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There are a number of things to consider when exploring migration issues. Higher barriers to both orderly and disorderly migration elevate the risk of forgoing potential pathways to restoring livelihoods, closing income and labour gaps and maintaining political instability.
Inequality and Undevelopment
Disparity is driving migration, as poorer populations become better connected
In Afghanistan, for example, where GDP per capita was still only about $509 as of 2020 (compared with $2,283 in neighboring Iran, or $1,194 in Pakistan), according to World Bank data, the mobile phone subscription rate per 100 people surged from about 5 as of 2005 to nearly 60 by 2019 - and that was still one of the lowest rates recorded globally (by way of comparison, South Sudan’s rate was about 20 in 2019, while in Tajikistan it had reached 112 by 2017).
As of 2020, nearly two-thirds of the world’s international migrants were living in high-income countries, according to United Nations statistics, while refugees comprised only about 3% of the international migrants in these same locations.
Local populations have been gaining ever-greater visibility of this inequality, as digital communications services become increasingly available in traditionally poor and marginalized societies.
A research paper published in 2012 by the International Migration Institute, based on dozens of interviews with migrants settled in the Netherlands, found that social media and services like Skype were playing a crucial role in helping people thousands of miles from home to maintain ties to family and friends; the paper also found that online media lowered the threshold for people interested in migrating, making it more attractive than it would be otherwise.
The effects of economic inequality are far reaching; a person’s ability to earn a decent living is overwhelmingly determined by the country where he or she lives, and a typical worker in a poor country is about $10,000 less productive annually than they would be in a rich country, according to a working paper published by the Center for Global Development.
Most of the people migrating are doing so in order to seek a better life. They are in search of better incomes and means of securing food and shelter, and they are motivated by factors that are fundamental to the operation of any healthy civil society: the rule of law; safeguards to help prevent or limit corruption; access to health and education services; and protections from human rights abuses. In countries that are significant sources of migration, inequality remains pervasive or entrenched.
Demographic trends are posing migration challenges for some countries
The incentive to migrate due to demographic pressure is likely to increase in many parts of the world, at least until improved education for girls and greater gender parity improve development outcomes and reduce both fertility rates and entrenched poverty.
Africa’s population is the fastest growing in the world, and also one of the youngest - while Europe’s features the highest proportion of people older than 60, according to a report published in 2019 by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Demographic disparities between developed and developing parts of the world promise to exert a powerful influence on migration and mobility patterns in the very near future. Geographically proximate regions, such as Africa and Europe, which feature growing demographic and economic disparities, are likely to be acutely affected by this trend during the second half of the 21st century.
Other countries and regions faced with rapidly ageing populations have a need to replace retiring members of their workforces and active contributors to their economies. This issue is most acute in Europe, where countries including Germany and the United Kingdom are among those where fertility was actually below the population replacement level between 2010 and 2015, according to the UN.
Even when accounting for reductions in fertility rates in both developed and the least-developed countries, global population growth remains on track to present challenges for many countries and regions, which are likely to struggle with feeding, educating, housing and providing employment opportunities for expanding numbers of people.
Japan, where more than one quarter of the population (28%) was over the age of 65 by 2018, according to the World Bank, also faces a significant related challenge. International migration could provide a strategic benefit to such countries in need of replenishing their populations for economic, social, and political reasons. However, the ability to match labor market needs to migrant skills is likely to remain limited in many countries for the foreseeable future.
Governance and Regulation
Promoting the effective economic, social, and political integration of migrants can boost prosperity
The effective integration of migrants can lead to economic, social, and security benefits for everyone - not just for migrant communities. There should be a fuller recognition of successful integration policies and programs in some countries (such as traditional immigration countries like Australia, Canada, and the US) - and of the ongoing challenges in other countries (including some European Union members).
There has been greater recognition in recent years of the positive role that local governments can play in attracting and integrating migrants - both those who have moved within their country, as well as internationally. The innovative use of technology, often developed by migrants themselves, has helped to support effective integration services.
The German government, for example, implemented its “Asyl Online” digital platform to more efficiently transfer information among authorities involved in processing applicants for asylum. Germany provides an example of the irregular patterns of large-scale displacement and migration; the country received nearly 750,000 applications for asylum in 2016, which fell to 165,938 by 2019. Such irregularity has fed concerns about inadequate integration policies and the risks they pose to both migrants and receiving communities. Inadequate integration can potentially bolster public support for far-right, anti-immigration political efforts, for example, which in turn makes it more difficult to promote a balanced narrative about migration. Other extreme, but nevertheless potential risks include the religious radicalization of second- and third-generation migrants who have been marginalized in host societies due to poor integration efforts.
