Giving migrations a human face: To build a new migration agenda placing people first
XXIII Congress of the Socialist International, Athens, 30 June-2 July 2008
Migration has become a worldwide phenomenon. Today, international migratory movements must be seen as having the same importance as climate change and increases in oil and food prices which affect millions of people. As democratic socialists we intend to approach this issue under the slogan devised when the Socialist International Migrations Committee was set up: “Migration, a Human Right”.
Due to the levels international migration has reached and its impact on development in many regions of the world, there is a need for a new vision and a change in the way in which societies which receive and send migrants have hitherto fulfilled their responsibilities vis-à-vis this phenomenon.
Firstly, we as democratic socialists do not agree with the policy of criminalising migrants – especially when nothing has been done to deal with the causes of migration – since this is tantamount to criminalising poverty. For example, decisions taken by the Italian government to adopt punitive measures against migrants must not become the policy of European institutions.
The “Return Directive” recently adopted by the European Parliament, has sparked concern and negative reactions in Latin America due to the return procedures and their consequences for the basic human rights of migrants.
The SI considers it relevant that in the process of implementing this new migratory policy of the European Union, human and labour rights of migrants are fully guaranteed, especially those of children – including not being separated from their families – always taking into account all the aspects of the complex phenomenon of international migration.
The migratory movements seen in the 21st century have no precedent in modern history, despite the fact that migration is as old as humanity itself. According to the United Nations, in 2008 there are 200 million people living outside their country of origin and numbers are likely to increase over the next few years.
We reaffirm that people’s first right is not to be forced to abandon their homeland for reasons beyond their control, but to be able to stay and count on conditions necessary for their development.
In the Manila Declaration, we recognised the close and complex relationship between migration and development. In many cases, international migration has contributed or can contribute as much to the economies of countries of origin as to those of destination. It means a plentiful workforce, investments, remittances of funds, an increasing transfer of qualified workers, “brain circulation” and the creation of network connections within the diaspora.
But it is not only about a workforce with different levels of qualifications. It is about people, which means that the recognition and reinforcement of migrants’ rights is an essential part of the development agenda.
Likewise, it is essential to examine the impact of remittances on the communities from which migrants originate and to see what can be done to assist the flow of these remittances. Since most of these are personal, and therefore private, transfers, they can be spent on food, health and education and sometimes can be used to help fund projects which in turn create employment.
Various international financial organisations, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, have conducted studies which show how remittances can boost programmes in which national and local governments are involved. Such results do not release migrants’ countries of origin from the responsibility of encouraging public policies of equitable development and in no way imply that migrants should be seen as responsible for national growth in their own countries.
At the most recent Summits of Heads of State and Government of Latin America and the Caribbean with the European Union, like that held in Guadalajara, Mexico in May 2004, the emphasis has been on the need for a comprehensive approach to migration firmly based on the principle of full respect of the human rights of migrants, regardless of status. At the same time, the conference stressed the importance of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Families, approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990.
For their part, both the 2002 Summit on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico and the G-9 Summit in the United States in 2003, reiterated the need for widespread cooperation to control the cost of transferring funds to developing countries and pledged to reduce it to by 50%.
Also, dealing with the consequences of migration of women and children as part of the feminisation of migration, requires their protection in the receiver countries, where their physical and moral integrity may be threatened. Accord, norms and legal frameworks must be set up with national and humanitarian institutions to promote family reunification and to protect women from risks such as human trafficking and prostitution.
Migrants’ countries of origin should, for their part, be obliged to impose policies of consular protection and to modify their institutional structure, creating institutes, ministries and other public services geared towards protecting their migrants and providing them with legal and humanitarian aid. Similarly, there is a need for social policies guaranteeing the rights of families who remain behind – especially potentially vulnerable women, children and older people – to healthcare, education and decent housing.
Conditions must be created for the social reinsertion of deportees and their families and their reintegration into the workforce. The migration agenda must also include programmes designed to support returning migrant entrepreneurs and encourage them to invest in their home countries. These are the pending questions on the migration agenda.
For democratic socialists, faced with the theory that predominates in the developed world, linking migration to internal security and the strengthening of border controls, it is important to take a progressive, forward-looking position. A strategy of recognising the contribution of migrant workers to the development of receiver countries and to give them the same labour rights as national workers enjoy. Knowing who is in the country, by recognising their labour rights, is also a much more efficient safety mechanism than policies of persecution.
With this in view, the Socialist International affirms its support for a policy of devising solutions which look at the causes of migration and for the payment of compensation towards the development to countries from which workers migrate. It also expresses its robust condemnation of the building of walls that divide countries, like those on the Mexican-US border and between Israel and Palestine. Physical barriers will not check migration in a globalised world. On the contrary, their existence will only lead to the deaths of more people as they try to seek a new life.
The XXIII Congress of the Socialist International calls on all member parties to provide experts to work with the Committee to create a migration policy centred around migrants as human beings, as men and women with civil, social, cultural and employment rights. It is a task to which we, democratic socialists throughout the world, must all contribute.