In 2015, over one million migrants reached Europe through land and sea routes, particularly the central Mediterranean route, connecting Libya and Italy, and the Eastern Mediterranean route, from Turkey to Greece and Bulgaria.
Numerous reasons such as the humanitarian crisis in the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, and the dire situation in the East and Horn of Africa simultaneously contributed to this noticeable increase in migration flows towards Europe.
At the time, Iraqi migrants represented 10% of the entire migrant population (IOM, 2016).
The intensity and characteristics of migration flows to Europe over the past four years have changed remarkably.
Migration flows towards Europe declined from a peak of 1 million in 2015, to around 145,000 in 2018. The routes used by migrants to reach Europe have changed too. The number of people using the eastern Mediterranean route from North Africa to Spain more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2018. Along the Balkan route through Albania, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, there were around 12 times more apprehensions of irregular migrants in 2018 as compared to 2017. In absolute terms, the number of Iraqi migrants going to Europe has reduced dramatically over the past four years to 7,637. Yet, relative to the total migration flows, Iraqi migrants still represent around 5 per cent of the total and constitute one of the top four nationalities traveling to Europe (IOM, 2019; 2018).
As noted in migration literature, human mobility is largely influenced by interconnected structural factors such as (income) inequalities, conflicts and labour market asymmetries. Immigration policies in destination countries do not necessarily affect volumes of flows in migrant sending countries, as migration flows tend to evolve slowly over time. Instead, immigration policies can influence the direction of flows and the ways in which people migrate.
The decline observed in flows to Europe might reflect this situation. Meaning that Iraqi migrants are moving towards non-European destinations. This is also supported by the fact that most Iraqi migrants and refugees and asylum seekers do not live in Europe but in bordering countries and other countries in the region (Migration Data Portal, 2019). This might be unsurprising, as refugee movements are often cross-border and with a limited geographical scope. By acknowledging this situation, any study on Iraqi international migration should include both European and non-European destination countries.
This quantitative study is the first stage of a three-year research and policy program conducted by IOM and financed by the European Union named REMAP (Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy).
The objective of DTM REMAP is to strengthen the evidencebased formulation and implementation of humanitarian and development policy and programming on migration and forced displacement in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan through the use of the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).
Data was collected between May and June 2019 and targeted Iraqi migrants both, in transit and in destination countries. Only people who migrated in 2017, 2018 or 2019 were included in the sample. Respondents were interviewed remotely following a structured questionnaire. Interviews were conducted by IOM Iraq research field teams who have long experience in conducting data collection in the field and who were previously trained by experienced IOM DTM staff. In total, 571 respondents were interviewed between May and June 2019 in 11 different countries. The survey objective was to unpack the overall migration process to Europe and other regional destination countries, as well as to cover a wide range of migration related variables that could be further investigated in academic studies or through other research methods.
The survey collected information on migrant profiles, including demographics, household information, education and employment. In addition, it explored previous migration and displacement experiences, migration intentions and drivers of migration. It then looked at challenges and access to services in the governorate of origin, type of support received while travelling and the role of remittances.
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