This section provides basic information in the form of briefs on issues of migration as well as thought-provoking and engaging pieces from professionals in the field (these opinion pieces will be published in the run up to the International Migrants Day celebrations).
The Radio 1812 site also regularly aggregates news, especially from the December 18 site.
Our world is very unequal. For many people around the world moving away from their home town or village can be the best — sometimes the only — option open to improve their life chances. Migration can be hugely effective in improving the income, education and participation of individuals and families, and enhancing their children’s future prospects. But its value is more than that: being able to decide where to live is a key element of human freedom. There is no typical profile of migrants around the world. Fruit pickers, nurses, political refugees, construction workers, academics and computer programmers are all part of the nearly 1 billion people on the move both within their own countries and overseas. When people move they embark on a journey of hope and uncertainty, whether within or across international borders. Most people move in search of better opportunities, hoping to combine their own talents with resources in the destination country so as to benefit themselves and their immediate family, who often accompany or follow them. Local communities and societies as a whole have also benefited both in places of origin and at destinations. The diversity of these individuals and the rules that govern their movement make human mobility one of the most complex issues facing the world today, especially in the midst of the global recession.
In its latest Human Development Report, the UNDP notes that most people move within their own country, almost four times as many as the estimated 200 million international migrants. Furthermore, just over a third of these international migrants moved from developing to developed countries.
Detailed statistical information on the movement of people can be found at the Migration DRC Database, which extends the data made available by the United Nations.
* economic reasons (to find work, escape famine, etc.)
* social reasons (for a better quality of life or to be closer to family or friends)
* political reasons (to escape cultural/political/religious persecution or war )
* environmental reasons (natural disasters such as flooding, drought)
The migration dynamic reflects the interplay of push factors (which make the people leave their home) and pull factors (which make people move to a particular area). Here are some examples:
* lack of jobs and services
* poor safety or security
* high crime levels
* political or religious persecution.
* more jobs and services
* better quality of life
* low crime levels
* good food supplies
* better climate and fertile land
* less risk of natural hazard
* political security.
* Nearness and colonial history. Some migrants cross to the nearest country and if the distance is short they can commute. For longer distance migration, people often move along colonial paths towards ex-colonial powers, drawn by the language and a good knowledge of the culture.
* Networks and family. The choice of destination is often influenced by the existence of a network of contacts. This network is often provided by family members, since many receiving countries give priority to close relatives of existing residents.
* Labour brokers. Labour brokers (or recruitment agencies) are intermediaries that match the demand for jobs in the country of origin with the supply in the country of destination. Charges for finding a job are supposed to be regulated, but they are often very expensive for migrants. It usually takes three to twenty months salary for a migrant to enter a country and find work. Furthermore, the work often turns out to be very different from what was promised (e.g. lower position, smaller income, more work hours, unsafe conditions, etc.)
* Smugglers and Traffickers. Smugglers are like travel agents acting in an illegal manner (e.g. supplying false passports or bribing immigration officials). The difference between people being smuggled and people being trafficked is that the former choose to move, while the latter are either forced or deceived (e.g. when young women and girls are offered to work abroad in legitimate work and are then forced into prostitution).
* For the impact of migration on the countries of origin, see the 2009 Human Development Report, pp. 71-83.
* For the impact of migration on destination countries see the 2009 Human Development Report, pp. 83 – 92.
* The World Bank writes that remittance flows to developing countries reached US$ 328 billion in 2008. Remittances grew rapidly during 2007 and 2008, but have slowed down in many countries since the last quarter of 2008. (From World Bank: Migration and Remittances Data, Briefing 10, July 2009) * Migrants have contributed to the growth in employment in most countries. However, the dominant mode of international labour migration is temporary low skilled contract migration. That means also, that migrants often fill the gaps in the workforce doing the 3D jobs (difficult, dangerous and dirty) and/or low-paid jobs.
* During a period of economic stagnation migrants are often the first to bear the brunt of redundancies as they often work in the least stable jobs, such as temporary, flexible or part-time jobs.
* International migration of skilled persons in principle contributes to building the recipient countries’ skills endowment, while entailing a loss in the origin country’s stock of human capital (at least immediately). Those two processes are commonly referred to as "brain gain" and "brain drain" respectively.
* In most countries, skilled emigration is situated within this bracket. The "loss" of qualified people surpasses 80% in small countries like Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica, among others. The situation is also alarming in sub-Sahara Africa and in Central America. Countries like Mozambique, Uganda or Ghana lose almost half of their base of highly qualified labourers.
* However, moderate "brain drain" of between 5 and 10% of the skilled population can have more positive than negative effects on the countries of origin. The costs of emigration can be partly offset by developments like higher enrolment in tertiary education, an increase in remittances and the eventual “brain gain” through the return of emigrants and creation of business and knowledge linkages between emigrants and home countries (leading to technology flows, investment, etc.).
* Instead of speaking about "brain gain" and "brain drain", the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) promotes the notion of "brain circulation", in which migrants return to their own country, sharing the benefits of the skills and resources they have acquired abroad.
Further information: Demographic and Economic Trends: Implications for International Mobility. Philip Martin (2009), Human Development Research Paper
Regular or documented: are people "authorized to enter, to stay and to engage in a remunerated activity in the State of employment" (Article 5 of the Convention).
Irregular or undocumented: people entering and living in the country of employment without such authorization. It is the correct legal description for migrants in such situations.
Illegal or clandestine: often used to describe migrants to mean irregular or undocumented migrants, though there is now general consensus that expressions such as "illegal" or "aliens" to describe a human being is inhumane and has no legal basis.
More information on migration >> View the full December 18 directory of migrant organisations worldwide.
The Convention is the first universal codification of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. It provides a set of binding fundamental standards to address the treatment, welfare and human rights of both documented and undocumented migrants, as well as the obligations and responsibilities on the part of sending, receiving and transit countries. This international instrument is formally known as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The information for this briefing paper is taken from the“Guide on Ratification,”produced by the International Steering Committee for the Campaign for Ratification of the Migrants Rights Convention.
The aim of the Convention is to ensure that all migrant workers have access to a minimum level of protection such as equality of treatment and working conditions for migrants and nationals. Although the Convention makes a distinction between documented and undocumented migrant workers, it does stress that every migrant worker who qualifies under its provision should enjoy all fundamental human rights, regardless of his/her legal status. The Convention also:
recognizes migrants not only as workers or economic entities, but as human beings with families and therefore entitled to rights including that of living with their family in the country they work;
serves as a safeguard when there are gaps in national law to protect migrant workers. It also encourages States to bring their legislation in line with recognized UN standard;
provides the first universal definition of "migrant worker" and identifies different types of migrant workers (such as: "frontier worker", "seasonal worker", "itinerant worker", etc.) in order to make the attribution of rights and corresponding duties clearer;
aims to tackle every form of abuse and exploitation, seeking to put an end to undocumented or clandestine migration and recruitment.
The Convention defines the rights of migrant workers under two main headings: the human rights of all migrant workers and members of their families (Part III), and other rights of migrant workers and members of their families who are documented or in a regular situation (Part IV). The human rights are applicable to all migrant workers and family members irrespective of their legal status while the other rights are applicable only to migrant workers and family members who are documented or in a regular situation.
The Convention was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 18 December 1990. However, it took 13 years to enter into force (1st July 2003), because it took so long to obtain the minimum of twenty countries required for it to become an international legal instrument.
