We are pleased to present the report on circular migration flows between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. It is the product of a fruitful collaboration between four research institutions – Warsaw-based CASE – Center for Social and Economic Research, CASE Belarus, the Institute for Politics and Society (Czech Republic), and the Institute of Economic Research, SAS (Slovakia). The partners teamed up to implement the project “CIRCMIGR: Improving circular migration between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and Czechia”. Additionally, Youth Labour Rights, an NGO based in Belarus, was responsible for launching and maintaining a website addressed to Belarusians interested in working in Poland, Slovakia, or the Czech Republic. The implementation of this project was possible thanks to co-financing from the governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from the International Visegrad Fund.
The report examines the social and economic drivers and impact of circular migration between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The core question the authors sought to address was how managing circular migration could, in the long term, help to optimise labour resources in both the country of origin and the destination countries. In the pages that follow, the authors of the report present the current and forecasted labour market and demographic situation in their respective countries as well as the dynamics and characteristics of short-term labour migration flows between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, concentrating on the period since 2010. They also outline and discuss related policy responses and evaluate prospects for cooperation on circular migration.
Circular migration flows between the countries examined in the report were affected by two events that occurred in 2020. The first was the COVID-19 pandemic. The worldwide spread of the coronavirus caused three major shocks – to public health systems, to states’ economies, and to the global financial system. The pandemic also temporarily closed borders and essentially stopped international migration. These measures, together with the border restrictions and lockdown measures which followed the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, have affected circular migration flows between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic as well. Surprisingly, in the case of Poland, however, this influence was limited in time and related only to the first months of the pandemic (March-April 2020). In fact, 2020 was the sixth consecutive year since 2014 during which the number of documents issued to Belarusian nationals as part of the simplified system of employing foreign nationals in Poland increased. Longer-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on circular migration patterns and related policies are yet to be seen, but preliminary observations are presented in the respective chapters.
The second event that occurred in 2020 which affected circular migration flows between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic was the Belarusian presidential election held in August. The announcement of the official results, according to which Alexander Lukashenko could commence his sixth term in office as the president of Belarus, provoked political demonstrations and mass anti-government protests across the country. As a result, officially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Belarusian government closed land border crossings for people wishing to leave the country from 21 December 2020 until further notice. This issue, as it is rather recent and thus difficult to evaluate fully, is just signalled in the report.
The report is divided into five main parts. It starts with the executive summary, which discusses the concept of circular migration and synthesises the main findings of the country chapters. The country-specific section includes a chapter concentrated on Belarus, followed by chapters dedicated to the Visegrad Group countries under study – Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Each country chapter ends with a set of recommendations addressed to policy makers. Notes on the contributors can be found at the end of the report.