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Who? How? Where? Why? The migration profile of the Republic of Moldova

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In the early 90’s, the national statistics of the newly formed Moldova reported a population of 4.5 million inhabitants. Today, this number has dropped significantly and, as it seems, it still continues to drop. Who are the people that are leaving Moldova today, what are the means they use, what are the destination countries, why do they leave and what are the consequences of the migration phenomenon in Moldova will be discussed in this article.

The total population of the Republic of Moldova was recorded as being 2 681 734 inhabitants in 2019, according to the National Statistical Database of Moldova. The UN projections said that the Moldova’s population will decrease to 2 million inhabitants by 2100.

The migration situation is predominantly characterized by emigration of Moldovan citizens, while immigration of non-citizens or foreign-born persons can be described as insignificant from a statistical point of view, according to a statement of International Organisation for Migration.

Who?

The Extended Migration Profile of the Republic of Moldova Report for 2010-2015 displayed a number of Moldovan citizens who were residing abroad of approximately 753 800, out of whom 282 100 were staying for a period of 12 months and beyond, whereas the Statistical Compendium of Migration and Asylum Bureau displayed an estimated number of 805 509 Moldovan citizens registered as living abroad at the end of 2015.

The above-mentioned reports show that the majority of the emigrating population is from rural areas (69%), aged between 15 and 44 years (78.9%), with secondary education or high school degree (50%), predominantly being people who worked in agriculture before.

How?

Since April 2014, when the Moldova–European Union Association Agreement was signed, Moldovan citizens with biometric passports can travel to the Schengen Area without needing a visa. They may also stay in all EU countries for maximum 3 months in every 6 months. For longer periods of stay, Moldovan citizens need to obtain designated visas or work permits.

When looking at the Schengen visa applications though, it can be observed that not so many people actually apply for long-term visas – only 2627 people applied in 2018. That is happening because, at present, the big majority of citizens of Moldova don’t need any visa, as they are citizens of Romania as well.

source: statistics.schengenvisainfo.com/

The National Authority for Citizenship of Romania announced that, from 2002 until 2018, a total of 521 025 citizens of the Republic of Moldova regained the Romanian citizenship. Why regained? The territory of the today’s Republic of Moldova was part of Romania between 1918-1940, therefore the children and grandchildren of former Romanian citizens have the right to regain their grandparents’ or parents’ citizenship.

Where?

Since its independence, the migration from Moldova has been directed towards two main regions: The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, predominantly Russia (more than 59% of Moldovan migrants in 2015), as well as Western Europe, particularly Italy (more than 17% of Moldovan migrants in 2015).

source: made by the author, based on the Extended Migration Profile of the Republic of Moldova Report for 2010-2015

Why?

Today, people are not leaving for the same reasons as in the early 90’s. The emigration period between 1990-2000 was constrained by extreme poverty,  high rate of illegal crossing of the border and problems with trafficking in human beings.

Nowadays, the main push factor for Moldovan migrants is poverty as well, but also lack of adequate employment opportunities and low salaries, while higher living standards abroad act as a pull factor. People are not forced to leave by extreme poverty circumstances anymore, as they were in 90’s. They leave because they want to establish abroad and they take their entire families with them.

As Sergiu Tofilat, the expert of the Institute of European Policies and Reforms, stated for DW, people are moving abroad because the level of remuneration in Moldova is much lower compared to developed countries. “Similarly, the pension system is inefficient and unable to guarantee the employee a decent pension. Another cause is excessive corruption and bureaucracy in local and central public institutions, selective justice and the law firm’s biased activity. The interests of the citizens are not protected by the law, and they no longer trust the police and the prosecutor’s office. We can continue endlessly with the list of causes, such as the poorly developed medical and educational system, destroyed infrastructure,etc.” the expert said.

Young people are mainly leaving to look for a job or to study abroad, but there are also people who work only temporarily, having breaks to return home for 1-3 months.

source: iom.md

Positive consequences

People that leave and work abroad and still have families in the Republic of Moldova use to transfer money in form of remittances. These amounts of money represent not only an important source of income for people living in Moldova, but also contribute to the increase of GDP nominal value. In 2018, the Republic of Moldova ranks 9th in a world ranking of remittances related to GDP, with a value of 16.1%, according to the World Bank data.

In September 2019, there were transferred $100.45 million (up by 2.9% compared to September 2018) from abroad to individuals and private households through licensed banks of Moldova and official money transfer services, almost the entire amount representing remittances, as National Bank of Moldova reported.

source: made by the author, based on the data from the National Bank of Moldova

Negative consequences

At such an emigration rate, the Republic of Moldova is facing major demographic problems. The difference between mortality and birthrate increases year by year. In 2018 for example, the difference between the number of persons who died and those who were born was 2 565. The life expectancy in Moldova is one of the lowest in Europe. It was 66.2 years for men and 75 for women in 2018, according to the the National Statistical Database of Moldova.

There are no exact statistics that would indicate how many houses were left forever, how many children suffered from the temporary emigration of their parents and how many companies were closed because of workforce shortage. Still, these consequences persist and will continue to influence the economy and society of the Republic of Moldova for many years yet.