By the end of 2009, 42 countries*have ratified the Convention. So far, ratifying countries are primarily countries of origin and/or transit. Unfortunately, the majority of migrant-receiving states have not ratified this Convention. This is primarily because they fear that the Convention may provide too many rights to undocumented migrant workers. They furthermore argue that the rights of migrant workers are already sufficiently covered by other international or regional treaties. Finally, many states argue that migration is an internal matter and this should not be subject to international scrutiny.
The implementation of the Convention is monitored by the Committee on Migrant Workers, which meets twice a year. From its formation, the Committee has consisted of ten experts of high moral standing, impartiality and recognised competence in the field covered by the Convention. However, with the forty-first ratification of the Convention in March, 2009, their number will now be increasing to fourteen. As is the case with other treaty bodies, Committee members are nominated and elected by the States parties to the Convention.
Although the Convention undoubtedly is a positive development, the low number of ratifications and the slow monitoring process – it takes around 12 months for a report to be fully examined by the Committee – lead many to question the impact it can have on the lives of migrants. Nevertheless, instruments such as these have proved very useful in the past, for instance on issues of discrimination against women, respects of the rights of the child or protecting bio-diversity. As the Convention on the rights of migrant workers is a relatively new instrument, more time is needed to judge its overall impact. Above all, for the Convention to become truly effective in protecting migrant workers, a greater number of wealthy destination countries need to ratify it.
Albania(05.06.07),Algeria(21.04.05), Argentina (23.02.07), Azerbaijan (11.01.99), Belize (14.11.01),Bolivia (12.10.00), Bosnia & Herzegovina (13.12.96), Burkina Faso (26.11.03), Cape Verde (16.09.97), Chile (21.03.05), Colombia (24.05.95), Ecuador (05.02.02), Egypt (19.02.93), El Salvador (14.03.03), Ghana (08.09.00), Guatemala (14.03.03), Guinea (08.09.00), Honduras (11.08.05), Jamaica (25.09.2008), Kyrgyzstan (29.09.03), Lesotho (16.09.05), Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (18.06.04), Mali (05.06.03), Mauritania (22.01.2007), Mexico (08.03.99), Morocco (21.06.93), Nicaragua (26.10.05), Niger (18.03.09), Nigeria (27.07.09), Paraguay (23.09.2008), Peru (14.09.05), Philippines (05.07.95), Rwanda (15.12.08), Senegal (09.06.99), Seychelles (15.12.94), Sri Lanka (16.03.96), Syria (02.06.05), Tajikistan (08.01.02), Timor Leste (30.01.04), Turkey (27.09.04), Uganda (14.11.95), Uruguay (15.02.01).
Ratification list available at: http://www.december18.net/present-status-ratification
International Migrants Day is officially celebrated on 18th December every year around the world since 2000. It is an opportunity:
IMD aims to put the issues that are of key interest to migrants and their communities (those they live in and those they leave behind) on the agenda, highlight the challenges they encounter and celebrate their achievements.
In 1997, migrant groups in Asia began celebrating and promoting 18th December as an international day of solidarity with migrants. They chose this date because of its symbolic value since it was on 18th December 1990 that the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and this after almost a decade of governmental negotiations and relentless advocacy by migrant communities around the world. The first IMD event took place at the UN Building in Manila, Philippines, with the participation of local authorities, foreign diplomats and representatives of international organisations and NGOs.
Building on this initiative, in 1999, groups around the world started to campaign for the UN to officially recognise 18th December as International Migrants Day. These lobbying efforts were successful and on 4th December 2000, the UN General Assembly declared 18th December as International Migrants Day.
Since then, participation in IMD activities has risen and more countries are taking part year on year. Events along the years have included a colourful rally in Bangladesh, an international food festival in Israel, a large multicultural forum in Morocco, art exhibitions and cinema festivals in France, school children contests and television broadcasts in Sri Lanka, theatrical and musical performances in the streets of Singapore, as well as press conferences, panels, meetings and demonstrations. In 2006 Radio 1812 was launched, a global audio event dedicated to International Migrants Day, producing and broadcasting programmes from radios worldwide.
Kofi Annan, former General Secretary of United Nations: "On this International Migrants Day, I urge all Member States who have not done so to sign and ratify the Convention, and, in any event, to provide all migrants with the rights and protection they need and deserve. Today, more people are affected by international migration than at any other time in history. Let us work together to ensure that this global trend benefits all concerned, countries of origin and of destination, and the migrants themselves."
Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: "I would like the international community to join me in marking this International Migrants Day and in paying tribute to the contribution of migrant women and men to the advancement of our societies."
Mary Robinson, President of Realizing Rights and Former UN Commissioner for Human Rights: "I am very happy to join in a discussion on International Migrants Day because life of migrants, particularly undocumented migrants, is becoming more and more difficult in a world that is supposed to be a global village."
Moawia Ahmed, Greek Forum of Migrants and Radio 1812/2006 participant: "Dear Adla and the team. Thank you very much for the great work you did. I may say that the immigrants in Greece for the first time had the opportunity to speak directly to at least half a million Greeks inside and outside of Greece."
There are many ways you can get involved in IMD celebrations.
An overview of the 2009 events can be found here.
Human Rights could be defined as: "The rights one needs in order to enjoy a dignified life or a life worth living". Imagine leaving your home, your loved ones and everything familiar behind, to go to a new country where you often don’t understand the language, the laws, the culture and where you are sometimes not welcome or even "illegal" because you do not have the right papers. The migrants most vulnerable to abuse are undocumented migrants and women migrants. This is because migrants, by definition**, are not citizens of the country in which they work/live and therefore may not always have access to the same rights and protections as nationals do. However, abuse of the human rights of migrants takes place throughout the migratory cycle: in the country of origin, during transit and of course, in the country of destination.
The "push factors" which trigger migration may include domestic inequality, poverty, armed conflicts, racism, intolerance, gender discrimination and democratic deficits. The usual explanations for migrating - to find work, to secure a better livelihood - tend to obscure the regular violations of civil and political rights suffered by the migrants at home, even if those fall below the persecution "threshold" imposed by destination governments to grant claim for asylum. However these violations fuel much, if not most, of global migration. In practise, it has become increasingly difficult to separate refugees from other involuntary migrants or from economic migrants, even if this distinction is a fundamental one for governments as well as the international community as regards to their asylum or immigration laws and policies.
Year after year, hundreds of migrants die trying to cross the increasingly militarized borders of our world. But this is only the most well-known aspect of a dramatic phenomenon, because of the media friendly yet exploitative pictures splashed on our newspapers and screens. Less visible are the cases of abuse, trafficking, arbitrary detention, torture and attempts on migrants’ lives. Chased by poverty, often alone and disoriented, maybe without the proper documents, these migrants are particularly vulnerable to both aggressions from traffickers and a zealous approach to law enforcement from security personnel, especially in ports, airports, at borders and migration checkpoints.
Once in the country of destination, a migrant's vulnerability is the result of a number of factors. Alien to the local society they live in, many migrants are unaware of their rights and often unable to defend themselves against abuse. They may face discrimination, denial of the right of association and assembly, unequal treatment and opportunities at work to nationals. A survey by the International Labour Organization (ILO) states that in more than a half of the destination countries, national discrimination laws do not apply to migrant workers; and in most cases, migrants are more likely to take up so-called 3-D jobs (demanding, dirty, dangerous), in sectors where labour standards are not applied and where they are faced with abusive working conditions akin to slavery or forced labour. Racism and xenophobia are also particular problems. At times of political tension, migrants are often the first to bear the brunt, or used as scapegoats- and treated as security risks. The effects of the "war on terror" are a striking example.