The Migrant Integration Policy Index, published in 2017, measured policies for integrating migrants in EU member states and other countries including the US, Canada, and Japan. Some key findings of the 2015 index included an average six-percentage-point decline in employment among non-EU citizens in the EU between 2008 and 2014, coupled with a four-percentage-point increase in their risk of poverty or social exclusion over the same period - to a level twice that of EU citizens. Sweden ranked first on the 2015 index, with a score of 78 (a score of 100 indicated the most favorable possible environment for migrants), while the US ranked 9th, the UK was 15th, and Turkey came in last.
Stronger regulatory frameworks are needed to manage migration and mobility.
As migration patterns become increasingly irregular, related regulation - mostly implemented at a national level - is at risk of failure. In the absence of a coherent international regime, many aspects of the issue remain unevenly addressed; these include labour migration (everything from high-skilled technical workers to domestic migrant workers), family reunification, student migration, tourism, smuggling and human trafficking, refugee protection, and remittances.
In 2018, an Intergovernmental Conference involving 164 United Nations member states adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. The compact was designed to better facilitate safer forms of migration, and provide for better cooperation on international migration in its various guises. It includes nearly two dozen objectives that offer a comprehensive approach, and each objective has several associated actions that could be pursued.
The compact recognizes the different migration situations that exist globally, and reaffirms the sovereignty of states over their migration policies. Implementation of the compact, on the part of the private sector, community groups, international organizations, and individual countries, will be critical for achieving its objectives.
In the lead-up to the conference that adopted the compact, there was a surge of far-right online activism and negative (at times false) depictions of the agreement and its potential impact. This appeared to be similar to the surge of far-right activism experienced during the European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, according to research published by the University of Dublin.
When more than 1 million asylum seekers arrived at the European border over the course of 2015, it tested the political bloc’s system of rules and regulations governing migration. That year, the European Commission proposed the European Agenda on Migration, designed to better foster a common asylum policy - and to save lives while securing borders. Globally, there is a recognized need to better manage international migration, both at the international and regional level.
Conflicts and Security Challenges
Migrants are facing inordinate threats to their basic human rights.
The work of governments to address migrant rights has been complicated by the proliferation of non-state actors.
Real and perceived increases in irregular migration are further diminishing migrants’ rights, while some states have not met their obligations to fully respect the fundamental human rights of migrants at all times.
In 2017, for example, the UN Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers heard statements from non-governmental organizations from Indonesia about failures to protect Indonesian female domestic workers from abuse and exploitation in destination countries.
The committee also heard statements from civil society representatives from Mexico, who described institutions in that country as being very weak - leading to serious human rights abuses including criminalization and prosecution of migrants that restricts their access to justice and health care. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, migrants are facing significant new threats to their human rights throughout the entire migration cycle, from an inability to cross borders to seek asylum, to heightened racism and discrimination in host countries - especially towards Asian migrants.
The odds for migrants are not good; between 2014 and 2021, more than 4,000 fatalities were reported annually on migratory routes worldwide, according to the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project (the IOM notes this is likely a minimum estimate of the total number of deaths, as most go unrecorded). Migrants also face an inordinate risk that their basic human rights will be violated - those traveling along the so-called “Western Mediterranean” route leading from Morocco and Algeria to Spain, for example, have been the victims of human rights violations including physical abuse, trafficking, and forced labour, according to the IOM’s World Migration Report 2020. In addition, migrant workers in South-East Asia in the fishing, agriculture, and construction industries have faced the threat of forced labour, according to the report.
People migrating for safety and protection reasons are especially vulnerable.In South Sudan, for example, many migrants have been targeted for human rights abuses based on their ethnicity or presumed political allegiances, according to a report published by the UN Refugee Agency.
As conflict and insecurity increasingly displace populations, COVID-19 has further complicated matters
Technology innovation in general is better enabling cross-border networking. Global access to mobile phones, for example, has risen to nearly 100 subscriptions per 100 people, from about 10 subscriptions per 100 people in 2000, according to the IOM’s report. This can enable virtual connectedness for migrants, though physical isolation remains a problem - the report cites a lifelong resident of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya describing her sometimes frustrating efforts to stay abreast of global developments through a temperamental internet connection on her phone.
