Putting people first on the migration agenda: Socialist International meeting in Manila, 21-22 September 2007
The Socialist International Committee on Migrations met in Manila, Philippines, on 21-22 September 2007, having in mind the key role that the Philippines plays with regard to migration in South East Asia and globally, as one of the countries with large numbers of migrant workers, with between 8 and 9 million of its citizens working today in most countries of the world. The International, in convening in Manila, wants to draw on the experiences of the Filipino people and support them in their efforts to strengthen and protect the rights of migrants and their families.
Migration and Development
The movement of people across borders is an important feature of today’s global political, social and economic life. Migrants have contributed and will continue to contribute significantly to world cultural exchanges, economic development and social progress.
The relationship between migration and development is close and complex. It should be recognised that international migration, if properly managed, can contribute to the development of both countries of origin and of destination.
International migration has the potential to contribute to sustainable development through remittances, investments, skills transfers, brain circulation (reducing the negative effects of brain drain) and diaspora networks.
Ensuring that migration works for development requires that in both countries of origin and of destination, people should come first. That involves the recognition and strengthening of the rights of migrants and including them in the development agenda.
The Committee recommended that activities in the field of migration and development should include:
Strengthening the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to effectively involve the migrant population in development processes in their countries of origin;
Engaging the expatriate community in initiatives related to home country development;
Fostering economic and community development in areas where there is a high level of emigration;
Addressing the root causes of economically motivated migration by enhancing the ability of governments and other key players to focus on meeting the needs of their citizens for gainful employment and delivery of quality and adequate basic services such as education and health;
Enhancing the development impact of remittances and facilitating their flow. Remittances, being mostly private transfers, also offer enhanced and wider development possibilities for families and communities to generate earnings and employment.
Facilitating the return and reintegration of nationals which can contribute to national development or rehabilitation and reconstruction processes of developing countries, countries with an economy in transition or recovering from conflict situations.
Recognising the potential that migration has to contribute to development should not imply that migrants should be held responsible for the development of their country of origin. As an example, it was pointed out that the labour migration from the Philippines did not considerably impact on the Human Development Index.
The protection of migrants in the country of destination was raised as an issue of concern. It was emphasised that there is a need in particular to promote the human rights of migrants as well as their labour and social rights. In this regard, concern was raised about the treatment of migrants but also the increasing presence of traffickers and smugglers. It was also stressed the need to remind governments and other stakeholders of the application of human rights instruments and other international conventions relevant to migration.
The “social costs” involved when migrant workers leave their country of origin were also discussed. In this context, the need for more research on the “social costs” was raised, including for example the effect on the family of the labour migrants who stay behind and also the difficulties facing returning migrants to reintegrate into their community of origin. In that regard, it was mentioned that community development programmes could be used to facilitate the reintegration of returning migrants.
In addition, the migrants themselves need to be better informed on ways to migrate legally and to contribute to the development of their family or community. More needs to be done to make potential migrants aware of these opportunities.
At the end of the discussion on this topic, it was reaffirmed that to make migration work for development all stakeholders concerned should be involved in the efforts to increase the benefits of migration, including governments, international organisations such as the IOM, non governmental organisations, civil society and the migrants themselves.
The impact of female migration
Women make up a very significant part of migrant population and are concentrated in vulnerable types of work. In South East Asia for instance, women are focused in domestic service and the entertainment industry. The latter more often than not coerces or lures women into prostitution.
Women migrant workers face challenges similar to those of their male counterparts but suffer from additional problems because they are women – perceived to be weak and easy to manipulate. Some of these include violence against women and other forms of abuse and discrimination, trafficking for prostitution and/or forced labour, abandonment, and threat of HIV/AIDS. As migrants and women, they face double discrimination in access to the labour market where they are often subject to low wages, degrading working conditions, lack of physical safety, financial insecurity and limited prospects. The Committee noted that migration was more dangerous for women in many areas, as they are more prone to verbal, physical and sexual abuse both during the process of migration and in the country of destination. Further, different sets of cultural expectations in the originating countries and marginalisation and stereotyping in the destination countries add psycho-social pressures on female migrants.