Despite wide abuse, migrants' rights have long remained at the margins of the international human rights agenda. There now seems to be a greater recognition of migrants' rights. Research shows that between 2004 and 2007, 86% of the UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies conclusions refer to migrants. To make the most of this new trend, several actors such as the ILO, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and many NGOs have called for a "rights-based approach" to migration, or put simply, the integration of human rights principles and labour standards into migration policies.
A rights-based approach to migration allows for:
If the absence of human rights is a push-factor for migration, any successful strategy should start by recognizing the key role human rights should play in poverty reduction programmes, in empowering women, in anti-trafficking policies etc. Strengthening the basic rights of women and girls in their home countries reduces the incentive to leave.
Exclusion from political, social and civil rights encourages marginalization, negative attitudes towards migrants, cultural tensions and conflicts. Integration is based on equal treatment and should be a two-way process, involving "newcomers" as well as "host societies". The prohibition of discrimination is in the best interests of both migrants and the communities they live in.
Rights cannot go without duties. A rights-based approach to migration therefore implies the elaboration and implementation of a set of rules that is in line with internationally recognized human rights standards and that is adhered to by all: citizens, migrants as well as the States themselves. Accountability and scrutiny needs to be provided for by the national system, as well as through regional bodies, such as the European Court of Human Rights, or international one’s such as the UN Treaty monitoring system.
Human rights are a legal framework developed by states themselves to ensure that all human beings, and in particular their own nationals, are treated within a certain sets of standards wherever they find themselves. As such, they are a tool to ensure equity, and can help diffuse the tensions that arise between states around the movement of people.
Human rights provide a unique framework agreed by states through which they can mediate the conflicting interests of sending and receiving countries, communities and individuals involved in the migratory process. This framework can enhance policymaking by deepening the analysis of the causes of migration such as inequitable global trade, policies that increase poverty and weaken economic and social rights, the effects of corrupt and abusive government, war and environmental degradation.
Below are some interesting cases of how governments can tackle migration and provide better conditions to migrants.
The Moroccan Government set up an agency in the northern region of the country to tackle local unemployment and deprivation that caused the mass emigration of young Moroccans. They created a centre for investment and job creation, and promoting training and education.
In 1990 Beta Migrant Protection Groups were created by the Mexican government to protect the physical integrity and property of migrants, both nationals and foreigners, who try to cross the northern border between Mexico and the US, providing services such as first aid, warn potential migrants of the risks, social assistance, lodging and protection from criminal gangs.
Recently Malaysia took up the initiative to document and register children of migrant workers and to provide all children in the state with unrestricted access to education and health services.
More examples can be found here.
Governments are indeed the primary institutions responsible for ensuring that the proper framework is in place so that labour migration takes place in conditions of dignity. However, the migrant workers themselves, together with concerned citizens and the international community need to be heard so that in the long-term migration becomes an informed choice rather than a survival strategy.
Addressing human rights can never answer all of the questions that arise with respect to migration. But it is necessary to begin "spawning a virtuous cycle, whereby the human rights of migrants are respected; migrants are integrated in host societies and can fully contribute to the development both of the host countries and of their countries of origin."
* Taken from the the title of an article published in the Migration Information Source's Special Issue on Migration and Human Rights.
** This fact sheet does not cover the situation of internally displaced persons and other forms of internal migration
Migrants are considered as undocumented or in an irregular situation when they are not allowed to enter, stay or work following the law of the country.
The IOM reports that there are roughly 20 to 30 million irregular or undocumented migrants worldwide, which is about 10 to 15 per cent of the total number of international migrants.
Undocumented migration is an extremely emotional subject nowadays and is often used to stir up racial and cultural tensions. Some politicians and journalists play up fears of terrorism regularly linking migrants with criminality and talk about "invasion". This image is strengthened by the use of dramatic pictures of desperate people willing to risk everything to work abroad. Consequently, the words "illegal migrant" carry a connotation of criminality where the migrant is to blame for doing what human beings have always done: crossing borders or oceans in search of a better life. Yet "illegal migration" is an expression used on a daily basis and reference to "illegal migration" is pervasive in the media. For instance, in the USA, despite numerous calls from groups such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the words "illegal", when describing a migrant, is still more than five times more common than the more neutral and accurate "undocumented". In 309 stories collected over a period of two months, there were 381 uses of the word "illegal" compared to 73 uses of the word "undocumented" when referring to irregular migrants.
A little bit of history
The concept of "irregular migration" is relatively new. Until recently, global migration was not regulated and visas and registration authorities simply did not exist. Migration was not an offence and usually, employment was not prohibited. Indeed, migrants were instead labelled "spontaneous immigrants" and could often easily regularise their status once in the new country. First used when immigration laws were passed in the 1920s to cope with European immigration into the USA, the concept of "illegal immigrant" was also applied during the 1930s, when unwanted Jewish migration to Palestine was declared "illegal immigration" by the British authorities. It was applied again, especially in Europe, during the 1960s and 1970s, though only occasionally, and the term "illegal immigration" only became mainstreamed from the mid 1980s onward. Therefore the concept of irregular migration is a phenomenon that has been politically and legally created recently and over a short time
There is very little critical assessment of how migrants become "irregular"; however "blame is usually attributed to the migrants". Whilst the term "irregular migrant" is the correct definition for a human being in an irregular situation, it does not reflect the varied motivations and ways by which people find themselves in an irregular situation.
Invisibility and silence
"Fear is the clandestine’s shadow. Fear of everything and everyone: of taking the bus, of working, of moving. One must take care not to be conspicuous, not to loiter in the shopping centres. Those who have nothing to buy, have no reason to loiter there ... Every action holds its own measure of risk."
Irregular migrants (especially people who have been trafficked or smuggled) rarely appear in official statistics. Often stripped of identity documents and fearful of contact with the authorities, irregular migrants are difficult to identify or trace. Sometimes migrants themselves seek invisibility to escape official attention or threats to themselves or their families. Sending money home (remittances) for instance, one of the main reasons for migrating, can be a very risky affair for undocumented migrants because a money transfer often requires proof of identity. Therefore, undocumented migrants tend to use less reliable and more expensive means of money transfer. This means that they send less back home or at times, nothing at all. This is sadly ironic considering that many left their countries to help sustain their families.
One of the greatest challenges faced by undocumented migrants is the risk of exploitation and abuse by:
* employers who often force migrants to work long hours in dangerous and/or unhealthy conditions, dismiss them without due notice, refuse to pay them or pay them less than what was agreed etc.;
* traffickers and irregular migration networks that often exploit or deceive them: lured with promises of work and a better life, migrants instead find themselves often in life threatening situations and many die before their arrival: since December 2002 3,713 migrants have died at the borders of Europe;
* members of their own communities who often take advantage of other migrants’ vulnerability: "Adama slept in a park along with dozens of other Africans. Finally, a man from Sierra Leone offered to give Adama his work permit. In return, Adama would pay him 100 euros each month. «And I said yes, because I didn't come here to do nothing». Thousands of immigrants in Spain are in similar situations; they are exploited by other immigrants who have papers."
"Clandestinity dissolves every life project." The life of undocumented migrants is usually a life without rights, with reduced or no access to public health systems, proper housing, education and financial systems. They are the "civic dead" . Yet all migrants (regardless of their status) have rights: not only those established through the UN Migrant Workers Convention but also as every human being, they are entitled to have their basic human rights respected as elaborated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The reality though, is that most governments fear that ensuring basic Human Rights for undocumented migrants would create a "pull effect" and encourage further irregular migration.