Society

Moldova’s response to COVID-19 – why are the taken measures not so efficient?

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During the last week, 344 contraventions related to non-compliance with anti-COVID-19 requirements were recorded in the Republic of Moldova, as the representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Sergiu Golovaci, reported.

The National Public Health Agency (NPHA) documented violations of epidemiological norms in the case of 20 beauty service providers, 16 commercial units and 7 medical and pharmaceuticals service providers last week. The grocery markets and shops usually get overcrowded, all preventive requirements being ignored or superficially met both by employees and clients.

Civilians are fined for violating the self-isolation regime, not taking preventive measures, not keeping social distance or participating in unauthorised events and meetings. At the same time, the number of citizens who notify the police when observing cases of non-compliance with prevention measures have increased, the MIA representatives announced.

Authorities claim that the citizens are manifesting irresponsibility when asked to follow the established rules. That is certainly so, but only up to a certain point, as the evolution of the pandemic situation depends, first of all, on the anti-coronavirus measures the authorities take and the way these measures are enforced.

Since the beginning of the pandemic period, Moldovan authorities established a series of important measures to fight the novel coronavirus. The state of Public Health Emergency was prolonged until August 31. Therefore, restrictions regarding keeping social distance, hand hygiene rules, wearing masks in public transport, commercial spaces and closed public spaces, are maintained, along with the restrictions regarding groups of maximum 3 people in public spaces, meetings with the participation of maximum 50 people, restricted access to public spaces of people aged 63 and over, no private events allowed, etc. Nightclubs, educational and cultural units, sport centres, rest camps, treatment institutions, cinemas, concert halls, theatres remain closed.

Still, people tend to violate the imposed restrictions, that having a direct effect on the number of confirmed cases. The MIA representatives reported multiple cases when fines were charged for the illicit organisation of weddings and other celebrations or allowing more people than the restricted level in restaurants and bars. People seem ignorant on the one hand, but also desperate on the other hand, especially when talking about the industries that were affected the most by the pandemic restrictive measures.

Here are just some possible reasons why people tend to not follow the rules and restrictions in the Republic of Moldova:

The influence of powerful anti-models

The most iconic example of a public anti-model for people when it comes to following rules is President Igor Dodon.  First, the president expressed a superficial and uninformed opinion regarding the novel coronavirus, saying it is not more than a flu that affects merely older people. Moreover, Dodon repeatedly posted photos and videos on social media where it can be observed that meetings with local public authorities, businesses, civilians, including older people and children, were conducted without wearing a protective mask and  keeping social distance, especially indoors.

Recently, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Pavel Voicu, declared that President Dodon will not be sanctioned for non-compliance with the rules and measures for preventing COVID-19 contagion, despite the fact it was clear that he publicly disregarded them.

Conspiracies and wrong beliefs

People in Moldova have to deal with a lot of fake news, conspiracies and wrong beliefs regarding the novel coronavirus. According to a survey conducted by the WatchDog.MD community, in cooperation with CBS Research, 45% of the Moldovan citizens who answered the opinion poll don’t trust at all or trust very little the World Health Organisation as a source of information. 5.2% of them don’t even know anything about the organisation. For Moldovans, especially those from rural areas, local news, neighbours and church are the most ‘trusted’ sources of information.

See also: Survey// Popular COVID-19 fake news in Moldova and people’s (dis)information sources

The authorities from Moldova make very little efforts to combat such wrong beliefs. In July, the NPHA published an article containing the most often myths related to the novel coronavirus that circulate in the Moldovan society the counterarguments to them. But here is where the authorities’ efforts seem to stop in this regard.

Low trust in state institutions

According to a study conducted by the Association of Sociologists and Demographers of the Republic of Moldova at the beginning of this year, 31.9% of survey respondents do not trust the parliament, 22.8% do not count on politicians and their activity and 27.3% of respondents don’t trust the judiciary from Moldova. Earlier surveys show similar results.

People in Moldova are really hesitant when it comes to national statistics and prefer to address a problem to the police or to a medical institution only in the very last moment. The feeling that they are on their own is deeply rooted in their minds for decades. This is one of the reason why they tend to not follow the rules and comply with the law. Especially, that is valid if the rules are not in their direct interests.

Population living in poverty and affected businesses

A recent UNDP report stated that, during the coronavirus pandemic, people having a low level of income who are not socially insured are the most vulnerable to the risks that COVID-19 implies.

According to the NBS data23% of Moldovans have an income below the poverty line, and the income of 8.7% of the population is below the extreme poverty line. That represents at least a quarter of population that doesn’t afford to regularly buy protective equipment or expensive medicines (if it’s the case), people who use the overcrowded public transportation (especially in big cities) and grocery markets, people who don’t have access to trusted sources of information and don’t make it a top priority.

There are pension and allowance beneficiaries in Moldova who still can’t afford to take all protective measures against COVID-19. There are business that received very little or almost no support from the Moldovan Government during the pandemic.

