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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion : ”Human Migration: Reasons and Impacts”

Context

Approximately 281 million people were international migrants in 2020, representing 3.6 per cent of the global population. The theme for this year’s International Migrants Day is ‘ Harnessing the potential of Human Mobility’.

Background

  • Human migration and mobility is an age-old phenomenon touching almost every society around the world. However, things have changed over time in various ways.
  • Examining the shifts in scale, direction, demography and frequency can help us understand how migration is evolving and can further lead to effective policies, programmes and operational responses on the ground.
  • A broad range of factors continues to determine the movement of people. They are either voluntary or forced movements as a result of the increased magnitude and frequency of disasters, economic challenges and extreme poverty or conflict.

Who is a migrant?

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of (1) the person’s legal status; (2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; (3) what the causes for the movement are; or (4) what the length of the stay is.

History of International Migration Day

  • On 4 December 2000, the United Nations General assembly (UNGA), considering the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day.
  • The Day was selected to mark the anniversary of the 1990 adoption by the UNGA of the International Convention on the protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
  • Two global compacts have been signed over the past two years, one for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the other for Global Compact on Refugees.

Migrants and the SDGs

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes for the first time the contribution of migration to sustainable development.
  • 11 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain targets and indicators relevant to migration or mobility.
  • The Agenda’s core principle is to “leave no one behind,” not even migrants.

How Big the Migration Issue in Today’s World

  • Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one in which they were born.
  • While many migrate out of choice, many others do so out of necessity.
  • As per the 2022 World Migration Report of the International Organization of Migrants (IOM), the number of migrants globally in 2020 was 281 million, a 60million more than in 2010. This, however, is only 3.6% of the total world population, i.e., only 1 in 30m are migrants.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM)

  • Established in 1951, IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration.
  • IOM works to ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people.
  • In 2016, IOM entered into an agreement with the United Nations, becoming one of its specialized agencies.

Largest Migration Corridors  

  • Work is the major reason that people migrate internationally.
  • The largest corridors of migration tend to be from developing countries to larger economies such as the US, France, Russia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
  • The USA has been the main country of destination for international migrants, foreign-born in the US rose from 12m in 1970, to 51m in 2019.
  • Germany is the second top destination, from 8.9m in 2000 to 16 min 2020.
  • These are countries with high levels of human development whose passport holders can travel visa-free to around 85 % of all other countries worldwide.
  • However, they often have stringent visa restrictions for the less developed countries which create its own complications including pushing applicants into the hands of unscrupulous agents.

Factors Responsible for Shaping Migration Corridors

  • According to the IOM report, multiple factors have shaped migration corridors.
  • More than 40% of international migrants, i.e., 115 m were born in Asia, nearly 20% originating from 6 Asian countries including India, the largest country of origin, followed by China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, and Afghanistan.
  • After India, Mexico was the second-largest country of origin globally, and Russia was third.
  • Several other European countries have sizable populations of emigrants, including Ukraine, Poland, the UK, Romania and Germany.
  • Although only small proportions of the local population are international migrants, in some countries like UAE, international migrants constitute 88% of its total population

Migration and Economic Effects

  • Migration for work has led to a concomitant increase in international remittances, from a total of $126b in 2000 to $702b in 2020. Covid 19 saw only a small drop of 2.4% in 2020.
  • In 2020, India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt were the top five remittance-receiving countries, though India and China were well above the rest, with total remittances exceeding $83billion and $59billion, respectively.
  • High-income countries are the main sources of remittances. For decades, the US has consistently been the top remittance sending country, with a total outflow of $ 68b in 2020, followed by UAE $43.2b, Saudi Arabia $34.6 b, Switzerland 27.6b, and Germany 22b.
  • Migration thus brings out a clear connection between development and co-development. Migrant workers contribute to the economic development of host countries and their remittances raise standards of living back home.

Problems Faced by Migrants

  • Migrants face the challenges of assimilation and are often engaged in 3D jobs: dirty, dangerous and demanding.
  • Migrants face issues of accessing health care, housing, education and employment.
  • They may become easy targets for exploitation due to a lack of a protective family network, a lack of information or missing documents. Some among the 35m Indian diaspora abroad have faced the above challenges, a vast majority have done exceedingly well.

Why Migration has been increasing in recent years?

  • The past few years have seen major migration and displacement events due to conflicts as in Syria, Central African Republic, Yemen, DRC and South Sudan;
  • Extreme violence as inflicted on Rohingyas forced to seek safety in Bangladesh; or
  • Severe economic and political instability such as in Venezuela.
  • Those triggered by natural disasters have been seen in Mozambique, the Philippines, China, India and the USA.
  • Global displacement rose despite Covid-19 mobility limits.

Refugees Problem and Migration 

  • Of the 281m migrants, 26m comprise refugees. The global number of forcibly displaced people, including refugees, has doubled since 2010, as per the latest report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  • More displaced people have fled Syria than any other country.
  • Turkey tops the list of countries taking in refugees; just five countries produce 68% of all refugees displaced abroad: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. The top five host countries are Turkey, Colombia, Germany, Pakistan and Uganda.
  • Though India is not a signatory to the International Convention on Refugees, India has a strong tradition of acceptance, such as His Holiness Dalai Lama and other Tibetan refugees, from East Pakistan and now Bangladesh, and recently from Afghanistan.
  • With 3.7 m within its borders, Turkey hosts twice as many refugees as Colombia, the next highest host country with 1.7m.The situation in Turkey arises out of its proximity to Syria where war and conflict have now been raging for 10 years. In 2015 more than a million migrant/refugees from Syria entered EU; 3771 died crossing the seas.

Covid 19 related immobility

  • According to reports, in 2019 more than 4, 25,000 refugees were able to return to their home country or found permanent homes in third countries.
  • That fell to below 300,000 in 2020 as the pandemic made travel harder.
  • The need for greater solidarity and cooperation with and support to host countries, communities and refugees has been acknowledged.
  • There is also consensus on the need to prevent and combat human trafficking in migration pathways, but allegedly less consensus on how to achieve this in practice, and perhaps a shortfall in the political will to introduce effective policies.
  • Covid 19 related immobility has become the great disruptor of migration. Several governments used pandemics to limit immigration and bolster nationalist agendas.
  • For the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland, Greece and Lebanon, this meant delays in refugee resettlement and pushbacks of asylum seekers as at the EU-Belarus borders.
  • Houthi rebels in Yemen expelled thousands of Ethiopians and sent them to the Saudi border where they were fired on.
  • The anti-immigrant narrative was bolstered in places such as China, while racism against East Asian migrants and their children has been on the rise in the US, UK, and elsewhere.
  • Covid restrictions sparked changes to migration routes and pushed, for instance, some Europe bound migrants through the Canary Islands rather than via traditional transit countries such as Libya and Morocco.

Conclusion

Today, Global displacement is at a record high, with the number of internally displaced at around 55m and the number of refugees at over 26m. Africa registered the highest increase in internal displacement due to armed conflicts and human disasters. The ongoing Civil war in Ethiopia has sparked a wave of displacement involving millions in addition to a full-blown humanitarian crisis. As large-scale movements of refugees and migrants affect all UN Member States and they require closer cooperation and responsibility-sharing.

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