ID Conference: Diego Acosta about Migration Governance

On November 6, the Conference on Inequality and Diversity hosted the roundtable «Governance of Migration and Integration: Multi-level, Multi-actor, Multi-dimensional Perspectives between “Crisis” and “New Normal”». We have talked to an expert of the roundtable, Professor Diego Acosta, about the trends and challenges of the global migration governance.

ID Conference: Diego Acosta about Migration Governance

Photo courtesy of Diego Acosta

– How can you characterize the key trends of the global migration governance?

– I will say that there are two important elements that we can take into consideration. They both come from the Global Compact for Migration, the agreement endorsed by more than a hundred and sixty countries around the world. If you look at the Compact, there are two elements that are repeated several times. The first is the facilitation of mobility: if you facilitate mobility, it will be safer, regular and orderly. And the second element is the word «regional». It is absolutely crucial because migration and mobility happen particularly at the regional level. There is more intraregional migration than any other type of migration. That is why what we see now is the multiplication of free movement of people agreements at the regional level. Obviously, Russia is a very good example. You have the Eurasian Economic Union, bilateral agreement with Belarus allowing free movement of people – And this is a trend for the future, I think.

– In your opinion, how has the COVID pandemic impacted the attitudes towards migration governance and migration governance itself?

–  We are still within the pandemic, so it is quite difficult to assess. Everything will depend on how long it lasts. I think, two things have happened. The first one is that the borders have been closed on many occasions and have been closed also for nationals themselves. They have not managed to go back to their countries of origin. And closed borders are now affecting all types of mobilities. The second trend is that we have had another re-understanding of who the key workers are in a particular economy. This means we have realized that many of those whom we consider being key workers are non-nationals. The key sectors, like the health sector, agriculture, all sorts of deliveries, in many countries have a large number of non-nationals workers. And that has led to the rethinking of who is important for the economy, who should be allowed to enter and have equal access.

– What can be expected in the long run?

– In some countries, there is going to be a difficult economic situation, and we already see it. We have learned that from the previous 2008 economic crisis that the aftermath of COVID might be the initial period with less mobility because there is less demand for non-nationals in different sectors. But it does not mean mobility will stop. No country in the world can produce the number of people they need for the economy. Even now we see this in some cases. I have recently read about the agricultural sector in the UK, how the companies are putting pressure on the government to make sure that those coming from the rest of Europe to collect the products do not have to do self-isolation for 14 days. Otherwise they are going to waste all crops. So, mobility will continue. We may see perhaps some more health controls, but certainly, all countries will continue to need non-nationals.

– Could online technologies and distant contracts become an innovation for migration governance?

– Possibly, yes. This is a historical trend. When transport became faster in the late 19th century, the mobility became easier. The same is happening now. I am not sure what technologies in the future may facilitate that. Perhaps it might be easier to connect workers with employers without having so many intermediaries. That possibly can be a good trend, since in many cases intermediaries complicate the process.

– What are the key challenges that countries of migrant origin, transit and destination face now due to the changes in migration flows?

– The challenges remain the same. First of all, it is difficult to distinguish between destinations and sending countries. This is a global trend, taking place in every single region. In the post-Soviet space about 15-20 years ago Kazakhstan was not a destination country. But now the country has four million non-nationals from different countries. In South America, we see how immigration of Venezuelans is leading to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru which did not have any immigrants or non-nationals before. So, we have to be careful in distinguishing between destination and origin countries.

The second challenge is how to facilitate mobility for those who are moving for labor purposes and those who are leaving the country because they need to. It is important to channel the mobility through legal means, to avoid terrible consequences like those that we see at the US – Mexico border.

Interviewed by Yury Kabanov