Armed conflict is becoming increasingly complex, and the number of countries becoming embroiled in extreme conflict is rising. According to a report published by the UN Refugee Agency in 2019, more people were being uprooted by war, violence, and persecution than at any time since the end of World War II. A rise in violent extremism in many areas of the world, in combination with economic stagnation, food insecurity and disease, have led to greater levels of overall displacement and migration.
Statistics from individual conflict zones are staggering. In Venezuela, for example, by mid-2019 we had witnessed over 4 million people displaced from the country due to ongoing economic and political crises. The large majority were hosted in neighbouring countries such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Brazil, although an increasing number of Venezuelans are also moving to countries in Central America and the Caribbean.
Travel restrictions imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, however, have now limited the ability of people to move - and there are grave concerns about those who have been displaced and are living in facilities that do not allow for social distancing, and have limited health services.
Increasingly, migrant smugglers and brokers, non-governmental organizations, and the media are challenging the influence of states when it comes to responding to migration and displacement. This presents downsides, in the form of increasingly prevalent smuggling networks and other illicit practices. But it can also have positive effects. One example is the increased development of apps that help migrants integrate more quickly in locations such as Germany, or help report war crimes (the eyeWitness to Atrocities app, developed by the eyeWitness Project to help human rights investigators and journalists create recordings in war zones that include GPS coordinates, time and location, is a good example), according to the International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report 2018.
Migration Data and Analytics
Objective 1 of the UN global compact for migration calls for more data, research and analysis on migration to form the backbone of any future policy response aimed at implementing the compact.
New geospatial mapping and analysis technology can also offer the ability to more accurately predict and better react to displacement events as a result of extreme poverty, health crises, environmental impacts and conflict.
There is no denying that huge amounts of relevant data are available; sources include proliferating mobile phones, GPS systems and internet-based platforms.
The potential results of improved data collection and analysis related to migration also include more accurate measurement of the progress being made towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets designed to set a healthy global agenda which includes a number of migration-related elements. The use of so-called big data, or massive data sets that enable a more exact analysis of patterns and trends, can be an effective tool to help better understand changes in migration patterns, and migrant behavior.
As migration flows are liable to increase abruptly in response to outbreaks of armed conflict, threats to health or extreme weather events, organizations need to be as well-equipped as possible in order to provide assistance. As heavy flows of migrants were making their way through the Balkans on their way to points west in 2016, for example, the International Committee of the Red Cross asked the UN Refugee Agency if it could receive estimates of daily arrivals in order to ensure that it had an appropriate number of volunteers on hand.
Countries’ labor policies can drive global migration in new directions. It remains to be seen whether multi-national corporations and governments will ever be able to fully exploit technology in order to realize decades-old conceptions of a virtual global workforce - which could potentially enable people to reap the benefits of migration remotely, without being affected by political trends.
Global competition for workers with desirable skills is intense.
China’s strategic focus on developing a highly-skilled, science- and innovation-focused workforce will place increasing pressure on the ability of other countries to tap related talent, for example.
Meanwhile Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, including Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are seeking to fill entire market sectors with migrant workers, both unskilled and skilled. As governments re-think their migration and labour policies, it can have far-reaching effects.
The GCC’s Council of Labour and Social Development Ministers, for example, has announced plans to unify the bloc’s labour market, and to provide avenues for the naturalization of migrant workers.
In Bahrain, which has seen irregular flows of migrant workers mostly from South Asia since the 1970s, and where an estimated more than 60% of the country’s workforce is made up of overseas workers, the government opted in 2016 to implement a regularization program intended to curb the abuse of migrant workers and of the country’s work visa system, in part by providing tens of thousands of official work permits to foreign workers without sponsors.
Malaysia, which relies heavily on migrant workers from countries including Bangladesh and has sought to bolster its regulations on foreign labour in order to conform with the standards of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. In the US, there have been periods of increased scrutiny of the use of H-1B visas, which are issued to skilled workers from abroad (many in the technology sector). Proponents argue that the visas help companies tap the best possible talent; the percentage of H-1B visa petitions that were rejected fell to 7.1% between October 2020 and March 2021, from 28.6% in the same period a year earlier, according to an analysis conducted by the National Foundation for American Policy. Most beneficiaries of H-1B petitions tend to be from India, while a significant number are from China.