To address the gender dimension of migration, the Committee proposed the following initiatives:
1. Strengthening the international campaign for the recognition and valuation of domestic work as legitimate work;
2. The use of Gender Analysis as a tool to develop women-friendly development initiatives. Gender Analysis is a proven tool in making programmes more relevant and responsive to women’s concerns;
3. Implementation of gender sensitivity training for the expatriate community to enhance their capacity to facilitate problems faced by women migrants;
4. Enhancing the participation of women migrants and their organisations in development initiatives meant to address their problems; and
5. Allocating budgets for women-specific programmes both in countries of origin and destination.
Irregular labour migration in a globalised economy
Irregular migration results from the massive number of individuals seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families significantly lacking in their own countries whether this be due to severe lack of economic opportunities, armed conflicts, political disputes or human rights violations. Policy responses on irregular migration therefore need to take account of these root causes.
Irregular migration unjustly results in negative images of the migrants themselves who, in the first place, are largely victimised by unscrupulous recruiting agencies that include trafficking and smuggling syndicates. This phenomenon fuels xenophobia and coupled with the demand for cheap and flexible labour in destination countries, leads to migrants often finding themselves in a complex web of problems where their human rights are disregarded and violated.
With regard to migration schemes it was pointed out that they should be systematically developed and enhanced to meet labour demand in countries of destination and respond to labour supply and unemployment in countries of origin while at the same time protecting and upholding the human rights of migrant workers. The former should not be realised at the expense of the latter.
The need for transparent migration-related legislation and policies in countries of origin, transit and destination were highlighted. Efficient migration procedures including clear categories of labour migrants, selection criteria, as well as length of stay were also considered essential. Information campaigns on these, together with education materials on the human rights of migrants, while still in countries of origin are important to help prospective migrant workers make intelligent decisions even before leaving.
Agreements between countries, whether bilateral or multilateral, are desirable to equally protect the interests of migrants and their countries of destination.
Lastly, it was emphasised that to address irregular migration, governments of countries of origin need to act responsibly on the root causes of this, be they political or economic in nature. After all, the development and well-being of citizens are the primary responsibility of governments.
Throughout the discussions on all the themes, the issue of human rights was recurrent. All international migrants are protected by international conventions on human rights. It was stressed that the State must protect the rights of migrants by strengthening the human rights framework affecting international migrants and ensuring that these provisions are implemented and applied in a non-discriminatory manner. It was also underlined that all States should be party to the international agreements for protecting the human rights of migrants and their families, including the Migrant Workers' Convention. Agreements on the eradication of trafficking should also be ratified and applied, again from a human rights perspective and States should not disregard the human rights of migrants in order to regulate migration.
Review of migration issues on the international agenda
The migration life cycle is a process involving complex relationships between the migrant and various public and private stakeholders in the country of origin, transit and destination. This requires cooperation among all stakeholders in migration, including governments, international organisations, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, civil society and the migrants themselves. It is only through such an effort that the international community will be able to fully and effectively address the challenges brought about by migration and maximise the opportunities it offers for the development of peoples of many countries.
The Second Global Forum on Migration and Development will take place in the Philippines in 2008. As an informal, voluntary and state-led forum, the Global Forum on Migration and Development offers a platform for discussion on the complex nexus between migration and development involving migrant sending and migrant receiving countries, civil society and the migrants themselves. The Committee agreed to contribute to the discussions of this Forum.
Members of the Committee also condemned the construction of the physical wall, as well as the implementation of a technological wall, between Mexico and the United States. It was stressed that what communities need instead today, in this globalised world, are bridges of friendship and collaboration.
It was noted that in the United States, faced with the failure of an integral migratory reform, in 41 States and many cities hundreds of laws have been passed making migrants’ living conditions increasingly difficult. In these pre-electoral times of the 2008 presidential campaign, the Committee expresses its appreciation for the candidates who are advocating realistic measures which will lead to addressing the migrations phenomenon as a whole, with full respect for the human and labour rights of migrants.
It was agreed to convene the next meeting of this Migrations Committee in the United States in early 2008.