About the Region

SEEECA lies on the cross-roads of active migratory movements with significant migration from, within and through the region, and with growing inflows to the region itself.

Migration matters a great deal for the region’s economies, societies and individuals. While most migration flows in SEEECA are primarily economically driven, environmental degradation and recurrent natural disasters as well as political tensions and resulting instability, including in neighbouring regions, are also acting as significant driving forces of migration and displacement.

Many of the region’s countries have been traditional countries of origin. However, the patterns of movement have diversified making most SEEECA countries today simultaneously, albeit to a different extent, countries of origin, of transit and of destination.

Outward migration from the region, especially from the Western Balkans and Eastern Europe, is directed primarily towards the European Union (EU). This is facilitated by the on-going approximation and accession processes between these countries and the EU. However, many of the region’s migrants originate from within SEEECA itself, making intra-regional migration a significant phenomenon. The region is home to some of the top South-South migration corridors in the world – from Ukraine to Russia, from Russia to Ukraine and from Kazakhstan to Russia. Russia is the top destination country in the region (and the second top destination country globally), especially for migrants from Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Following the global economic downturn and more stringent enforcement of readmission agreements signed by most countries in the region, return migration has increased in recent years.

SEEECA also receives regular and irregular migrants from other parts of the world, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South and South-East Asia. As these migrants often have the EU as their final goal, transit migration is one of the major trends in the region today. The SEEECA countries that are part of the EU accession and approximation processes and have access to mechanisms such as EU visa-free regime tend to be particularly affected by transit migration. The situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East generated significant flows of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers towards the region, with large numbers of Syrians in particular arriving in Turkey and, to a lesser extent, other SEEECA countries. Overall, irregular complex migration flows to, through, from and within the region is highly prevalent and is a shared concern for all SEEECA States and their neighbours. The related crimes of smuggling, human trafficking, migrant exploitation and terrorism are also a challenge. Several of the top countries of origin for trafficked migrants worldwide are located in SEEECA, while the importance of the region as the destination for human trafficking has also seen an increase.

There is a significant population of IDPs in the region, in particular in the Western Balkans and Turkey, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Many of these IDPs are in protracted situations, with a large share of the displacements a result of conflicts and violence which took place in the 1990s. However, recurrent natural disasters in many parts of SEEECA as well as a number of more recent conflicts, most notably the conflict in Ukraine, have been further increasing the number of IDPs.

Other negative aspects of migration such as the separation of families, brain drain and waste, increased health risks and health inequity as well as xenophobia and discrimination are important challenges for SEEECA. However, despite these and other migration-related concerns, governments and the civil society in the region increasingly recognize that migration can and does contribute to inclusive and sustainable social and economic development by benefitting countries of origin and destination as well as by enabling the human development of migrants and their families.

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