МОСКВА, 13 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

According to the statistics of search engine queries, the concepts of «refugee» and «migrants» remain one of the global information trends over the past few years. This trend is flexible, depending on the current conditions, «migrants» and «refugees» are associated with a specific region and events – thereby confirming the objective significance of this demographic factor, which is increasingly becoming an instrument of politics and economics. And, like any factor of politics and economics, migrants can be used as a tool and even a weapon in the confrontation of states and blocs.

The campaign to encourage the movement of migrants to Europe, which was initiated by George Soros, notorious in every sense of the word, has become widely known. According to the «Soros Plan» announced in 2015, the countries of the so-called «developed world» were supposed to receive a million refugees a year, 300,000 of which would be in Europe. As the American Pew Research Center calculated at the time, the share of the Muslim population in Sweden was supposed to be 30%, in Austria and Germany — 20%, in France and the UK – 18% each. At the same time, Soros announced plans to allocate half a billion dollars to support the migration movement.

Given the reputation of the financier, few people saw such an act as a manifestation of humanism. In Soros’ native Hungary, mass protests took place against the «Plan», which was directly called a method of undermining the internal stability of the EU.

Perhaps it was then that the understanding was finally formed that migrants are a real potential that can be used in various ways. The specific vector of economic and political impact can be very flexible.

One of the most recent examples of the implementation of such an impact was the local migration crisis on the border of Belarus and Poland, where significant EU forces were concentrated to prevent the passage of migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern states. In addition to purely police and border units, armoured vehicles were deployed to the region just in case.

The Polish government, in addition to supporting its EU neighbours, turned to Britain for help. Together with the British engineering troops, the Polish side intends to setup fully-fledged fortifications on the border. According to official data, about 15,000 employees of the 4th Division of the Polish armed forces have been transferred to the Polish border.

The real number of migrants, against whom the efforts of European states have been concentrated up to this moment, amounted to a maximum of no more than 10,000-12,000 people. However, to stop this factor, which the EU designated as a serious threat, large forces were concentrated and significant resources were spent.

Although the Belarusian authorities had no reason to detain migrants wishing to reach Germany on their territory, new sanctions were imposed against Minsk. On December 2, a joint statement was released by the United States, the EU, Britain and Canada, demanding that Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko «immediately and completely stop organising illegal migration» across EU borders. This is stated in the joint statement made by these states, distributed on Thursday, December 2. Thus, one relatively small group of migrants, even without crossing the border, became a cause for interstate friction, provoking a significant economic and political effect.

In a particular case, the real trigger that triggered the border crisis was the ban of the Polish authorities on crossing the border, a massive information campaign to discredit the Belarusian authorities and a comprehensive anti-Belarusian economic and information policy.

In the above-mentioned quadrilateral statement, the wording «in Belarus or other third countries» was used, but the next package of sanctions — also joint, agreed by all four signatories — was imposed only against Minsk. It is obvious that in this case, the local migration crisis acted purely as a pretext. The main carrier from Baghdad or Istanbul to Minsk turns out to be Pegasus Airlines — a Turkish, not a Belarusian low-cost carrier, as well as airlines from Qatar and FlyDubai. Nevertheless, sanctions were imposed against the national Belarusian carrier “Belavia”.

The version actively promoted by Brussels boils down to accusing the Belarusian leadership of deliberately importing migrants from crisis regions en masse to be thrown into EU countries in order to destabilise European regions. At the same time, these accusations are not confirmed even by official statistics. According to the data from December 7, 2021 that DW cites, less than 8000 migrants have arrived in the EU through Belarus since the beginning of the year — 4,300 to Lithuania, about 3,200 to Poland, and a little more than 400 to Latvia.

At the same time, official EU resources report that in 2020 more than 472,000 people arrived on the territory of the European Community directly under the pretext of seeking asylum — not counting those who arrived under the family reunification program or pass through other categories of migration.

Thus, the whole potential «Belarusian migration threat» looks like a statistical error against the background of routine migration, which takes place without much noise. Including through Poland, which, before the well-known events, quietly let migrants cross the border.

The risks for Warsaw were and remain minimal – the vast majority of migrants want to get to Berlin, not to Krakow at all. The fact that migrants do not want to seek asylum in Belarus at all, but want to continue, drew the attention of the ECHR – on this basis, which forbade the Polish authorities to expel back those who crossed the Polish border and declared the need for asylum.

