Facing Complex and Evolving Migration Patterns Across South-eastern, Eastern Europe and Central Asia


Vienna – Global migration dynamics are becoming ever more complex, and nowhere is this truer than in the region encompassed by IOM’s Vienna Regional Office: South-eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

The region is host to almost 5.5 million conflict-displaced, either in massive concentrations such as the 3.9 million refugees and people under temporary protection in Turkey, the 1.5 million displaced in Ukraine, or in smaller groups scattered through the western Balkans and South Caucasus.

New migration routes are emerging, across the Black Sea from Turkey, or via the steep mountains of Albania, Montenegro and Bosnia. Frozen conflicts, simmering tensions which increase xenophobia and violent extremism all heighten the prevailing sense of unease and uncertainty.

A further 30 million people are on the move as labour migrants. This 2015 estimate is likely to be higher, with recent flows from Ukraine and Georgia into nearby EU countries, as well as the millions attracted from across Central Asia to the growing Kazakh economy, and the millions more who move to the Russian Federation from other ex-Soviet states. Additionally, climate change is being cited as a factor in neighbouring conflict zones, prolonged droughts, severe winters and flooding.

The challenges posed to migration management, including border security, human trafficking, human health and the ever-present possibility of a repeat of the “migration crisis” of 2015 were on the table when senior IOM managers and Chiefs of Mission from across the region gathered in Austria last week.

“We are indeed seeing more complex patterns of mobility over this huge and diverse region,” noted Regional Director Argentina Szabados, reflecting on the three-day retreat. “There are definitely many positives, such as the increased remittances that help to drive development, and the good work being done on stability and inclusiveness. We want to see these increase, but at the same time we want to help our member states face the evolving challenges posed by migration. Above all, we want to end the appalling suffering of migrants who are smuggled by cynical criminal gangs, as well as the misery faced by men, women and children trafficked for sexual or labour abuse.”

Szabados noted that IOM in the region has a long and growing list of priorities across the whole migration spectrum. She expressed her hope that the Global Compact for Migration, which will be adopted later this year, will provide clarity and direction for the global community and that IOM will be able to play its part in achieving migration for the benefit of all.

“We are taking the lead in many areas, but we need to continue to diversify and think out of the box,” she said. “We are already building development into our emergency programmes in this region, looking at new institutional and national partners, increasing our credibility through new links with academia, and as the newest United Nations Agency, we are developing new and fruitful partnerships with our sister UN Organizations and other Vienna-based international organizations.”

For further information please contact Joe Lowry, IOM Regional Office for South-eastern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia, Tel: +436603776404, Email: jlowry@iom.int

  • Syrian refugee children get ready for class at a multi-service centre supported by IOM in Turkey. Photo: M.Mohammed/IOM

  • Since the beginning of the crisis, IOM has provided aid to over 100,000 vulnerable displaced persons and conflict-affected people across the Ukraine. Photo: V.Shuvayev/IOM

  • Senior managers and Chiefs of Mission from IOM’s Vienna Regional Office covering Southeastern Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.