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Pakistan: Survey on drivers of migration: Migrants in Europe during COVID-19

Countries: Pakistan, World
Source: International Organization for Migration

Please refer to the attached file.


In 2019, Pakistan constituted one of the top 10 emigration countries in the world, accounting for 6.3 million emigrants; over three per cent of the country’s population (UNDESA, 2019). Emigration from Pakistan can most commonly be characterized as labour migration, with remittances from working abroad comprising a core part of the country’s economy and its government’s efforts to reduce unemployment and poverty in Pakistan (IOM, 2020). Migrating abroad is further encouraged by the government’s development of an advanced legal and institutional framework for migration as well as a dedicated ministry, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, which manages and maintains the welfare of Pakistani nationals abroad (IOM (c), 2019).

Though the Gulf States are major destinations for Pakistani emigrants, in particular labour migrants, nearly one million Pakistani emigrants of the total global Pakistani migrant stock in 2019 were residing in Europe (ILO, 2019; UNDESA, 2019). As the global number of Pakistani emigrants has risen steadily during the past two decades, the percentage of those going to Europe has increased proportionally, rendering the continent a consistent and significant destination for Pakistani nationals looking to migrate overseas (UNDESA, 2019). Land routes between Pakistan and Europe are well-established and highly organized, while sea routes see the arrival of hundreds to thousands of Pakistani nationals to Europe’s shores each year (IOM (c), 2019; IOM (b), 2019).

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With the increasing importance of Europe as a destination country for Pakistani nationals, the objective of the Survey on Drivers of Migration: Migrants in Europe During COVID-19 (SDM 2) is to present a snapshot of Pakistani migrants (either in transit locations or final destinations) in Europe and their motivations to migrate. The SDM 2 is preceded by the Survey on Drivers of Migration: Potential Migrants in Pakistan (SDM 1), which focused on potential migrants in Pakistan and was conducted in January 2020. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has emerged worldwide, affecting migration conditions on a large scale, including severely limiting employment access and incurring mobility restrictions, health concerns and debt repayment issues. In an effort to account for these new challenges, the SDM 2 also focuses on respondents’ immediate needs and vulnerabilities related to the COVID-19 crisis. This report furthermore presents a snapshot of the demographics, migrant support networks and return intentions of Pakistani migrants in Europe.

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The SDM 2 is implemented by IOM and funded by the European Union under a regional project called Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy (REMAP). The objective of REMAP, which is implemented by DTM at regional and country levels, is to strengthen the evidence-based formulation and implementation of humanitarian and development policy and programming on migration and forced displacement in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and Pakistan through the dissemination of insights gained from DTM’s research. Data for SDM 2 was collected between September and November 2020. Enumerators used a structured questionnaire and interviewed respondents via phone (land line, mobile or social media call). One hundred and sixty Pakistani nationals (currently residing in Europe) were interviewed in order to create a snapshot of migration motivations and current conditions in the wake of the global pandemic and altered global environment.

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This report is divided into two main sections, preceded by a summary of key findings. The first section covers the methodology used for the SDM 2, including sampling and limitations. The second section covers the findings and is divided into five thematic sub-sections. The first subsection contains a socio-economic profile of the respondents prior to migration. The second subsection explores the drivers of Pakistani migration in terms of life events encouraging people to leave Pakistan and challenges that migrants faced prior to migration. In the third subsection, the report examines how respondents obtained information relevant to their migration decision-making and transnational support structures. The fourth subsection examines respondents’ perceptions of conditions related to COVID-19 in their current locations as well as their primary needs and vulnerabilities. Finally, the last subsection comprises respondents’ future intentions to potentially return to Pakistan.

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