Does making laws stricter reduce irregular migration?
"Making migration rules stricter creates more clandestinity. It is not flexible migration policies that create illegal migration but too strict migration policies. When borders are open, people come and go. When borders are closed, people tend to stabilize.", Catherine Vihtol de Wenden, Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific (CNRS).
Most destination countries seem convinced that they are able to control migration while studies undertaken across the world show this is not the case and it is becoming more and more evident that restrictive migration laws tend to generate "illegality". Indeed, how can a country stop "migratory flows" in an era of globalisation where borders are open to international trade or tourism? Or, when business continues to lobby governments to facilitate migration to access cheaper labour markets? Separating migration from the world we live in is at the crux of the misunderstanding around migration.
This misunderstanding is reflected in international law, in the "fundamental contradiction for which only emigration is recognized as a fundamental right (article 13-2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ) while immigration is regarded as a matter of national sovereignty". States must rethink the issue based on a more comprehensive framework of mobility. If we want to see change, "the immediate challenge is indeed to persuade states to address irregular migration in a human rights framework", and to take into account the realities of our globalized world to start reducing human misery at home and abroad.
Traditionally, migration has been mostly a male phenomenon because men had the freedom to travel and a duty to maintain the financial upkeep of the family. Migration was a men’s world: migrants’ jobs were male jobs and migrants’ rights were men’s rights. But recently globalisation has brought with it a feminisation of migration, and the number of women who migrate alone, as men do, to make money and/or to support their families, is increasing. "There are very limited job opportunities in this country (…) I remember how I suffered before securing a job in Yemen (…) things would have been worse for me and my family had I not gone abroad to work", Ethiopian woman working in Yemen – quoted in UNFPA Report.
Who are the migrant women?
They are married or single, divorced or widows, mothers and daughters, girls and older women. They are many but they are invisible as there is not enough data or sex-disaggregated statistics on migrant women. We know that women make half of international migrants and that they tend to migrate from poor to poor countries as they avoid long journeys, may not have enough money to travel far, or are attracted to countries similar in terms of customs, religion, language, climate etc. But the number of women migrating to rich countries is increasing and today women represent the majority of immigrants in North America, Europe and the Middle East and the majority of emigrants from many countries in Asia and Latin America are female To join a migrant husband (family reunification) or to marry someone living in a different country. "I approved because she is a girl and so has to leave" said Hashim of his daughter leaving Ghana. Quoted in a report by
Why do women migrate?
To join a migrant husband (family reunification) or to marry someone living in a different country. "I approved because she is a girl and so has to leave" said Hashim of his daughter leaving Ghana. Quoted in a report byBridge.
To study or to acquire work experience and economic independence in order to gain more respect within their family and community because of the contribution they make to their welfare. "While working in Hong Kong I experienced many things – the way people treat a dependent or independent woman. I have gained much experience and my confidence has grown. Now, I have a say in decision-making at home. My husband does not shout at me. I have bought a piece of land and four rickshaws and I am creating a means of livelihood for four other families" Sushila Rai, To escape gender discrimination and constraining gender norms, such as the obligation to marry or have children, the prohibition to study or work.
Furthermore, women who might have migrated for other reasons often do not want to return home because they fear to lose their newly-won autonomy.
Especially in relation to female migrants studies rely often on the difference between "forced" or "voluntary" migration. But real life examples show the problems in categorising the motivations of migration as either "forced" or "voluntary". To what extent these people’s migration was coercion or choice is open to debate: a family from Niger faced with famine moving for survival; a daughter in the Philippines sent by her family to work as a maid and sending her earnings back home; a Bangladeshi woman divorced by her husband who is sent back to her parents’ village etc.. The difficulty to differentiate between voluntary and non-voluntary forms of migration can also be retraced in the issue of trafficking. The emphasis on force and deception sets trafficking apart from other forms of migration and conceives of trafficking in terms of the manipulations practiced by third parties. However, respondents’ accounts of their migratory histories and the span of time that preceded their decision to migrate contest the distinctiveness of trafficking operations. Figures show that 80% of trafficked persons are
Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (UN 2000) – defines trafficking as follows: "Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs."
They are maids, cleaners and caretakers of the sick, the elderly and of children, as well as farmers, waitresses, sweatshop workers, highly skilled professionals, teachers, nurses, entertainers, sex workers.
Skilled women tend to go into care-related professions (education, health, social work); nursing is the most female-dominated sector (90%) and for this the term "care drain" is used. However, while male migrants often undertake work that is classified as "skilled", such as management positions in the manufacturing sector, women frequently are engaged in so-called unskilled positions, such as domestic work: 60% of Latin American women migrants work as domestic employees in the host country.
Immigration policies in destination countries tend to give more rights and opportunities for the regularisation of workers in the male sectors, which are traditional migrants’ sectors. The female sectors tend to be characterised by their poor working conditions, low pay, insecurity and potential to be exposed to sexual abuse.
It is not only women who are impacted by migration; women themselves are changing the face of migration. Despite the lack of disaggregated data we know that:
Patterns of migration can differ for women and men, but most crucially, the impact on either is often radically different, and women on the whole are the most vulnerable. But women can also bring positive new features to modern migration. Therefore sending, transit and receiving countries must bring a gender perspective in all policies related to migration so that before any decision is made, an analysis of their effects on both women and men is ensured in order to make the most of women’s specific skills and knowledge and to protect them from abuse. That means also, that more gender-sensitive inquiries show how a seemingly gender-neutral process of movement is, in fact, highly gender-specific and may result in differential outcomes for men and women
In particular, measures should be taken:
"Searching opportunities and a better life, migrants can speed up the developing process", says UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
International migration is a fact and, to a large extent, the result of the lack of sustainable development in home countries. In the age of globalisation and integration of markets, international migration can therefore be a potentially interesting response for both countries of origin as well as countries of destination. But, even if the economic benefits of migration might be positive, we have to look at the costs and see what the impact is, not only in terms of the economy but also with respect to the social well-being of the people involved.
"Diaspora is fast emerging as one of the forces for development in the globalizing world". Diaspora describes a group of nationals living abroad, whose members maintain their ethnic and national identity, keep in contact both with people in the country of origin and with other national diasporas around the world. They often create their own organisations, institutions and voluntary associations in the host countries to protect their rights; they fund community projects in countries of origin, such as schools, health centres, small-scale dams for farming, water supply system, agro-business programmes, etc. They facilitate and finance family reunification as well as migration of friends and they provide help for newly arrived migrants to find employment, housing, etc. Many work in skilled sectors and accumulate knowledge that allows them to establish and manage their own enterprises in their home countries. The creation of networks among migrants in sending and receiving countries promotes the flow of investments and know-how in the country of origin. For instance, Indian workers in the United States are supporting the Indian software industry through transfer of IT technology.
Remittances and their impact on poverty reduction
Migrants send home significant amounts of remittances. These international money transfers represent an important percentage of their income, although this varies by region and skill-level.
In 2008, migrants sent home some US$ 280 billion in the form of remittances; this is up 6.7 percent from US$ 265 in 2007. As informal remittances add another 50% to the total of formal remittances, the full amount is probably more than twice the official development aid (ODA) received by "developing" countries. Additionally, the circulation of skilled people can promote "brain gain" where a migrant’s destination country can take advantage of well educated people filling-in gaps in their own economy while the country of origin can see their skilled people come back to work, teach, invest, share skills and train other people.
