Geneva - The world will be taken by surprise by the relentless pace of migration unless States, international organizations and civil society make a concerted effort to invest in how they respond to it, says the World Migration Report (WMR) 2010 launched today by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The report, "The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change", argues that in a world where demographics, economic needs and the effects of environmental change are driving the inexorable rise in numbers of international migrants, governments and non-state actors have little choice but to invest adequate financial and human resources to ensure States, societies and migrants reap the full potential of future migration.
Although hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year to strengthen the ability of States to effectively manage migration, WMR 2010 notes that responses to current and emerging migration challenges and opportunities are often short-term, piecemeal and fragmented. This is having a profound effect on human mobility and economic and social development, with every country affected in some way.
"The risk of not putting in place policies and adequate resources to deal with migration is to lose an historic opportunity to take advantage of this global phenomenon," says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. "Given the unrelenting pace of migration, the window of opportunity for States to turn the negatives of migration into positives is rapidly shrinking."
If the number of international migrants, estimated at 214 million in 2010, continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, it could reach 405 million by 2050.
One of the reasons for this steep rise will be significant growth in the labour force in developing countries from 2.4 billion in 2005 to 3.6 billion in 2040, accentuating the global mismatch between labour supply and demand. The impact of environmental change will also affect migration trends in the future.
New migration patterns are already in evidence. For example, the emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America are becoming ever more important countries of destination for labour migrants, emphasizing increasing South-South movements of people and the need for those countries to invest in migration management programmes and policies.
The number of irregular migrants will continue to grow as labour supply in migrant origin countries exceeds demand in migrant receiving countries and legal migration channels remain the exception rather than the rule.
The report notes that emerging patterns of irregular migration involve growing numbers of unaccompanied minors, asylum-seekers, victims of trafficking, or those seeking to escape the effects of environmental or climate change but for whom there is currently little international protection. These groups will present even greater challenges for States and societies currently struggling to deal with them in a humane way.
"Without significant investment in migration issues, there is no doubt that critical questions such as the human rights of migrants and their integration into host societies will become even more acute," adds Swing. "Investing and planning in the future of migration will help improve public perceptions of migrants, which have been particularly dented by the current economic downturn. It will also help to lessen political pressure on governments to devise short-term responses to migration."
Looking at the impact of the economic crisis, the report notes that the total number of migrants has remained stable as relatively few migrants have returned home even though they have been particularly affected by unemployment. As a result, remittances to developing countries declined by 6% in 2009, although some countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and The Philippines benefited from an increase in remittances between 2008 and 2009.
The report identifies labour mobility, irregular migration, migration and development, integration, environmental change and migration governance as areas expected to undergo the greatest transformation in the coming years.
Each thematic chapter lists 10 key areas where greater investment and policy planning are needed. Key issues relating to environmental migration, for example, include the need to strengthen national laws and policies on internal displacement as a first step given that most of those displaced by environmental change tend to move within their own countries.
Other recommendations include generating better data on irregular migration and labour markets, combating migrant smuggling and human trafficking and improving the ability of transit countries to assist irregular migrants.
The World Migration Report 2010 calls for the rigorous analysis of core capacities of countries to manage migration in order to assess their effectiveness and to identify gaps and priorities for the future.
"There is no need to reinvent the wheel on migration or to break the bank in terms of financial investment. Humane and effective solutions to migration issues are within reach. It’s just a question of partnership and of allocating resources more effectively with an eye to addressing the future and to determine well-thought out long-term policies based on facts and not short-term political opportunism," concludes Swing.
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