months of April, May and June (253, 605, and 1,816 respectively).
  • Missing refugees and migrants: 134 people were reported to have gone missing or died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. 4 people were recorded missing or dead in the Eastern Mediterranean, which is a very stark decrease when comparing it with the 67 people who went missing or died in the previous quarter, but exactly the same as the number of Q4 2019. Around the same time last year, from Q1 2019 to Q2 2019, we saw an increase (+23 or 164% increase).

Read the full QMMU

 

Europe

Key Updates Quarter 2 – 2020

  • Increase in arrivals along the Central Mediterranean: During the second quarter of 2020, movements along the Eastern, Central and Western Mediterranean have continued and even increased along the Central Mediterranean route despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting destination countries in Europe.
  • Rescue gap in the Mediterranean Sea: There have been multiple cases of people being stranded at sea during the second quarter of 2020 as rescue missions by volunteer groups have been shut down and countries such as Italy and Malta have declared their ports unsafe due to the spread of COVID-19.
  • New tactics to keep refugees and migrants off territory: During the second quarter of 2020, we have also seen new measures to keep refugees and migrants off territory. Maltese officials authorised private vessels to intercept refugees and migrants from international waters that fall within the responsibility of the European coast guards. In the Aegean sea, people report being attacked by the Greek coastguard and masked men.
  • Human rights violations and pushbacks along the Western Balkan route: Measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the Balkan countries have included deployment of military forces at borders and camps, expulsions from camps and even more extreme pushback practices. In Croatia, near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina, migrants and refuges have reported an increase in abuse including people being spray-painted with red crosses on their heads by Croatian police officers claiming that the treatment was the “cure against conoravirus”. There has also been a restriction of access to asylum, healthcare and adequate accommodation for refugees and migrants along the route.
  • Refugees and migrants across Europe help to fight COVID-19: Across European countries refugees and migrants have held vital roles in fighting the pandemic and keeping European economies functioning during the outbreak of COVID-19 in positions such as doctors, nurses and caretakers.
  • Regularisation of migrant workers: Across Southern European countries such as Spain, Italy and France the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a potential food shortage and labour crisis in particular when it comes to the agricultural sector. Various initiatives have been put in place across affected countries: In Italy a new decree was passed on the 13th May which included the regularisation of migrant workers. The decree is heavily discussed and criticised.

Read the full QMMU