Remittances have the potential to positively influence local development, reduce poverty and improve the lives of migrants and their families in particular. For this to happen, however, a suitable economic environment is necessary and the constraints people face need to be addressed properly. When this is not the case, remittances are used mostly for survival or emergency spending on food, water and fuel.
For more research on remittances see the Web Anthology on Migrant Remittances and Development.
The recurrent structural problems which people are confronted with include: high levels of corruption, lack of access to financial institutions (especially in the rural areas), the high cost of remitting, instability of exchange rates in the home country, illiteracy, and the requirements put in place in terms of proof of identity. The latter is especially the case for undocumented migrants who fear legal action or deportation if the authorities become aware of their status as a result of transmitting money. Additionally, the financial system makes the transfer of remittances costly for migrant workers: they pay for taxes when the money gets to its destination and for the commission levied by money transfer companies. High commissions can be collected by money transfer companies because of a lack of competition: for instance, Western Union and MoneyGram control 70% of the US remittances market and charge an average of 10% on financial transfers. However, fees can even be higher in other parts of the world, sometimes exceeding 20%. The global average for commissions on money transfers hovers at 13% . The fact that identification is often required means that many migrants (temporary migrants, who only migrate for a fixed period of time, and undocumented migrants) cannot open their own savings accounts nor access banking services.
Migration of lowly as well as highly skilled migrants can have a beneficial socio-economic impact on both countries of origin and destination. While abroad, migrants gain experience, know-how, earn money, create networks between the two countries and can contribute to the development of both.
If migrants go back home after a long period abroad (such as 5 to 10 years) their return can be beneficial in terms of development if (and only if) they find a favourable investment environment: they can create their own enterprises or invest in local enterprises, bring new knowledge in the fields of medicine or technology, develop educational projects and combat illiteracy through establishing schools, etc.
However, permanent return is rare since the root causes that led to emigration in the first place (often a complex combination of economic, social, political, and/or religious factors) are often still present. These push factors are a continuing reality, so migrants have very little incentives to return home. On the other hand, the loss of skilled people in countries of origin remains problematic since this "brain drain" represents a considerable loss to the sending countries.
For those who do return, reintegration in the local labour market is often difficult. This is particularly true for women who time and again find themselves back at home stuck in the roles of housewives and mothers and do not make the most of the skills they acquired abroad. Men find it difficult too as they adapt to a new work environment, which is different from the one they left behind. Where the gap in technology between the country of origin and the host country is large, the specific skills learned while overseas may be of limited relevance upon return.
Migrant workers who stayed abroad for less than six months usually do not have the possibility to acquire experience, knowledge or save enough money and therefore they bring very little back from their experience of migration. Finally, migrants who return for short periods (some months) tend to remain unemployed during that period, waiting to migrate again, without using or sharing their new skills.
In a paper for the 2009 GFMD, Daniel Verger from Caritas France argues that development policies must be integrated into migration policies, trade policies and agriculture policies. He writes that:
“The international community would benefit from improving the integration of migration into development strategies. We must not forget that the key criteria for more coherence are the political impact on the improvement of the living conditions and the opportunities for people to make their own choice. A systematic and thorough impact assessment of external policies on developing countries, especially on the poor and vulnerable groups, including impact on forced migration is needed.
The influence of political choice is crucial, especially in the field of employment, trade and development policies. Those three aspects have to be put together to set up an effective policy which can give hope to people, and particularly young people.
As Daniel Verger writes in his contribution for the 2009 GFMD: “Development (turned to productive capacity increase), employment (particularly with regards to projects which are strongly labour-oriented and the development of high rate employment sectors), and trade (creating evolution and integration opportunities with regard to globalisation) together can become one coherent concept for just development.”
The IOM World Migration Report (2008) defines circular migration as "the fluid movement of people between countries, including temporary or long-term movement which may be beneficial to all involved, if occurring voluntarily and linked to the labour needs of countries of origin and destination". Newland and Agunias identify circular migration as "a continuing, long-term, and fluid pattern of human mobility among countries that occupy what is now increasingly recognized as a single economic space". It denotes "a continuous engagement in both home and adopted countries; it usually involves both return and repetition".
Both definitions are linked to an "economic perspective" and do not really take into account social matters. Both take for granted that circular migration provides a win-win situation for the countries involved as well as for the migrants. The assumption is that migration occurs in a controlled/managed way and that agreements are respected by the parties involved. In a not so positive but more realistic scenario, circularity may be interrupted because of other circumstances like the end of an agreement or the strengthening of borders in the case of de facto circular migration.
The Consortium for Applied Research on International Migration (CARIM), based at the European Universities Institute, insists that circular migration is (or should be) temporary, renewable, circulatory (offering freedom of movement during each term),legal, respectful of migrants' rights, and effective in matching labour supply in one country with labour needs in another.
Circular migration patterns are often categorized by time: temporary and seasonal work migration; and by the skills-level of the workers: low, semi and high skilled migration.
The UN Migrant Workers Convention defines a seasonal migrant worker as "a migrant worker whose work, or migration for work that, is dependent on seasonal conditions and is performed only during part of the year", so we would find that most of the seasonal workers are those hired for agriculture work or during holiday seasons. On the other hand, temporary migrant workers are those who work in a destination country for definite periods, normally under a labour contract with an enterprise or an individual employer.
There continues to be a debate on how to define in a meaningful way the skills-categories. Furthermore, a skills-level can be characteristic of a job but also of a worker. And, in many cases, migrant workers might have no other choice but to take employment in a category that is lower than the one associated with their education. In some cases, for example, foreign countries do not accredit certain educational degrees.
In industrialized countries, demographic changes as well as changes in the labour force and the low level of remuneration result in a growing demand for migrant workers to fill vacancies in such sectors as construction, agriculture, house-keeping, child and elderly care. According to Stephen Castles, the question remains, however, whether these really are temporary issues that can be solved with temporary of circular migration schemes?
Between 1945 and 1970 almost all industrialized countries used temporary labour programmes as a way to recruit migrant workers from lesser-developed countries. The United Kingdom, France, Switzerland and Belgium were the first countries that introduced such programmes in the 1940s. Germany, the Netherlands and Austria followed. According to Castles these countries were importing labour instead of people: "the idea was to ensure "rotation" by recruiting workers for a limited period, restricting their rights, and minimizing family reunion. Migrants were expected to accept relatively poor wages and conditions, make little demand on social infrastructure, and not get involved in labour struggles".
Both in the guest worker programmes in Germany and the United States, workers did not return to their home country. In the case of the US, the former bracero programme was stopped by a unilateral decision from Washington, primarily because of complaints from the unions. But foreign workers continued to be employed. This time, however, as undocumented or irregular workers. In Europe, guest worker programmes were stopped in the 1970s in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France and the Benelux countries.
According to the OECD's International Migration Outlook 2008, there were in 2006 some 2.5 million temporary migrant workers admitted to OECD countries, with the majority being employed in so-called low or semi-skilled jobs( in such sectors as construction, household work, cleaning or personal care). This is about three times as high as the number of permanent labour migrants.
One recent phenomenon is the increase of the number of women in the temporary or circular labour migration programmes. This is based on the assumption that female workers - especially if they are mothers - will more easily return to their home countries.
