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Quarterly Mixed Migration Updates, July to September 2020

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

 

Latin America and the Caribbean

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • Mixed migration flows out of Venezuela did not stop amid the pandemic. Since July, approximately 200,000 Venezuelans have left their country, bringing the total number of refugees and migrants of this nationality now out of their country to about 5.1 million. Since August, between 25 and 30 Venezuelans left their country and entered Colombia daily. Government officials predict 200,000 arrivals in Colombia from Venezuela in the next couple of months, following the reopening of the country’s economy on September 1st.
  • Parallel mixed migration flows in opposite directions have developed between Venezuela and Colombia. While some Venezuelans are leaving their country, about 110,000 reportedly returned to their country of origin between March and July 2020.
  • During COVID-19, crossing borders irregularly has been criminalized in some countries of origin and country of destination of mixed migration movements. This is the case for Venezuelans trying to return to their country, as well as for Venezuelans trying to enter Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Refugees and migrants have been blocked at various border points or got stranded in transit countries by COVID-related restrictions on international travel. This is the case of Venezuelans at the Colombian-Venezuelan border, as well as refugees and migrants from other nationalities in Panama and Costa Rica. In some of these countries, a negative COVID-19 test result is required to enter the territory. In most cases, people on the move must cover these costs themselves.
  • COVID-19 as an opportunity for local integration. In some countries, such as Ecuador, Peru, and Chile, national responses to the pandemic became an opportunity for the integration of refugees and migrants into society, due to their potential role in combatting the spread of the virus.
  • About 1.500 asylum seekers and migrants are stranded in a camp in Matamoros, at the border between Mexico and the U.S., either waiting for developments in their asylum proceedings or hoping to cross into the U.S.
  • Contrary to predictions, remittances toward Central American countries have rebounded during the pandemic. Refugees and migrants living in the United States and eligible for government subsidies amid the pandemic were able to continue sending remittances.

Read the full QMMU

North Africa

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • With many COVID-19 border restrictions still in place in North Africa, land and sea arrivals to Europe via the Mediterranean routes have decreased overall by 29% compared to Q3 2019.
  • Despite a decrease in movements along the Western Mediterranean Route (WMR) to Spain when comparing January to August 2020 to the same period in 2019, the number of Algerians arriving in Spain increased, representing a multi-year peak.
  • On the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR), the number of Tunisians arriving in Italy increased to 9,884 . This represents the highest number of arrivals from Tunisia since 2011.
  • The governments of Tunisia and Italy convened two bilateral meetings in Q3, focussing on reducing irregular migration and providing additional European political and economic support to Tunisia to encourage investments and employment. A bilateral Morocco-Portugal meeting on irregular migration also took place this quarter, which included discussions on exploring pathways for legal migration to Portugal.
  • IOM reported a decrease in the estimated number of migrants, including refugees, present in Libya (down to 584,509), likely due to COVID-19 border restrictions discouraging people on the move and impeding mobility.
  • The number of refugees and migrants intercepted at sea and returned to Libya increased by 12% compared to Q3 2019. At the same time, IOM sources report an increase in the disappearance of refugees and migrants upon return and disembarkation in Libya.
  • From mid-July, torrential rains caused the worst flooding in decades in large parts of Sudan. OCHA identified an estimated 830,000 individuals in need of assistance, citing refugees and migrants among those who are particularly vulnerable.

Read the full QMMU

West Africa

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • Burkina Faso displacement: In August 2020, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burkina Faso surpassed one million, according to the National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR). This represents five percent of the total population, or one person in 20, and an increase in internal displacement of more than 100% since the beginning of the year.
  • Canary Islands arrivals: An estimated 3,360 sea arrivals were recorded in the Canary Islands during the third quarter, according to a compilation of Spain Weekly Snapshots (29 June – 27 September; Weeks 27 – 39) from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This was more than the previous two quarters combined (2,775).
  • Atlantic/West African route to the Canaries: According to analysis from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Missing Migrants Project cited in El Pais, of the irregular sea routes to Europe, the route to the Canary Islands was the most dangerous from January to July 2020, with approximately one recorded death for every 20 arrivals.
  • Expulsions from North Africa: A variety of expulsions took place from North Africa to West Africa during the quarter. In addition to some 1,048 expulsions from Algeria to Niger recorded by UNHCR from May to July 2020, the NGO Alarme Phone Sahara reported some 2,427 people expelled from Algeria into Niger at the end of September and beginning of October. Alarme Phone Sahara also reported the deportations of 28 Guinean women and 144 Senegalese from Western Sahara by Moroccan authorities in conjunction with the Senegalese and Guinean embassies.
  • Policy and legal advances: On 2 September 2020, Ivory Coast became the first country in Africa to adopt a statelessness determination procedure. On 28 September 2020, the Government of Niger issued a decree adopting its National Migration Policy (2020-2035) and a corresponding five-year Action Plan.