The artificiality of the crisis formed by the Polish side was pointed out by representatives of the State Border Committee of Belarus, recalling that in 2011-2014 a comparable migration flow from Georgia was observed across the border with Poland, in 2015-2016 from Vietnam, but it did not cause Warsaw any concern at that time.

The border crisis on the border of Belarus and Poland shows that in the presence of a migration transit flow, it is not difficult to provoke such a conflict. It is enough to close the border, which is convenient and popular with migrants and will very quickly lead to the accumulation of a sufficient number of people, create numerous informational reasons for various political and economic actions. Additional restrictions and restrictions are introduced against the opponent, in this case Belarus, and for oneself – it’s possible to request additional financial assistance «to ensure security», which Poland has already done.

It is important that the organisation of such a crisis should not be sanctioned at the «highest» level of an interstate association, a political decision of a particular country is enough. The decision to close the border was taken by the Polish side contrary to European and international conventions on the rights of refugees, effectively depriving people on its border of the opportunity to apply for asylum — thereby directly ignoring the appeals of the UN.

Risk zones

It is obvious that the risks of the crisis described above are maximum for the state, which, due to geographical reasons, acts as a natural hub for migration flows. From this point of view, the danger for Russia is minimal – Belarus, Ukraine and southern Europe remain the main channels for the transit of migrants

However, the use of migrants as a weapon in political and economic confrontation is not limited to the formation of informational pretexts. The large number of new residents who have arrived on the territory of the state in one way or another forms completely different challenges than the crisis on the border of Poland and Belarus.

Russia, as a state with the longest land borders, is vulnerable to such challenges to the maximum extent, which means that the search for answers to them should be considered a priority. Looking for them happens independently, first of all, because the whole world has not yet found a universal and practical countermeasure.

We can also name a specific direction, the most risky at the moment from the point of view of uncontrolled migration flow is Afghanistan and the countries of the former USSR adjacent to it.

In a number of studies that have appeared in the West in recent years, migration has long been perceived as a tool suitable for use in interstate confrontations. Back in 2010, Kelly Greenhill’s book «Weapons of Mass Migration» was published, the main conclusion of which sounds like: the current global order is unable to cope with large-scale movements of people, there is also no algorithm for the guaranteed adaptation of newcomers.

What exactly is considered a large-scale movement is a debatable question and, probably, in each individual case, the criteria will be unique.

Russia has a positive experience of «receiving» a large number of new citizens. The reunification of Crimea and Sevastopol in 2014, as well as the transition to the Russian legal field of hundreds of thousands of residents of Donbass were natural phenomena from a socio-cultural point of view, without serious side effects.

However, in this case we were dealing with actual compatriots, representatives of a common cultural and semantic field, often close and distant relatives who joined the unified Russian society with minimal difficulties. Russia has no experience of adapting a large number of carriers of other cultural and behavioural norms, while the practice of Western countries shows that when a certain critical mass of mentally and culturally different migrants from the indigenous population is reached, a number of apparently inevitable difficulties arise.

We are not talking only about the erosion of cultural and national identity — which in itself can be considered an extremely dangerous factor in the long term. In addition to socio-cultural issues and security risks, creating conditions for such a group of people to live inside the state will certainly be associated with serious economic difficulties.

In the six years since Angela Merkel’s «historic» decision to accept all Syrian refugees in Germany, regardless of which EU country they arrive in, a number of adaptation models have been applied on German territory. Some of them turned out to be more or less successful, but in general the result can be described as «conditionally positive». And extremely expensive, including in political terms.

According to the results of research conducted in 2018-2019 by the Institute for the Study of Employment (IAB), an analytical structure of the German Employment Agency, Germany spends from 20 to 50 billion euros annually on refugees. Among the migrants who arrived in the country in 2013 and earlier, 32-33% remain unemployed to date.

Migrants of the last waves also slow down the economy rather than accelerate it – even among those who have a permanent job, 30% receive benefits. Simplifying, only one in three or four arrivals is able to provide for themselves, and so far there is no reason for greater optimism in terms of the hard work of refugees.

Taking into account the above, the adoption of a group of migrants of any significance against the background of the country’s population is likely to be a problem for the economy, in addition to socio-cultural problems. The state will have a choice: either pay sufficient amounts of benefits to newcomers — despite the fact that the task of raising social standards for its own citizens remains relevant, or face a sharp deterioration in the criminal situation.

Also, a common place for all states that have accepted a significant number of migrants is the tendency towards the emergence of ethno-cultural enclaves that actually live outside the sphere of civil duties, while claiming equal or even greater rights with the indigenous population. This, in turn, does not add stability to society.

