Migration and displacement

Syrian refugees in a camp in southeastern TurkeySyrian refugees in a camp in southeastern Turkey

Inter-related conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa have recently combined with acute economic pressures to create the largest movement of people to Europe since the end of the Second World War.

With refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as economic migrants from other regions, the main transit route is from Turkey through the Western Balkans to entry points into the European Union (EU). While most of those fleeing conflict are women and children, this route is mainly traveled by adult men.

Migration as a positive force for development

Besides the millions of refugees fleeing conflict and persecution, there are also people on the move in search of better livelihoods, economic opportunities, jobs, or because of the demand for cheap labour. This economic migration is often misrepresented as a negative burden.

This ignores the fact that with globalisation, migration also poses significant development opportunities in the form of investments and remittances. As outlined in UNDP’s 2009 Human Development Report, migration can be a positive force for human development. Integrating sustainable migration policies into national development plans can reduce inequalities, provide jobs and contribute to economic growth.

If well managed, human mobility can have significant positive impacts for human and economic development, through increased household incomes, improved access to services, and the empowerment of traditionally disadvantaged groups, in particular women.

An injection of new human capital can be particularly important in aging societies. However, the new and increased flows caused by the crises have so far put incredible pressure on transit and host states; pressure apparent in the overwhelmed and already under-resourced local governments’ ability to support effective public services and maintain community resilience. With the closing of borders and the oncoming winter, such pressures may only increase, as transit countries potentially become host countries.

UNDP is a crucial partner on migration, refugees and displacement

In neighbouring countries, UNDP has also helped host communities cope with the influx of refugees, as well as mitigate the effects of environmental degradation, another key driver of migration.

These initiatives include an olive packaging and storage project in Turkey, and helping remove trash and debris from host communities in Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. UNDP’s work on fighting poverty, improving governance, and preventing and mitigating conflicts and disasters directly addresses the root causes of both migration and displacement.


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