Workshop examining migration from Albania, Georgia and Ukraine to the EU

On the 30th of May, sale IRMA’s team organised a closed research workshop on the migration system from the Balkans and Eastern Europe to the EU. Invited researchers from Albania, Georgia and Ukraine had the opportunity to discuss and compare research results with the team members responsible for the respective case studies, namely Ms. Eda Gemi, Ms. Marina Nikolova and Ms.Michaela Maroufof. Working language is English.

You can download the agenda of the workshop here.

 Summary of the workshop:

The first session was dedicated to migration from Georgia.

The session opened with a short presentation of the IRMA project’s background report on Georgia and the first findings of the project’s field research in Georgia and Greece. The invited researchers offered some feedback on those initial results. All the participants agreed that the lack of reliable data in both the country of origin and the host country and the fact that it is hard to come up with reliable estimates on Georgian migration poses problems to the study of Georgian migration. The discussion revolved around the feminization of migration in the countries of Southern Europe that is closely linked to their labour market and the impact that it has on Georgian society. Another point that was made was the need for better management of Georgian migration in the case of Greece by shifting to regular migration through regularization programs targeting the domestic sector.  Another issue that attracted a lot of attention was migration and development with a focus on remittances and their positive and negative impact on the country of origin was thoroughly discussed. Finally, the participants deliberated on the existing return migration policies and the need for the establishment of structures in order to create investment opportunities that would enable a sustainable return.

The second session focused on migration from the Ukraine.

During the session on the Ukrainian migration, the initial results were presented from the field research conducted in Greece in the framework of the IRMA project. The recent evidence and data suggest a general decline in the total number of stay permits and, specifically, the number of residence permits for employment purposes, while the number of permits for family reunification increased. The migratory flow to Greece appears to have stopped. In contrast, we see an increase in the number of issued visas to Ukrainians from Greek embassies, due to travels for leisure, visiting friends and relatives, and, business trips. It was noted that the migrants tend to bear the cost of maintaining their legal status, an often expensive and lengthy procedure.

Furthermore, the issue of how the ‘border’ transfers increasingly within the countries, in a process of ‘social re-bordering’ which basically excludes immigrants – many times even the documented ones, from access to social benefits and basic rights. Remittances were discussed as positive for the home country and especially for the recipients, but not necessarily equally positive for the providers. Additionally, the issue of return to the country arose. According to surveys in Ukraine, immigrants who permanently return to the country usually stayed in the host countries for short periods. Instead, the permanence of return of those who have lived for longer periods outside Ukraine, including Greece, is doubtful. Regarding the tendencies of new migrant flows, according to recent research conducted among students of the University of Lviv when asked “How the Maidan in Kiev influenced your desire to emigrate?”, 53% of the respondents answered that Maidan didn’t affected them, while 44% gave a positive answer. However 53% of those who said they were affected by the Maidan, stated that although they had initially the desire to emigrate, they changed their minds.In conclusion, in recent years information for potential emigration destination countries can be found from credible sources in Ukraine, while the interest in Greece as a destination for emigration has decreased significantly. New migration flows from Ukraine have stopped to Greece. Instead the country is becoming a destination for large numbers of Ukrainians for their holidays, visits to their relatives or for business purposes.

The third session focused on migration from Albania.

The workshop opened with a brief presentation of the IRMA Background Report and preliminary findings of the field work research conducted both in Greece and Albania during the last 9 months.  The discussion mainly focused on the emerging need for the mapping of new trends of migratory movements and return, as well as on the morphology of irregular immigration of Albanians in Greece, at a time of economic crisis.

Additional references were made to recent data from fieldwork with the Roma community which has returned in Albania or follow a circular migration pattern between the two countries. Initial estimates reject the hypothesis of the mass return, confirming, however, that the migratory mobility follows circular and seasonal pathways. At the same time, both quantitative and qualitative data support the view that irregular trends of Albanian migration to Greece have been significantly reduced. The relative decrease is probably due to the liberalization of visa regime for Albanian citizens entering the ??Schengen’s zone, which entered into force in December 2010.

An interesting point was made on the reintegration in Albania of returnees from Greece.  The high unemployment rates and the lack of a proper legal status along with the entrepreneurial plans to invest in the country of origin were considered the main reasons behind the decision to return.

An attempt was made to connect the evolution of migratory flows from Albania in Greece with the wider picture of the migration phenomenon in Southern Europe at the time of economic crisis. Particular emphasis was placed on the dynamic of Albanian migration and the weakness of research to capture and then analyze in real time very recent developments. Another point raised during the discussion was the link between migration and development, the social capital of migrants and the negative effects caused by the economic crisis on the family structure, in particular related to the role of gender within the Albanian family.

In sum, the session concluded that Albanian migration continues, albeit at a significantly lower scale, marking as such the end of highly intense immigration from the previous decades. In spite of the positive institutional developments on the prevention of irregular migratory movements, irregular migration still remains a major challenge for both Greece and Albania. All the participants agreed that the main destination country for Albanian irregular migrants remains Greece, with irregular employment in informal economy constituting the major structural feature of the “new” irregularity, which is not only driven by push factors in Albania but also by strong pull dynamics of labour market in Greece, as well as various in-between human agencies and networks.