On August 25, the Valdai Club presented its new report, titled “International Migration in Pandemic Times: Disrupted Links, Remittances and Migrantophobia”. In his opening remarks, the moderator of the discussion, Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, noted that during the pandemic, the migration problem had become one of the most acute in many countries. He added that in Russia the proposals of the authorities to reopen the country for labour migration have faced resistance — both in the context of lobbying, and in connection with migrantophobia.
Andrei Korobkov, Professor of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University, co-author of the report, stressed that short-term trends associated with the pandemic are now being imposed on long-term economic and political trends in migration. In particular, this manifests itself in the reduction of migration flows around the world. The pandemic hits the refugees especially hard. However, at the same time, the pandemic has demonstrated to governments and businesses that they cannot do without migrants. This brings to mind the words of the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy about two types of migration — “desired” and “suffered”. According to the expert, the competition for “elite” migration — highly skilled workers, students, investors — will intensify throughout the world, while the approach to refugees and low-skilled migrants will become tougher and discrimination against them will increase.
Dmitry Poletaev, Leading Researcher at the Institute of Economic Forecasting of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Director of the Migration Research Centre, the second co-author of the report, focused on the situation in Russia. He pointed to a twofold decrease in the migration flow from Central Asia during the pandemic. Many migrants returned to their homeland and were unable to re-enter. Also, at some point, money transfers from Russia to the countries of departure dropped sharply. In the context of countering migrantophobia, Poletaev spoke about the need for comprehensive integration programmes, not only for economic reasons, but for a comprehensive involvement of migrants in Russian life. The researcher also spoke positively about the special migration regime introduced in Russia due to the pandemic and expressed hope that it will lead to the further liberalisation of migration policy.
Radim Žák, Regional Coordinator for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, in his remark, developed the idea of the need for an international dialogue on migration problems and the creation of some kind of informal platform to discuss these problems at the interstate and interregional level. He also shared the results of a brainstorming session on possible scenarios for the development of the situation with migration in the EU after the end of the pandemic.Maria Apanovich, Associate Professor at the Department of Demographic and Migration Policy at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, in turn, emphasised that a year and a half of the pandemic has obviated the interdependence of economies, which cannot be stopped even by such significant changes as the closure of borders and the expulsion of foreigners. In particular, labour shortages in the agricultural sector have prompted a number of countries to either try to mobilise internal migration or reduce restrictions. “The world global economic system balances itself over time. The restrictions that were introduced affected individual households and the economies of individual countries, but when the opportunity arose, the balance gradually returned to normal,” she said.