Circular migration - controversy continues
Kathleen Newland and Aaron Terrazas from the Migration Policy Institute write in their contribution to the 2009 Global Forum on Migration and Development that: "Circular migration should not be confused with conventional understandings of temporary migration, which does not build in the dynamism of a continuing engagement in both countries. With circulation, both countries stand to profit if migrants become better educated, more productive members of the community. Temporariness discourages the meaningful, high-return investments in people that are necessary for development and that contribute to economic growth. Employers have little interest in training a migrant whom they will never see again for higher skills or responsibility. This limits the occupational mobility of immigrant workers. Countries of destination, too, have little stake in the individual migrant who has no chance of becoming a member of the national community." MPI therefore weighs in with a pattern of migration characterized by a migrant's continuing engagement in both home and adopted countries" - a definition which assumes that circular migrants are integrated in both countries of origin and destination.
This view is challenged by Ana Avedaño from the AFL-CIO who states that "the programs that are now being touted as examples of successful circular migration programs are, in fact, the very same programs that were being touted as successful temporary worker programs-with the Canadian agricultural program most often cited as the example of a "best practice." For another, the purported benefits of "circular migration" are the same that were promoted in relation to temporary worker programs, which did not value workers' rights, but rather treated them as bundles that may be traded away in exchange for access to labour markets where wages are higher than in home countries." The ILO suggests to consider a different frame, one that doesn't treat migration as a problem but as a human condition that has existed throughout time, which should be addressed through a strategy for shared prosperity and not merely "managed."
Migration is a complex global phenomenon resulting from a wide range of so-called push and pull factors. One of the reasons that gained international prominence is the notion that climate change and environmental degradation significantly increase population displacement because people can no longer sustain a dignified life at home. Already in 1990, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned in its first report that the impact of climate change would be on human migration. In 1992, at the Preparatory Meeting of the Summit of Rio de Janeiro, Sadako Ogata, then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that environmental degradation has increasingly become both a cause and symptom of massive population movements. The relationship between changes in the environment and migration has ever since gained increasing interest within the international community.
There is wide debate and a lack of consensus on the concept of "environmental refugees". First, it should be noted that people who migrate for environmental reasons do not fall within the categories covered by the 1951 Geneva Convention. The term was first used in 1985 by Essam El-Hinnawi in a report for the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) and included three categories: temporary displacement due to natural disasters, displaced people due to permanent environmental degradation, and those who migrate permanently or temporarily because of ecological changes in their environment and who cannot afford to mitigate the changes. The term "environmental refugee" is controversial and sparked discussions within the academic community. The discussion focuses primarily on the existence or not of a direct relationship between environmental disruptions and the displacement of people. It is generally accepted that a growing number of people have no alternative but to seek refuge elsewhere because of drought, soil erosion, desertification and other environmental problems. But, it can also be argued that the term simplifies the "multi-causality of social, economic and political factors which underpin environmentally-forced migration."1 William B. Wood, the official Geographer of the US Department of State, proposes the term "eco-migrant" to refer to people who move for environmental causes. This term would allow capturing the multiple factors that cover the linkage between environmental degradation, people's livelihoods and forced migration.
Internally Displaced People (IDP)
The UNHCR defines IDPs as "Persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border"
Environmental degradation does cause the internal displacement of people. In fact, most environmental migrants move within their own country, primarily from the country side to the urban areas. According to the 2009 study "Monitoring disaster displacement in the context of climate change" by the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) study, 36 million people were newly displaced, within their countries and across borders, by sudden-onset natural disasters in 2008.
In the fourth IPCC report, it is estimated that by 2100 there will be an increase of the global average temperature between 1.4 and 5.8 centigrade, resulting in major floods and droughts as well as the gradual increase of the sea level (between 8 and 88 centimeter). The most affected areas will be the coastal zones and the islands of the Pacific.
Tuvalu is a paradigmatic example of the relationship between global warming and migration. The progressive increase of the sea level is invading the island's reservoirs of sweet water and the rise of the oceantemperature is damaging the coral reefs and putting at risk the population of fish. The result is that increasingly inhabitants are forced to move because they cannot sustain their livelihoods.
"Tragically, our environment is changing. The old people have noticed the changes, beaches have disappeared, small islets have been washed away, coral reefs are starting to die and crops are dying from salt-water intrusion. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed all these observations and predicted worse to come. As the temperature of the oceans increases, more corals will die. Sea levels will rise and severe storms will get far worse. Tuvalu faces a very uncertain future." Affirmed Apisai Ielemia Prime Minister of Tuvalu
According to the IPCC, Pacific Islanders are the least contributors to emissions of greenhouse gases, but they are three times more vulnerable to climate change than other countries.
The government of Tuvalu has discussed migration policies with thegovernments of Australia and New Zealand. And it is likely to become the first nation with "environmental refugees." Australia has been approached by the islands' authorities, but has not agreed to let the 12,000 islanders resettle there. New Zealand instituted a program called the Pacific Access Category (PAC) in 2001, but has no explicit policy to take in people from Pacific island countries that are forced to leave their country because of climate change. Also, the individuals seeking residency in New Zealand must meet certain criteria. For example, they must be between the ages of 18 and 45; this leaves unprotected a large vulnerable fraction of the population: children and the elderly.
Another example is Bangladesh. According to the Forced Migration Review No. 31 the country is one of the most vulnerable to any changes caused by global warming: the rise of the sea level, the overflowing of rivers, the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas, increased frequency of natural disasters, droughts, etc., have negative effects on its population and could generate significant numbers of forced migrants. In November 2007, for example, cyclone Sidr caused 3.2 million displaced people who were forced to move to the capital Dhaka or to migrate to India or other countries.
Increased Meteorological Disasters
The report of the Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) states that the increase of extreme events in climate variability is closely linked to climate change. The increasing number of natural catastrophes has become more firmly entrenched since the mid-1980s. Forced Migration Review No. 31 establishes that these "disasters create social and economic stresses that can result in significant dislocation and migration. The authors write that: "The increase in disasters can be seen as a red light, a warning of unsustainable development. More people inhabit risky places and risky dwellings, undertaking large-scale activities that raise risk, like settling on flood plains, storm exposed coasts and landslide-prone hillsides, and building schools and apartments that will collapse in cyclones or earthquakes. Protective mangroves are cleared for shrimp farms, flood-buffering wetlands are filled for industrial zones, and rainfall-absorbing forests are stripped from steep and unstable hillsides."
The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015, adopted at the 2005 World Conference on Disasters Reduction (WCDR) seeks "the substantial reduction of disaster losses, in lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries." This document highlights the need to link the reduction of the risk of disasters to policies of sustainable development, and to return the attention to the root causes of risks.
The report of the UNU-EHS warns that beyond the national and international efforts to mitigate the consequences of the natural disasters, their impacts are affecting an increasing number of communities and can become an important factor causing massive population displacement. Hence, is "important to rapidly address, at the policy level, the issue of environmental migrants/refugees."
Both hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean demonstrated clearly the need to take into account the community of migrants, both regular and irregular, at the moment of planning the prevention of the natural disasters. Frank Laczko, IOM's Head of Research, said "When disaster strikes, migrant communities often tend to become forgotten, hidden groups that miss out on humanitarian assistance and support" and he added "And because their basic needs are overlooked, they become even more marginalized and vulnerable." From the paper "Migration, Development and Natural Disasters"
The director of the Central American Resource Center (CAREC), an NGO that works with migrants, Nelson Reyes said that "Katrina confirmed that migrants are more vulnerable because of losses suffered by the hurricane added their undocumented status." The U.S. Government assured that the aid granted to the victims did not consider their immigration status, however, according to Reyes, many of the irregular immigrants feared of being deported and therefore did not ask for help.
