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Socio-economic forces are likely to remain the main drivers for migration in the SEEECA countries in the years to come. Search for employment in particular will remain the dominant reason for migration in view of persistent economic disparities and labour market gaps both within the region and in the EU, in particular in healthcare and education as well as the construction and service sectors.

Youth migration will remain a significant trend in the region, as high levels of youth unemployment and lack of economic opportunities lead to more and more young people leaving their countries of origin in search of employment and/or education abroad. This trend is particularly relevant for shorter-term and temporary migration.

At the same time, in the short to medium term, lack of employment opportunities and more restrictive policies in the EU are likely to result in continuing return migration to the region.

Intra- and inter-regional migration will further increase as more visa liberalization regimes and readmission agreements are put in place between countries. While this will encourage migration, trade and other forms of bilateral cooperation between the countries in the region as well as with their neighbours, it will also put more pressure on immigration and border management systems in SEEECA to ensure security. Therefore, sound identity management and effective sharing of information between countries will remain key to safe, humane and development-friendly migration management.

Demographic and labour market trends in SEEECA, including the labour and skill shortages exacerbated by emigration, indicate that SEEECA countries will be increasingly serving as countries of destination for migrants both from within the region, further reinforcing the already significant trend of intraregional migration, and from Asia and Africa. In this context, growing attention to the protection of the human rights of migrants shown by the SEEECA States in recent years is of particular importance; this topic is likely to increasingly become centre stage in the region’s migration policies and practice. Other issues likely to gain ever increasing importance as more migrants choose SEEECA as their destination include migrant well-being, migrant integration, public perception of migrants and migration, and social cohesion.

Also, the role of migration in the development of the region is likely to grow further. This role has already received recognition by the SEEECA States, including in the national and regional consultations for the UN post-2015 development agenda. As the whole migration and development discourse further matures, the focus on the role of remittances is likely to give way to greater attention to other, less measurable but no less significant, migrant contributions, such as social remittances and transfers of ideas and knowledge, as well as transnational and diaspora networks. At the same time, negative impacts of migration will be critical elements of this discourse. As the various factors driving migration into, within and from the region are there to stay, in the absence of adequate regular migration channels, a significant proportion of these population flows is likely to remain irregular. The associated challenges related to the particular vulnerability of irregular migrants and to the growing transnational organized crime and terrorism will continue to be acute in the foreseeable future. The rising number of unaccompanied or separated children moving irregularly is a worrying trend that requires greater attention. Trafficking in human beings, migrant smuggling and migrant exploitation will remain a major concern for the region, but many States would need to adjust to the relatively new role of becoming countries of destination for trafficked and smuggled persons in addition to being countries of origin and transit. The nature of these phenomena will also continue evolving, as the emerging trends of increasing numbers of men identified as victims of trafficking and the related rise in cases of human trafficking for the purpose of forced labour are likely to persist.

Unsafe and irregular migration makes migrants more vulnerable to disease and by extension their families, host and home communities. For example, increased rates of Tuberculosis (TB), as well as sexually transmitted diseases (SIDs), including HIV/AIDS, have been associated with migration in the SEEECA region. As a consequence, migrant health and health risks associated with migration are emerging as one of the major challenges in the region.

Complex migration flows into and through the region fuelled by the political instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa will continue in the medium to long term. Within SEEECA, the Western Balkan countries and Turkey will be bearing the brunt of such transit movements. In addition, the withdrawal of international military forces from Afghanistan in 2014 and the rising tensions in Iraq may also lead to increased cross-border flows of mixed nature into and through Central Asia and other parts of SEEECA. Some risk of displacement and forced migration within the region will also remain in the long run. The crisis in Ukraine, political uncertainty in several other States and a number of frozen conflicts leave open a possibility of increased instability.

Furthermore, a number of SEEECA countries are subject to recurrent natural disasters, which are likely to be exacerbated by the effects of climate change. The effects of climate change can also be expected to increase the impact that environmental factors have on human mobility in the region, making environmental migration, of both voluntary and forced nature, an issue of growing significance for many SEEECA States. All these developments will further raise the importance of humanitarian border management, disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, as well as of response and recovery measures in SEEECA.