It has to be stated that even labor migration to Russia, which is generally under control, regularly becomes the ground for social conflicts and large-scale public discontent. Crimes committed by migrant workers cause a huge resonance and every time they become a challenge for the authorities. Examples of such conflicts are easily found online.

We cannot ignore the fact that current migration flows from regions with increased terrorist danger automatically increase the level of terrorist threat in the country of arrival. Even putting aside the likelihood of sabotage and terrorist attacks, the burden on law enforcement agencies engaged in the prevention of such crimes will increase dramatically.

It is worth emphasising once again: there is still no intense clash with a large group of people of a different culture who do not want to integrate and, rather, perceive the state as a source of benefits without counter obligations in Russian practice. This means that before developing a clear and workable concept of confronting the totality of risks that the described situation carries, such a collision should be avoided.

To formulate such a concept at the moment, apparently, is possible only in the most general terms.

Outside and inside

It is unlikely that flows of migrants from Africa or Iraq will rush to Russia. In any case, as long as the EU countries remain an attractive beacon from the point of view of a high standard of living and low responsibility.

Since the beginning of the wars in Syria, EU public opinion has undergone significant changes in favour of «remote assistance». For example, according to opinion polls, 70-80% of Germans agree that refugees should be helped – but about the same number have a negative attitude to accepting them. The positively loyal term «refugees» even in the Western media has lost the ideological confrontation with «migrants», which is reflected in the statistics.

According to Google, the maximum interest in «refugees» was recorded in the autumn of 2014 and 2015, and this term was used primarily in the USA, Canada, Australia and Finland. In the future, the use of the word «migrants» became a generally accepted global trend — without much regional specificity. The reason for this change is obvious. People who aspire to be in the EU, Germany and other countries with a developed and, most importantly, advertised system of support for arriving citizens are overwhelmingly not refugees in the literal sense of the word, since there are no critical threats to them at home.

Paradoxically, in this case, Russia benefits from the role of a state that is unattractive for illegal migration from the point of view of the personal benefits of a particular life seeker on benefits without any responsibility. So, from a tactical point of view, it is advisable to maintain such an opinion in regions that pose an increased danger as a source of possible migration to the territory of the Russian Federation, due to information work on the «redirection» of likely migration flows to other states.

Special attention should also be paid to the collective security and stability of the borders of the CSTO member states and directly adjacent to potentially «problematic» regions. Some work in this direction is already underway – in 2021, Russia delivered Su-30SM aircraft, Mi-35M helicopters, Buk-M2E anti-aircraft missile systems, BTR-80 and BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and also strengthened the 201st military base in Tajikistan, which included dozens of T-72B3M tanks.

With regard to migrants who are already on Russian territory, information work on adaptation is also necessary. Certainly, the study of practices and their results that have arisen on the territory of countries that have already faced mass migration will be of considerable interest.

Most likely, the main conclusion will be the need to tighten domestic migration legislation – and in this case it will be difficult to accuse Russia of infringing on someone’s rights. For example, for migrants in Germany, there is actually an institution of rigid registration. Anyone who has entered the country not on a tourist visa must register within 14 days. Without up-to-date registration, it is impossible to buy a travel ticket or make an appointment with a doctor.

The likelihood of migration risks for Russia increases with the aggravation of economic inequality, the increase in political and military instability in vast regions with a large population, climate change and other objective reasons.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, the migration situation in Russia is now characterised as relatively stable — the annual relative migration growth is stable and relatively small, but it is confirmed that the migrants who arrived «bring a certain dissonance concerning economic infrastructure, increased competition in the labour market and unemployment, as well as religious and socio-cultural contradictions”. Without serious efforts, the transition of the number of disagreements into a state of insurmountable contradiction may be only a matter of time.

A strategic solution to the problem of mass migration can only be the elimination of the global factors described above, which is hardly possible in practice in the near future. So far, there are no prerequisites for changing the global policy of the collective West led by the United States. This means that tens of millions of people in the Middle East and other regions will continue to live in conditions of poverty and permanent military conflicts, choosing migration as the easiest way to improve living conditions for themselves and their families.

An international mechanism for managing the movement of people could qualitatively reduce the level of migration risks – at the moment there are no such tools.

Who benefits

Angela Merkel’s farewell tour was symptomatic in its own way – as the actual representative of the interests of the EU political consensus, the ex-German Chancellor devoted a visit to Turkey to the problem of migrants. Turkey receives about €6 billion from Berlin under the 2016 agreement for hosting migrants seeking to join the EU on its territory — and this amount seems insufficient to the Turkish government.