1 See: "Environmentally displaced people: understanding the linkages between environmental change, livelihoods and forced migration." Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford (2008). The document is available here: http://repository.forcedmigration.or /show_metadata.jsp?pid=fmo:4960
Rarely considered as a stand-alone group in migration debates, young migrants comprise a growing percentage of the total number of migrants in the world. According to a report from the United Nations Population Fund, young people make up about a quarter of the total number of migrants worldwide. As the total number of international migrants increases, so does the number of children and youth that are affected by this global phenomenon.
Who are the Children and Youth Affected by Migration?
The children and young people that are affected by migration include those who migrate to other countries together with their families, those left behind by one or both parents because they migrated, and those who migrate on their own. Most young migrants come from developing countries, where young people make up about 30% of the population. They generally migrate alone or with their families, to better-off neighbouring countries, or to developed countries.
Children and youth affected by migration can be found all over the world. To name some examples:
- South Asian boys who work as camel jockeys in the Gulf,
- Teenagers who leave Mexico to go to the United States,
- Moroccan teens smuggled into the Canary Islands,
- Female victims of trafficking and young women sent off for marriage,
- Children forced to beg in tourist attractions,
- Young girls who do the domestic work for better-off families in many developing countries (some of them hoping to save up money for marriage back home),
- Children sent from poor, rural areas to work in richer urban areas to help their families,
- Children who suddenly find themselves as heads of parentless-household because their parents have migrated, and
- The children of migrants who belong, culturally speaking, both to their parents' home and host countries.
Youth that Migrate Alone
Just like adults, young people that migrate on their own may do so within their own country (typically from rural to urban areas), to neighbouring countries that are part of the same labour market, or in other cases, to richer and more distant countries.
Young people may migrate on their own for any number of reasons, including fleeing abusive families, forced marriages, lack of schooling, discrimination, war and persecution. Additionally, they may leave their homes to be reunited with other family members who have migrated beforehand and as a result of pressure - both explicit and implicit - from other family members to contribute to the household income.
"[M]y mother decided to send me for work as a cleaner in some hotel. The two major considerations were that there would be one mouth less to compete for food and that I would earn extra money that would help my mother to purchase groceries."
Young man who first migrated at the age of 10, quoted in a report from the Development Research Centre on Migration
And, just like adults, the young also migrate because they want to improve their economic situation.
"I wanted to earn some money because back home I had to ask my father to buy things for me and he couldn't buy all the things I'd like to have."
17-year old boy who left his village for a bigger city in Burkina Faso, quoted in a report from the Development Research Centre on Migration
Young people who migrate alone are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation, and may face legal difficulties related to their irregular immigration status. See the UNICEF report "Children, Youth and Migration"
Children that Migrate with their Parents
One of the major advantages that children who migrate with their parents may experience is the improvement of their living standards, not just because of economic gains but also as the result of improved access to a better education and health services. Additionally, if the family remains united, the children and youth who migrate will likely benefit from the stability that comes with being together with their parents.
But these children also face disadvantages. Migrant children may experience dangers in travelling to the country of destination, discrimination and exclusion, language barriers and difficulties in adapting to the new country's culture while reconciling this with their own cultural background.
"I can't say I'm one thing or the other. I'm a Moroccan Berber who was born in the Netherlands, with Dutch citizenship. I'm both, and that enriches me and troubles me too, all at the same time."
Young woman with Moroccan parents in the Netherlands as quoted in UNFPA report.
Children of migrant parents generally also live in poorer households than children of non-migrant parents. In the United States, for example 54% of children of migrants live in households where the family income is below the poverty level, while 36% of children of non-immigrants live in low-income households.1 A lower household income usually translates into "increased food insecurity, a greater likelihood of living in crowded housing, poorer health, and lower rates of health insurance coverage."2
In addition to facing greater poverty rates, children of migrants may, depending on the residency and citizenship rules of their host and home countries, find themselves potentially stateless: ineligible for citizenship in either their host or home countries.3
Children Left Behind
At first blush, children that are left behind by one or both migrating parents may seem to benefit from their parents' migration because their parents' remittances often increase their overall material wealth, as well as their access to healthcare and education. For example, a 2003 study of children in the Philippines found that children of migrants were much more likely to attend private schools which are considered to be better than state schools, than the children of non-migrants.4 Parental migration can also help empower young women that are left behind, as they gain a greater decisional role in their household than they may have otherwise had in a conservative society.5
It is commonly said that children who are left behind are sometimes left alone, and even when they are left in the care of someone (usually a member of their extended family), they are likely to suffer psychological effects from the break up of the family unit.6
"When they left for the first time I felt lonely in this crazy world . . . I have never opened my heart to anyone since then."7
Moldovan child explaining the feelings caused by parents' migration.
"I get more money and I have more freedom, but I get into more fights and no one supervises me."8
Trinidadian child's perception of the impact of parental migration.
Indeed, UNICEF country studies suggest that children and youth that are left behind have a greater incidence of drug abuse and teen pregnancy, and are more prone to bouts of violent behaviour than children who live with their parents.9 Additionally, some studies find that children left behind face discrimination in their communities as a result of their parents' migration.10
Issues Specifically Affecting Child and Youth Migrants
While young migrants face many of the same issues that affect adult migrants, they face additional challenges as a result of their age.
First, children and youth who migrate are more susceptible to human rights abuses, such as labour exploitation, trafficking and physical abuse. For example, in the Gulf region, it is mainly children that are trafficked for camel jockeying, marriages, and begging.11 And in Spain, Human Rights Watch reports that while adults facing deportation are provided with lawyers, the state does not provide such legal assistance to children. Indeed, the government has even attempted to block pro bono attorneys from representing migrant children who face deportation.12
Sometimes it is the children's own families that may unwittingly help perpetuate abuses against them. For example, some Ghanaian families have unknowingly sent their children to work under abusive conditions in fishing villages, believing that their children would be well-treated and taught a useful trade.13
Similarly, in Argentina, many migrant families cannot make ends meet unless their children also generate income. With few opportunities for meaningful work and education, many of these children become cartoneros (scavengers who look through rubbish dumps for recyclable materials).14
Second, children and youth who migrate may, at times, be treated as adults for legal purposes, effectively giving them less legal protection than they are entitled to based on their age. They may, for example be using false documents that state them to be older than they really are, or they may have been erroneously classified adults by immigration authorities. In the Canary Islands in Spain, for example, migrant children are sometimes not referred to child protective services because immigration officials mistakenly determine that they are older than is the case.15 To make matters worse, the Spanish government has on occasion repatriated unaccompanied children, subjecting them to further abuses in their home country. For instance, instead of being reunited with their families, some of these children are turned out onto the street and left to fend for themselves.16
Third, although international human rights conventions list access to healthcare and education as fundamental rights, children and youth may be denied access to them for any number of reasons. In addition to language barriers, they may lack identification documents proving their eligibility for these services, or they may face arbitrary denial of these services by the officials in charge. Furthermore, children who migrated with their families may not be able to take advantage of these services because their parents fear detection by the authorities or because their parents simply cannot afford to pay fees and expenses that may be associated with medical services or schooling.
