Five Facts Everybody Should Know Before Discussing Future Migration Trends
- Overall, our ability to predict migration patterns is limited. The acceleration, proliferation and diversification of social, economic, technological and political transformations and shocks make migration-related risks and uncertainties increasingly unforeseeable.
- Searching for root causes of migration does not help to predict future flows. We should rather understand what we call “migration driver complexes”. Migration is a process, and as such it is constantly influenced by multiple internal and external forces. In addition, sudden or gradual shocks may cause uncontrolled feedback, cascading effects, extreme events, and unanticipated side effects regarding migration outcomes.
- Prediction horizons have different implications for decision makers: predictions made for the very short term are useful to design and adjust operations (early warning systems are the most common instrument for that), while short- and mid-term forecasting is the most appropriate for planning, and long-term exercises are typically used for strategic and policy decisions. And always keep in mind that uncertainty increases with the time horizon!
- Policy makers, academics, and other stakeholders working on migration issues need to think about how to adapt to, mitigate or prevent the manifestation of systemic risks that may affect the functioning of migration systems. ‘What-if’ should be the question, not “Now what?”.
- How to prepare for uncertain migration futures? We suggest a five-step approach: 1- Know the factors causing systemic risks that may lead to potential variations in migration flows (e.g. social dynamics, vulnerabilities); 2- Know the reasons causing policy failures (e.g. inadequate policy designs, limited policy coordination); 3- Increase the capacity for “good enough” forecasting (which includes improving capabilities for surveillance, data collection, knowledge development, scenario planning and migration uncertainty analysis and diagnosis); 4- Enhance smart migration governance (for instance by regularly and systematically reviewing decision-making and communication processes, and increasing the adaptability of migration and integration infrastructures); and 5- Prepare to be unprepared!
This work has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 870299.