See also: Poor people from Moldova are the most vulnerable to COVID-19

There are people who are more vulnerable to fear, fake news, discrimination, risk of contagion, partially due to their ignorance, imprudence or indifference, but also due to the poor implementation and enforcement of rules and restrictions.

Photo: Kelly Sikkema| Unsplash
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Reintegration

Promo-LEX: “The peacekeeping operation in Transnistria continues to be inappropriate, inefficient and dangerous for people.”

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28 years ago, the peacekeeping mission in Transnistria was formed. On this occasion, Promo-LEX Association issued a communication, assessing the role of the mission in resolving the Transnistrian conflict. Nowadays, there are 15 permanent posts of peacekeeping forces, composed of 1300 soldiers from the Russian Federation, the Transnistrian region and the Republic of Moldova, as well as representatives of the Transnistrian administration and Ukrainian military observers, as the association informed.

“After almost three decades, the role of the Peacekeeping Operation is still debatable at the international level as it has not contributed to resolving the conflict [in Transnistria] or the day-to-day problems faced by the people on both sides of the Dniester. On the contrary, the situation has steadily deteriorated. Numerous incidents happened, all of them being ignored by this improper structure,” Promo-LEX representatives mentioned.

On the other hand, both the Russian Federation and the administration of the Transnistrian region insist on ​​the effectiveness of this operation.

“Moreover, anyone who has a different opinion in Tiraspol risks ‘criminal’ sanctions for criticising these peacemakers.”

Still, the experts perceive the mission as an impartial one, highlighting that it does not correspond to the UN standards. In this regard, the need to transform the peacekeeping mission into an international civilian mission has been brought up to discussion for years, especially after repeated incidents when the life of civilians was put in danger by Russian peacemakers.

“Changing the format of the peacekeeping operation to an international civilian mission is necessary in order to guarantee human rights protection on this territory.”

“The numerous incidents in the Security Zone or the abuses committed by the representatives of the peacekeeping forces did not lead to discussions about further prevention of such situations, modification of certain rules or transformation of the mission,” noticed Promo-LEX.

The peacekeeping operation in Transnistria is formed of belligerent forces, imposed and led by the Russian Federation, which took part to the Transnistrian war in 1992. The Russian Federation maintains its military troops on this territory, contrary to the will of the constitutional authorities.

Regardless of the controversial statute of the peacekeeping operation, President of the Republic of Moldova Igor Dodon and the Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselski have reiterated its importance during a recent meeting. “We reiterated the importance of the peacekeeping operation as a guarantor of peace and security of citizens and agreed to take common steps to prevent the aggravation of the situation in the Security Zone, which would undermine peace and stability throughout Moldova,” stated Dodon.

The Transnistrian leader Vadim Krasnoselski stated that withdrawing peacekeeping forces from the region is out of the question, according to Infotag News Agency. “Discussions that the operation should be phased out or reformed are inadequate. The Moldovan-Transnistrian issue is still open. That is why, we cannot talk about the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces,” claimed the Transnistrian leader.

Photo: novostipmr.com

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Economy

The IMF staff and Moldovan authorities agreed on a new economic program

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On July 24-27, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Ruben Atoyan, held remote discussions with the Moldovan authorities. As a result, a staff-level agreement was reached on an economic reform program to be supported by three-year Extended Credit Facility and Extended Fund Facility (ECF/EFF) arrangements, according to a press release of the IMF Resident Representative Office in Moldova. The newly signed agreement would allow the Republic of Moldova to access about $558 million of financial assistance.

The staff level agreement is subject to approval by IMF Management and the Executive Board. Moreover, the financial assistance is subject to the authorities’ implementation of a number of prior actions in areas of the central bank independence, financial sector supervision and fiscal transparency, being based on progress made under the previous program.

Source: gov.md

“The new ECF/EFF arrangements will help maintain macroeconomic stability, provide an anchor for authorities’ policies to support the post-pandemic recovery, and catalyse external financing from other donors. Building on progress made under the previous program, the new arrangement will also strive to advance ambitious institutional reforms aimed at tackling widespread vulnerabilities in areas of fiscal governance, non-bank financial sector oversight, market regulation, anti-corruption, and rule of law,” stated Mr. Atoyan.

The government assessment plan, using relevant criteria and indicators, will provide a specific and concrete diagnosis of the level of governance and anti-corruption in the Republic of Moldova. Based on the obtained results, the IMF team will make reasonable recommendations, so that corruption could be reduced and economic performance could be improved.

The IMF representatives highlighted, at the same time, that the governmental reform of the National Bank of Moldova (NBM) supported by the Fund was an important achievement for Moldova. “The successful clean-up of the banking sector in the aftermath of the major bank fraud is a credit to the supervisory work of the NBM. Unequivocal commitment to the non-reversibility of the banking sector reforms is critical for the financial sector stability. An independent central bank helps macroeconomic stability, supports investor confidence, and protects the financial system—all crucial preconditions for inclusive and sustainable growth. It is in the interest of Moldova to preserve the independence of NBM and it is also a critical requirement under the new IMF-supported program,” claimed Ruben Atoyan after the consultations with Moldova ended.

Photo: Reuters

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