“One of the lessons is that sometimes what we think is not necessarily translated into the field”. These words by Catia Batista, co-founder of Novafrica, summarize many of the impressions after the first NCID Workshop on Migration celebrated last 11th November at the Institute for Culture of Society of the University of Navarra.
The event started with a short presentation by Blanca Moreno-Dodson, director of the Center for Mediterranean Integration, affiliated to the World Bank. She exposed the center’s work and differentiated on the three causes that make migration happen: macroeconomic causes, which focus on the socioeconomic and political situation a country has; microeconomic, which tackles personal ambitions and situations, more related to a local environment; and mesoeconomic, which addresses laws and regulations about mobility.
After her presentation the research workshop kicked-off. In total there were five presentations by leading researchers on migration which touched on different topics such as the reasons to leave your home country, the main routes taken by those trying to reach Europe, how do migrants spend their money once in their host country, how many migrants opt for a political position in their new residence and how freedom of movement has fostered migration inside Europe.
Batista’s research focused on answering one question: can the willingness to migrate irregularly be changed by providing specific information about uncertain outcomes?Her paper introduced a randomized control trial in The Gambia, a small Western African country where those who migrate are 99% males. The study focused on this group and checked if they knew their chances of dying in route and of achieving a legal status once in their destination country. “People thought the chance of dying was one out of two and half of them where still willing to migrate”, explained Batista. Estimates are that on average about 20% die during their travel, which shows that even overestimating the calculus they were predisposed to migrate.
The men interviewed however overestimated their chances of achieving a legal status as answers showed they thought that half of those who arrived got one, although it actually is closer to a third of them. Batista concluded on the power of information. “Giving more reliable information about migration is likely to change irregular migration decisions. But results can be surprising”.
Many of those going through The Gambia would choose to travel through the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR), an option for many irregular immigration. Mariapia Mendola, Associate Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics of the Università di Milano-Bicocca adresses in her paper how the opening of the CMR in 2011 after the Arab Spring increased migration through that route. “Once the Muammar Gaddafi regime collapsed Libya stopped being a destination country and started being a hub for cross mediterranean migration”, she explained. “People turn to set the refugee crisis in 2015 in Europe but the start is in Italy in 2011, that spike is very relevant”.
The research computes geo-referenced distance between a country of origin and a destination one and pairs it with national data to analyze which are the shortest routes for migration and if they changed after 2011. “Our test is not a test of opening the CMR but a test of the change in smuggling visas, about the cost of migrating irregularly”, Mendola said. In that sense, for example, the least cost path between Sudan and Switzerland in 2010 was going east and in 2012 it was going through Central Africa”.
The average cost just to cross the Mediterranean, the last leg of a long journey, tends to be between 1.000 and 1.500 dollars. Mendola found that you need a big decrease in costs of irregular migration to see an effective change and that demand is highly elastic. “This calls for the EU to pursue a demand-related approach instead of a border-enforcement approach, as current migration policy does not take migration demand and smugglers market power into account and it is unrealistic to patrol all the Mediterranean region”, she finished.
Once upon arrival
Migrants travel looking for a better future for themselves and their families. Inside Europe, migration was fostered after the European Union was constituted, as freedom of movement reduced costs of changing countries. “This was especially seen in 2004 with the entrance of 10 new member states”, said Davud Rostam-Afschar, Assistant Professor at Universität Hoffenheim who presented his investigation on taxation and job mobility in Europe. “Entry fees, work permits, citizenship requirements, residence permits are some of the obstacles, amongst other”, he said. Rostam-Afschar emphasized the importance of intra-migration in Europe, as he said that at the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015 1.5 million people arrived, but that same year 2 million moved between countries inside the continent.
Knowing how migrants spend their money is also an interesting data to know what drives migration and how it affects host countries. In that sense, Christoph Albert, post-doctoral researcher at Centro de Estudios Monetarios y Financieros (CEMFI), shows in his paper that immigrants send more than a 10% of disposable income back home and spends between 2 and 5% less on housing. This is because, as Albert explained, migrants substitute local consumption with consumption in the home country.
However, the arrival of migrants also has an effect on the cost of living. “Immigrants concentrate in expensive and high-wage cities”, said Albert. This contributes to the disparity of wages and cost of living across cities, but it increases the productivity and welfare gains for native workers as it move economic activity from low productivity to high productivity places.
To achieve a good economic situation and feel integrated in their new societies, immigrants need public policies which support their arrival and work. In that sense, political representation of minority groups is important for a well functioning democracy, because politician’s attributes affect political and economic outcomes. Anna Rosso, Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods of the University of Milan, studied in her paper if political and economic integration are intertwined with an experiment in local elections in Norway. There, Rosso found that less immigrants are candidates than natives and differences come in terms of gender, age and education, with more foreign-born women being probable candidates, and these taking a step forwards into politics 15 years later than natives. “We find that immigrants are holding on credible parties, driven by male individuals who are part of the labor force”, said Rosso, who finalized that this is more binding when a list is filled and in urban areas.