How Migration to Europe Affects Those Left Behind

Megan Passey

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 35-37


Families are frequently separated as a result of migration and displacement from the Middle East to Europe. Migrants often underestimate the time needed to reach their destination and for their asylum claim to be processed, and there is limited planning for those left behind. There may be positive consequences for those left behind if just one individual departs who faces a higher risk due to their age, gender, religion, occupation or political affiliation (e.g. young men approaching the age of military recruitment). However, in other cases family separation may create multiple challenges such as: (a) restricted access to livelihoods or reduced household income if the person who left was the main earner; (b) restricted access to basic services due to lack of funds to pay for transport, lack of a male chaperone, limited financial resources to pay for consultations, medicine and school books; (c) increased vulnerability and insecurity for women and children when an adult male leaves; (d) changing roles and responsibilities within the family, especially when the main earner or head of family leaves; and (e) psychological effects of family separation on health. Humanitarian assistance for family members left behind is often difficult to access and insufficient to meet needs, particularly for female-headed households. The single most important strategy to protect those left behind is for the household’s main earner to stay behind. In contrast, families comprising a woman on her own with young children were typically the most vulnerable.