Read the full QMMU

East Africa and Yemen

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • Movements along the Eastern Route remain limited: Refugee and migrant arrivals from East Africa to Yemen decreased this quarter, reducing by 97% from the first quarter of 2020. Only 888 new arrivals were reported in July and August 2020, compared to 27,948 arrivals who were recorded entering Yemen between January and March 2020.
  • More refugees and migrants make return journeys from Yemen to East Africa: There are increased reports of refugees and migrants using mixed migration routes to return to East Africa from Yemen. At least 2,000 people were reported to have arrived in Djibouti from Yemen this quarter. Thousands of East Africans remain stranded in Yemen for reasons related to COVID-19 restrictions, and limited options are driving many to undertake dangerous maritime return journeys from Yemen to Djibouti and Somalia.
  • Dangerous mixed migration journeys: In August, 20 migrants were reported dead or missing in Djibouti and in early October, 8 Ethiopians died and 12 went missing after they were forced from their boat by smugglers on the route from Yemen to Djibouti.
  • The number of deportations of Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia remained relatively low this quarter: At least 440 Ethiopians were deported from Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia in September. They are the first of 1,440 Ethiopians who are expected to arrive from Saudi Arabia by mid-October.
  • Abuse and exploitation of East Africans in Saudi detention centres: Investigative report shows increasingly dire conditions facing migrants in Saudi Arabian detention centres. This is the latest report about the deteriorating situation for Ethiopians detained in and deported from Saudi Arabia, which has raised international concern and condemnation.
  • Ethiopians stranded in Lebanon return home: The Ethiopian government repatriated 330 Ethiopians in September, amid international attention to the plight of stranded Ethiopian workers in Lebanon. More than 2,300 Ethiopians have been repatriated from Lebanon this year and more are expected to return to Ethiopia in the next quarter.
  • Xenophobic violence on the rise in South Africa: 12 people were killed in South Africa during riots sparked by increasingly hostile conditions for foreigners, including refugees and migrants.

Read the full QMMU

Asia

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • Indonesia offers safety for Rohingya trapped at sea: 300 Rohingya refugees land in Aceh in early September after nearly six months at sea and pushbacks by Thailand and Malaysia.
  • Worsening conditions in Australian immigration detention centres: A study released in September found that self-harm incidents have increased in detention centres since January 2020, resulting from worsening conditions and anxiety relating to COVID-19.
  • Thailand tightens border security amid irregular re-migration: As the economy slowly reopens, Thailand has increased security at its borders to limit the number of migrants from neighbouring countries entering irregularly in search of employment opportunities.
  • Mental health concerns for migrant workers grow in Singapore: Multiple suicides and suicide attempts among migrant workers in Singapore have highlighted the poor living conditions and devastating impact of COVID-19 lockdowns.
  • Reports of wage theft rising among migrant workers during the pandemic: CSOs and trade unions call on governments to set up an international claims commission and compensation fund, as well as bolster national mechanisms to facilitate access to justice for migrant workers.

Read the full QMMU

Europe

Key Updates Quarter 3 – 2020

  • New EU Pact on Migration and Asylum: The long-awaited Pact was launched on the 23rd September and proposes a new direction from the European Commission for the EU’s asylum and migration policies.
  • Moria camp burns to the ground: On the 8th and 9th of September a number of fires were started in Moria camp, the EU “hotspot” on Lesvos. As the camp burned to the ground some 13000 people were left without shelter and a “state of emergency” was declared on the island.
  • From Lebanon to Cyprus: A new trend is appearing with an increase in boats leaving from Lebanon to Cyprus. At least 21 fishing vessels managed by smugglers have left for Cyprus between July and Mid-September compared to only 19 boats during all of 2019. Read more in the Thematic Section of this report.
  • Tensions in North-Western Bosnia & Herzegovina: The third quarter of 2020 has seen increased tensions between the local population and transiting refugees and migrants in Una-Sana Canton. Authorities report that only half of the estimated 7000 migrants and refugees in the canton reside in official camp sites.
  • Peak in Tunisians arriving to Italy: Especially the summer months saw an increase in Tunisians crossing the Mediterranean to Italy with more than 2,230 making their way in the month of August. The peak is presumably associated with the deteriorating economic situation in Tunisia.
  • The longest stand-off in recent European maritime history: 27 refugees and migrants were left for almost 40 days on the Danish tanker Maersk Etienne in the Maltese SAR zone. They disembarked in Sicily on the 13th of September.
  • Spike in channel crossings from France to the UK: During the third quarter of 2020 channel crossings from France to the UK increased causing the British government to enforce returns. The total figure for crossings in 2020 is at 6,524.

Read the full QMMU