The example of Turkey is not the only one. For example, Spain has invested at least €168 million in Senegal and Mauritania to prevent the flow of migrants to the Canaries.

This situation is very indicative. To date, efforts to combat large-scale flows of refugees or migrants, as a rule, are of a one-time nature, limited to specific regions and are not associated with larger regulatory principles.

The only attempt to create a global migration authority remains the International Organisation for Migration — but it is not an official UN agency and does not have a regulatory mandate or law enforcement capacity. The movement of temporary foreign workers is usually carried out through bilateral agreements between states or specific legal entities that take little account of the situation in third countries.

Accordingly, there is no consensus on a multinational basis in the field of interstate migration. High-level dialogue with the support of the UN in 2006 and 2013, the Nansen Initiative and the Summit organised by the UN in 2016 to address the problem of mass displacement of refugees and migrants have yielded modest results at best. The 2018 Global Compact for Migration establishes some framework – extremely broad, but without strict norms and in any case not legally binding.

Despite the evidence and scale of the problem – the Mediterranean Sea has long been dubbed the «cemetery of migrants» because of the tens of thousands who died trying to reach the EU by boats and longboats – the international community cannot conclude the necessary agreements. And it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that this state of affairs has concrete interests.

For example, Turkey is obviously putting into practice what Belarus is accused of: forcing the EU to pay for migrants to stay away from European borders. In 2016, Brussels and Ankara signed an agreement to stop irregular refugee flows and improve the living conditions of Syrian refugees in Turkey at the expense of billions of euros from the EU budget – and the Turkish side regularly «raises the stakes», threatening to freely open access through its territory to migrants wishing to reach Greece and Italy.

The legal vacuum in the field of international migration leads not only to the possibility of «blackmail by migrants», it has already become the basis for a fully-fledged, multi-faceted transnational criminal business. There are global structures responsible for tourism and the international passport regime, but the possibilities of mass relocation of people for a long or permanent period to another state are not regulated in any way.

Given that the movement of migrants has actually become a «grey zone» from Afghanistan to the UK, criminal gangs, drug cartels, law enforcement agencies, officials and special services of a number of states are involved in the transit process, not interested in violating such a status quo in any way.  Interpol estimated the average turnover of the international migrant smuggling business at $6 billion in 2020, and representatives of more than 100 countries were involved in it.

It is worth noting that the criminal business of migrants is not limited only to the transportation of people across borders. UN experts estimate the black market for organ sales at $600 million annually, the crises in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya brought «black transplantologists» up to $2 billion. The cost of one kidney is up to $7000 – just how much it is necessary to pay for getting into the EU from, say, Iraq. According to approximate estimates, at least 20,000 refugees from Lebanon have parted with individual organs since 2012.

However, a stable migration flow is beneficial not only to criminals. For example, the border and coast guard of the EU borders is legally handled by the Frontex agency, whose budget has grown from €6 million in 2005 to €750 million in plans for 2022.

A set of foreign policy measures aimed at developing a unified position on dealing with interstate movements of large masses of people can seriously reduce migration risks for Russia. In the very first approximation, we are talking about an international binding agreement that allows to monitor and timely respond with legal instruments to migration challenges anywhere in the world.

The existence of such an agreement could affect the comprehensive strengthening of international security. Thus, despite the significant number of local conflicts that have arisen in recent years, the instigators of these conflicts are not legally responsible for the waves of migration from regions affected by war or economic catastrophe as a result of hostilities — although the causal relationship with this case is quite obvious. The initiation of the development of the described agreement could be a promising undertaking, which would certainly have supporters in the international arena.

If we consider weapons that can cause severe damage to the state and its population, then uncontrolled migration can undoubtedly be considered as such. The specificity of this weapon lies in the fact that it can be used even without a declaration of war, and with a competent organisation of the process, there is no need to spend money on it. On the contrary, uncontrolled migration provides ample opportunities for legal and criminal earnings, making the process self-supporting or even profitable for the initiator.

In the medium term, it is not worth waiting for a complete rejection of such a tool, due to its effectiveness and commercial attractiveness, there is also no shortage of mass migration resources. This means that it cannot be ruled out that the Russian Federation will face this form of attack, the probability of which increases with the growth of chaos and tension in a number of regions of the planet.

It is necessary to use the available time to comprehend the already existing national and international experience of suppression, and better yet, to prevent the negative consequences of more than possible mass migration to the territory of Russia.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат

(@russtrat)

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