Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Migration - for better or for worse

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2 July 2014 - Whether it is to get a better job, better education, warmer weather or better opportunities for your children, people have always migrated. Besides the voluntary migration, people can also be forced to migrate because of wars, conflicts, starvation or persecutions due to political, religious, or sexual orientation.

According to the UN Department of Economics and Social Affairs (DESA) there are more than 230 million migrants in the world. When internal mobility is also counted, the number of migrants increases to one in seven.

The global stock of emigrants and migrants are very different in different parts of the world. In 2013, Europe hosted 31 per cent of migrants, whereas it was the region of origin of 25 per cent of all emigrants. Many Europeans have left their homeland due to the economic crisis, not least in southern Europe. Last year it is estimated that 120,000 Portuguese emigrated, one fourth to the UK. What is new, however, is that trends have reversed, with, for instance 120,000 Portuguese now living in Angola – a former Portuguese colony, of which a quarter emigrated last year.

In Africa and Asia, the percentage of immigrants migrating from within the regions themselves was 82 per cent in Africa and in Asia 76 per cent.

Melilla Flickr Noborder Network  2.0 Generic CC BY 2.0Migrants often do the jobs that people already living in the host-country do not want to do. Through the past years many countries have decreased the number of migrants by legislation. This has had many implications for the migrants, but also for the countries. In the UK, new laws to make life impossible for immigrants have meant that people are stuck in the country without jobs or means to get home. The British government having taken a tough line with illegal labour means that the demand for unskilled labour has dropped drastically. And according to Al-Jazeera, many migrants have either lost their passport on the way to the UK, or have simply been demanded by human traffickers to destroy it, leaving them no possibility to return to their home country.

Many other countries within the European Union have also succeeded in making laws on migration since the topic is very debated in Europe, especially due to the migrant flows from the Middle East and Africa. According to the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, populists have succeeded in using oversimplification when talking about immigration, which when highlighted by the media, address many EU-citizens. This was further highlighted at the recent EU-elections where the right-wing parties throughout Europe won seats in the parliament. In Denmark, the EU-skeptical and anti-immigration Danish People’s Party won the election with 26.6 per cent of the votes. In Sweden, The Sweden Democrats got 9.7 per cent, and in Finland the True Finns got 12.9 per cent of the votes, concluding that the former open-armed Nordics are becoming more reluctant to welcome migrants.

However, nowadays as climate change is gradually changing the conditions in the world, migration is going to increase severely. With the changes in temperatures causing floods in some areas and droughts in others, migration is becoming even more relevant in the future. Climate change is challenging several of our basic human rights, like the right to life, the right to adequate and safe food and drinking water and the right to health and housing. 

In some cases people are so desperate to migrate that they will risk their lives to get to a new country. In Italy, since the beginning of 2014 more than Ellen Flickr Noborder Network Fuerteventura 2.0 Generic CC BY 2.050.000 irregular migrants have arrived to the country, most of them to the small island Lampedusa. According to a report published by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) and the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), there is evidence that the immigrants are less reluctant to undertake the highly dangerous journey over the sea, since it has become more difficult to travel through Yemen to Saudi Arabia and to Israel via Egypt. 

Though many countries are trying to close their borders for migrants by national and regional legislation, migrants actually contribute positively in various ways. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migration will contribute to reaching the UN Millennium goals. One of the development goals that is more realistic to be reached with migration as a factor, is the goal of reducing poverty, since migration will carry many people and sometimes also their families out of poverty. Another goal which is more easily reachable by migration is education, since the prospect of migration can be an incentive. Meanwhile, remittances are also associated with better educational results for many people. In Sweden, 900 delegates recently attended a meeting to discuss “Unlocking the potential of migration for inclusive development”. Ban Ki-moon was one of the attenders, and remarked at the meeting that “our communities have much to gain from migration when it is managed properly – and much to lose when it is not.”

Read more stories of migrants from our newsletter here.

What does migration mean to you? Join the discussion on social media using the #MigrationMeans hashtag!

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