Italy should expect a massive increase in migrant flows from Africa

17 May 2017

emilia.pezzolla@prometeia.commichele.catalano@prometeia.com

Recent estimates should lead to a revision of the forecasts of migration flows to Italy. In particular, the ISTAT projection may underestimate the new immigration flows originating mainly from the Sub-Saharan Area

 

Despite being among the weakest developed countries, in 2016 Italian growth - measured in per-capita terms - was higher than that of Germany. This result was the effect of the increasing German population caused by the large inflows of asylum seekers in 2016, mainly from Syria (Fig.1), while Italy recorded a drop in population (-0.2 per cent), despite the asylum seekers increased in the country as well. 

Recently, the Italian Home Office estimated that the migrant population living in receiving structures will unexpectedly reach 200 thousand people by the end of 2017, an exceptionally high figure. This should lead to a revision of the forecasts of migration flows to Italy, as the latest ISTAT estimate of 288 thousand immigrants per year does not incorporate the information provided by the Home Office. In particular, the ISTAT projection may underestimate the new immigration flows originating mainly from the Sub-Saharan Area (SSA)

Several studies compare the characteristics of migration flows from SSA to OECD countries with other migration flows and conclude that the current migration process from SSA is much more severe than others and is expected to be the most persistent over the next few years [1].

According to the IMF [2], the SSA region doubled its population between 1990 and 2013, recording the fastest population growth in the world (Fig. 2). As a result, based on the mentioned study, the proportion of immigrants from SSA countries to the total population in OECD countries is expected to increase from 0.4 per cent in 2010 to 2.4 per cent by 2050. In perspective, this implies that Europe as a whole needs to control the massive influx of migrants and to strengthen the relocation mechanism among Member States.

At European level, the strategy has been mainly managed by two deals: 1) the EU-Turkey refugee deal of March 2016, based on which the number of migrants to Europe across the Western Balkans (mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) in 2016 fell to 123 thousands from 764 thousands in 2015 [3] and 2) the Italy-Libya Memorandum aiming at reducing the illegal flows from North Africa, endorsed by the European summit of Malta in February 2017.

Currently, this strategy is expected to reduce immigration flows, whose persistence and size are actually likely to increase in the future. Migration flows are directly related to the demographic transition - which, according to the UN projection of population, is forecast to conclude at the beginning of the next century - and the economic development process in the SSA. Therefore, unless there is an acceleration of development in the SSA region, the increase in the flow of migrants is unavoidable.

Fig. 1 Asylum seekers in Europe (thousands)
 
Source: Eurostat
 
Fig. 2 Sub-Sahara Population Projections: absolute population (billions), birth and mortality rates (%)
 
Source: United Nations
 
[1] Azose et al. (2016), “Probabilistic population projections with migration uncertainty, PNAS, June 2016, 113 no.23.
[2] Gonzalez-Garcia J. et  al. (2016), “Sub-Sarahan African Migration Patterns and Spillovers”, IMF Spillover Notes 9, November 2016
[3] http://frontex.europa.eu/news/fewer-migrants-at-eu-borders-in-2016-HWnC1J