Henley & Partners
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Henley & Partners

Migration and Mobility in the Middle East

Lorraine Charles, Research Associate at the Centre for Business Research at the University of Cambridge, UK

Migration in the Middle East is largely dominated by the impact of regional conflict. With the political situation in countries such as Syria, Libya, and Yemen becoming increasingly complex, it is likely that these patterns will continue in 2020.

As the Syrian conflict entered its ninth year in 2019, over
12 million Syrians remained displaced. Contracting economies in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, the reluctance of their governments to provide a durable solution via local integration, and shrinking global resettlement quotas have meant that options are limited for Syrian refugees. Although the situation within the country remains critical, voluntary returns to Syria have risen, in part due to the difficult conditions in host countries.

The four-year conflict in Yemen also deteriorated in 2019, impacting migration trends. Although the majority of those displaced (3.6 million people) remain within the country’s borders, 80% of the population is in need of assistance and protection. Yet despite these worsening conditions, over 250,000 Somali refugees have fled to Yemen. In addition, large numbers of East African migrants, destined for Saudi Arabia to seek economic opportunity, arrive in Yemen monthly.

Escalating armed conflict in Libya has continued to fuel internal displacement. With increasing state fragility, migrant flows from sub-Saharan Africa to the European Union have increased, and both state actors and irregular armed groups are now key players in transnational human trafficking networks.

As these conflicts show no signs of abating — and with renewed protests in Egypt and Iraq, and recent demonstrations in Lebanon — forced displacement will most likely continue to dominate migration patterns in the Middle East.

Migration and mobility in the Middle East
Amnesty International. 2019. ‘Lebanon: Authorities must immediately halt deportation of Syrian refugees.’ August 27.
Mixed Migration Centre. 2019. Mixed Migration Review 2019.
Mixed Migration Centre. 2019. Quarterly Mixed Migration Update: Middle East.
The Economist. 2019. ‘Turkey tightens restrictions on Syrian refugees.’
September 5.
UNHCR. 2019. ‘Syria Regional Refugee Response’.
UNHCR. 2019. ‘Syria Emergency’.
UNHCR. 2019. ‘Yemen’.



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