Europe and Central Asia are among the most important regions in terms of migratory flows – with Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and France hosting the highest numbers of the estimated 31.9 million non-European Union (EU) nationals residing in Europe. The two sub-regions combined host 72.5 million migrants, representing 8.7 per cent of the total population. Despite the economic crisis, net migration remains positive in the major migrant destination countries.
Economic disparities among EU Member States and between Europe and its neighbours to the south have helped shape Europe as an immigration zone, while new EU Member States are still confronted with high mobility and emigration rates. Growing demand for migrant workers to fill gaps in local labour markets is also widely acknowledged as a main pull factor; this is particularly evident in the mobility of health professionals, a growing phenomenon that has an impact on the health systems of receiving, transit and sending countries.
The events in North Africa and the Middle East continue to raise issues in new migration trends in Europe and reconfirm the necessity to adequately address the needs of local groups facing social exclusion and persistent socio-economic fragility which will be more likely to become mobile.
IOM’s migration initiatives in the region aim to support all European and Central Asian Member States in developing and enhancing adequate migration management responses and support measures that promote regular migration and integration of third-country nationals, voluntary return and reintegration schemes, and activities to prevent and address irregular migration. In parallel, IOM works to stimulate debate on emerging issues such as the complex relationships between climate change, environmental degradation and migration, the migration–development nexus and the key role played by diasporas in Europe.
While irregular migration continues to be a major issue of concern in Europe and the complex nature of mixed flows of economic and other migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers will continue to present additional challenges – including the need to ensure practical safeguards and care for vulnerable groups such as unaccompanied minors, victims of trafficking, smuggled migrants and those who may have been subjected to violence or psychological distress – labour migration is increasingly at the centre of European debates on migration management.
In the sphere of social inclusion and integration, specific reference should be made to the mobility of minorities. The need to ensure the protection of Roma victims of human trafficking has also been increasingly recognized. IOM’s migration initiatives in Europe will work towards the promotion of adequate and targeted EU resources to support the inclusion and integration of Roma in Member States and candidate countries in line with the agreed priority areas of the Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005–2015 in terms of health, housing, employment and education.
In all areas, IOM’s work aims to promote more cooperation between Member States through common actions reinforcing partnerships among all stakeholders, and by fostering the exchange of experience and good practices between them. While similar migration trends exist in most European and Central Asian Member States, there are significant differences in national policies and legislation. A key role for IOM is to promote the exchange of good practices between countries and to contribute to the creation of a more harmonized approach in the field of migration between European countries and with other regions from which migration flows originate.