"Securitisation" and Rhetorics
The characterization of migration as a national security threat negatively affects public discourse, and is at odds with reality - migration poses challenges, but also comes with very significant benefits. Politicians (especially those in opposition) and far-right activists engaging in divisive campaigns that paint migrants as a criminal element are placing short term gain above longer-term social progress and prosperity. We saw this in the lead up to the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, during which far-right groups incorrectly stated that the compact poses threats to national sovereignty.
A research report about a big data analysis of 7.5 million tweets posted during 2015 and 2016 found that during the large-scale movements to and through Europe at that time there was a surge in far-right online activism, for example. These activists used accounts to influence framing during and after migration events in negative and racist ways, the research showed. And for the most part, they were successful in influencing the political debate in Europe, making it much harder for proportional, reasonable responses to migration be enacted.
The “securitization” of migration, or the public discussion of migration issues in security terms, rather than in economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian terms, has been fueled by pivotal global events like the end of the Cold War and the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, and by the spread of pandemics.
The mass movement of Syrian refugees and other migrants in recent years to Europe certainly escalated this trend, by more closely linking migration with terrorism in media coverage and on social media. These links, however, have been forged by far-right online activists without regard to accuracy or truth.
In Europe and elsewhere, was happening at a time of relative prosperity and peace. There was no COVID-19 pandemic in sight, or related financial crises; economic fundamentals were strong; diversity was never greater; social cohesion was largely working; and peace generally prevailed in Europe and elsewhere.
More recently, some of the media coverage of COVID-19 has become highly politicized, with some using it to argue for reducing migration - even though transmission issues are more closely related to the intense increase in global mobility and international travel for work or for holidays.
The rise and rise of disinformation about migration has meant that the World Migration Report has become a key source for fact-checkers around the world, helping to refute false news on migration in a wide variety of places.
As such, it is one that can be exacerbated by misinformation and politicization to alarming degrees. The central aim World Migration Report is to set out in clear and accurate terms the changes occurring in migration and mobility globally so that readers can better situate their own work. As
the United Nations migration agency, IOM has an obligation to demystify the complexity and diversity of human mobility.
On 19 September 2016 Heads of State and Government came together for the first time ever at the global level within the UN General Assembly to discuss issues related to migration and refugees. This sent a powerful political message that migration and refugee matters had become major issues squarely on the international agenda. In adopting the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the 193 UN Member States recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level.
Features of migration vary across different locations, and that specific audiences (such as policy officials, practitioners, media, researchers, teachers, and students) have varying information and analytical needs when using this data and information to inform their work.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration is the first intergovernmental agreement, prepared under the auspices of the United Nations, to cover all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner. It was adopted at an intergovernmental conference on migration in Marrakesh, Morocco on 10 December 2018. The Member States agreed to review the progress made at the local, national, regional, and global levels
The Global Compact is based on international human rights law and upholds the principles of non-regression and non-discrimination. By implementing these resolutions, we ensure effective respect for and protection, and fulfillment of the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their migration status, across all stages of the migration cycle. We also reaffirm the commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including racism, xenophobia, and intolerance, against migrants and their families
According to the Director-General of IOM, UN - Migration is a complex issue.
When migration is taken into account, roughly one-seventh of the world’s inhabitants are estimated to have migrated at least once in their lives. Emigration and immigration provide tremendous opportunities, though there are challenges tied to integration, social cohesion, labor, and border management. Now, UKRAINE-RUSSIA WAR post-COVID-19 is placing tremendous pressure on migration and mobility systems also, migrants themselves, especially the more vulnerable among them. More than ever, migration is a topic where helpful information and data have been fragmented and often under-analyzed.
Here at Kikao Cultures, we provide a range of digital tools ensuring that reports and publications we share do not remain on the “virtual shelf”.
Better international collaboration is required to manage these flows to ensure that economic migrants are not exposed to exploitation and that involuntary migrants—refugees—crossing into other countries receive the assistance and shelter that they need. The scale of the challenge has put significant pressure on existing frameworks for migration and refugee protection.
Over the last decade, the number of international migrants has grown consistently, from 221 million people in 2010 to 281 million in 2020.1 Economic hardship, climate change, conflict and political instability are forcing millions more people to leave their homes. These trends are reflected in the GRPS, where “involuntary migration” is ranked as a top long-term concern.