Return migration to Bulgaria has accelerated in recent years driven by crisis-related factors since Bulgarian emigration was largely towards crisis-hit countries such as Greece, Spain, and the United Kingdom, according to the OECD’s latest International Migration Outlook report.
Bulgaria’s economic growth has fallen from its pre-crisis pace and its shrinking demand discourages foreign labour migration and other migration inflows, according to the OECD report, released on June 13 2013.
The number of permanent residence permits issued to foreign citizens has been falling from its peak of 4600 in 2008, to 3200 in 2011.
Acquisition of longterm residence permits, at 19 300, also remains below pre-crisis levels. Turkey (1140 and 5450) and the Russian Federation (220 and 3 780) led in new granted permits in both cases in 2011.
Only 600 work permits were issued in 2011, a decrease from 770 in 2010, the OECD report said.
The economic situation has not affected applications for Bulgarian citizenship by foreign citizens of Bulgarian origin.
The number of newly naturalised Bulgarian citizens hit a record of 18 470 in 2011, up 4000 from 2010.
The number of foreign students, rising over the past decade, reached a new high of 11 080 in the 2011-12 academic year, with most from Turkey (5000) or Greece (1900). Foreign students represent only 4.1 per cent of all students.
Asylum is a limited phenomenon in Bulgaria, with 900 applicants in 2011, according to the OECD report.
According to Bulgaria’s 2011 national census, 36 700 foreigners live permanently in Bulgaria, representing 0.5 per cent of the population, more than in 2001. Most foreigners are citizens of non-EU European countries.
The census indicated a rapid decline in Bulgaria’s population, one-third of which is attributed to international emigration (175 200 persons over the 2001-11 census period), the OECD report said.
Data from destination countries indicate a sizeable short-term and seasonal outflow, estimated at between 300 000 and 400 000.
According to a 2011 National Public Opinion Institute survey of 1 000 respondents, 12 per cent stated they would emigrate once restrictions on free movement to the EU were lifted, a three per cent increase from 2009. A further 28 per cent intend to work or study abroad for a defined period of time.
Skilled migration from Bulgaria over the past decade was led by information technology specialists, while now doctors and highly skilled medical staff rank high, according to the OECD report.
Return migration has accelerated in recent years driven by crisis-related factors since Bulgarian emigration was largely towards crisis-hit countries such as Greece, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
The number of Bulgarians returning has been increasing, from 9500 in 2006 to 15 300 in 2008 and 23 800 in 2010.
According to the 2011 census, 191 400 Bulgarians returned to Bulgaria after more than one year abroad over the 1980-2011 period.
“Most emigration therefore appears temporary,” the report said.
According to the OECD report, overall, migration has started to pick up again, driven largely by people moving within the European Union, after three years of continuous decline during the crisis. But the employment prospects for immigrants have worsened, with around one in two unemployed immigrants in Europe still looking for work after more than 12 months.
The report says that migration into OECD countries rose by two per cent in 2011 from the previous year, to reach almost four million. Recent national data suggest a similar increase in 2012.
Migration within the European Union rose by 15 per cent, following a decline of almost 40 per cent during the crisis. The trend of people leaving countries hardest hit by the crisis is accelerating, up by 45 per cent from 2009 to 2011.
The number of Greeks and Spaniards moving to other EU countries has doubled since 2007, reaching 39 000 and 72 000, respectively.
Germany saw a 73 per cent increase of Greek immigrants between 2011 and 2012, close to 50 per cent for Spanish and Portuguese nationals and 35 per cent for Italians.
(Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)