1 Children of Immigrants: Facts and Figures, The Urban Institute, available at www.urban.org/publications/900955.html
2 Children of Immigrants: Facts and Figures, The Urban Institute, available at www.urban.org/publications/900955.html
3 Children, Youth and Migration, UNICEF, available at www.un.org/esa/population/migration/turin/Turin_Statements/UNICEF.pdf
4 Children of International Migrants in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines: A Review of Evidence and Policies, page 5, available at www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/iwp2005_05.pdf
5 Children, Youth and Migration, UNICEF, available at www.un.org/esa/population/migration/turin/Turin_Statements/UNICEF.pdf
6 Children, Youth and Migration, UNICEF, available at www.un.org/esa/population/migration/turin/Turin_Statements/UNICEF.pdf
7 The Situation of Children Left Behind by Migrating Parents Moldova Children Left Behind, UNICEF Country Office in Moldova, available at www.gfmd-fmmd.org/en/document-library-en/42
8 Children of Migration, Links Between Migration, Parenting & Children's Rights, Dr Adele Jones, The University of The West Indies, Trinidad, available at www.familyandparenting.org/speechesAndPresentations?sftype=Speeches+and+...
9 Children and Migration, UNICEF, available at www.gfmd-fmmd.org/en/system/files/CHILDREN+AND+MIGRATION.pdf
10 What Emigration Leaves Behind: The Situation of Emigrants and their Families in Ecuador, Inter-American Development Bank, page 29, available at idbdocs.iadb.org/wsdocs/getdocument.aspx?docnum=1334869
11 Regional Conference on The Situation of Migrant Workers in Asia and the Arab Region, International Federation for Human Rights, available at www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/MigrationDohaasiearab497ang2008.pdf
12 Unwelcome Responsibilities: Spain's Failure to Protect the Rights of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the Canary Islands, Human Rights Watch, available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/spain0707/spain0707web.pdf
13 When Rescue is not the End But a Beginning - Ghanaian Child Victims of Trafficking, International Organization for Migration, available at www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/media/featurestories/featureArticleAF/cache/offo...
14 Recuperar: Preventing and Eradicating Child Labour in Migrant Families, International Organization for Migration, available atwww.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/activities/by-theme/regulating-migration/counter-trafficking/recuperar-preventing-and-eradicating-child-labour-migrant-families
15 Unwelcome Responsibilities: Spain's Failure to Protect the Rights of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the Canary Islands, Human Rights Watch, available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/spain0707/spain0707web.pdf
16 Unwelcome Responsibilities: Spain's Failure to Protect the Rights of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the Canary Islands, Human Rights Watch, available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2007/spain0707/spain0707web.pdf
Media and Diversity Manager
Council of Europe
Today international migration has become a global phenomenon. The total number of migrants in the world multiplied at least by four over the last 40 years; the number of immigration, emigration or transit countries has been multiplied by two. International mobility has become a major socioeconomic issue for industrialised as well as for developing countries. At the heart of the issue is, on the one hand, the European countries’ necessity to meet their present and future population’s needs considering their demographic realities. On the other hand, we find the developing countries’ willingness to guarantee a certain circulation of labour forces towards industrialised countries to maintain, or even reinforce funds, technological and know-how transfers that contribute to the dynamic of their economies.
Yet, immigration is still perceived as an unfair concurrence and a security and/or economic threat by certain fringes of the public opinion in Europe. This negative perception of migration can only be counterbalanced by a professional and high quality press coverage that takes into account migrants’ provisions and contributions to the economic, social, cultural and political dynamics of our contemporary societies. In this sense media professionals have a primordial role to play towards public opinion: to stimulate and guarantee a pluralism of points of view and opinion, susceptible to ensure a real democratic debate over migration issues and their impacts.
For many years now, the media in some European countries developed various initiatives to make "the other" seen and heard, the one that is perceived as such, the one that comes from away; the migrant. This is the case for the so-called specific programs, developed and broadcasted notably by French public television channels, until the beginning of the year 2000. These programs are devoted to immigration issues and immigration people. Since the end of the 90s in Great Britain, or in France more recently, voluntarist policies about immigrants’ and minority access to media professions were put in place. These policies are aimed to contribute to a representation more in line with the diversity of our contemporary societies and to a content opening taking into account the transformations linked to the introduction of various groups of people into these societies.
Thus, at the dawn of the 90s began the debate on the representation of "visible" immigrants and minorities within the media. Outlining the principal initiatives in France, the United Kingdom, or even in the United States, clearly shows that the presence and the representativeness of immigrants raises complex issues that originate in the history of immigration peculiar to each of these countries; in the introduction models of the migrant populations in the concerned societies or in the regulatory modalities of the communications and audiovisual sectors chosen by these states. Yet, whatever the country, for political, economical or social reasons, this question continues to be perceived as an issue for the reinforcement of social cohesion.
However, we have to admit, that to this day, few or not to say no analysis exists that permit us to outline the impact on the media of more than 15 years of voluntary actions. Indeed, the research papers dedicated to the media field, notably in France, remain silent on the production of sense, on the symbolic discourse and the creation of a social imagination by the media regarding immigrants, visible minorities and global migration. Even if we agree to recognize that the visibility of ethnic minorities within the media has increased, notably in the United Kingdom, a high degree of dissatisfaction seems to persist within the minorities concerning their representation on the screen. This dissatisfaction is mainly due to the question that representation exceeds the simple fact to see a person with the same skin colour on the screen. People coming from minorities and recruited by the media are still not considered as professionals. They are often confined to the role of spokesman for these groups, which are thus presented and represented on air.
Concerning the content, it is regularly observed that migration and minority populations are still today presented as a threat to other people’s security as the "communitisation" of the news items shows. This is for example the case when we look at the common journalistic practice to mention the origin of a person who has committed a misdemeanour. However, at the end of the 90s, public media start to show examples of "successful migrants". These figures are, however, limited to the single dimension of the spectacle or the performance. Therefore, this new journalistic approach will not be able to counterbalance the often negative representations about migration flows, suburbs and Islam, etc… Scientific research shows public media generally treat migration themes in a sensationalist way and continue to think of immigration as a problem.
Finally, how does public opinion react to a greater visibility on the screen of migrants and minority people? What does the public think about it? What is the impact of a more visible presence and an increased expression of the minorities on the “live-together dynamics” and on the acceptance of the migration issue? It is difficult to answer this question because there is a serious lack of research on this in Europe, and particularly in France.
Yet, the linkages between media and migration refer to more global issues raised by international migration. The notions of sovereignty (connection to the territory), citizenship (place and status of minorities), discrimination (access to the right to speak) or social relationships (generation, gender) are challenged. At a time when the questions of diversity also reveal the actual political and cultural tensions at the national as well as trans-national levels, the issue of representation becomes even more important. A balanced representation on the screen as well as in the press and an adequate participation in the production of one of the most influential cultural institutions of our times – the media – is an important issue for the media but also, and especially, for a truly democratic functioning of the whole of society.
The issue today is to go beyond the single question of physical visibility, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition for a better representation of minorities in the media. Indeed it is urgent to look into the content produced and broadcasted about migration, its impact on public opinion, and the role given to visible minorities at the various stages of the development and distribution of media productions. But these different initiatives will only become significant, in particular regarding international migration issues, when media and the whole society have made the invisible visible and rendered the visible invisible. For all this will remain vain if society, while it accepts to see, refuses to hear and above all to listen.
Today Media & Diversity Manager by the Education, Culture and Heritage, Youth and Sport Directorate General, within the framework of the campaign Speak out against discrimination, Reynald Blion has been scientific and editorial director of the program Migrations internationales & media of the Paris Panos Institute until January 2008. His centres of interests are concentrated on questions linked to international migration and the inter-cultural diversity of our Europeans societies.
Over the last ten years, he has developed various Europeans projects aimed to highlight the contributions from migrants or visible minorities to inter-cultural and international dynamics of our contemporary world. These programs targeted primarily media professionals, leaders from civil society, or political decision makers. During these programs, Reynald Blion organised multiple seminars, workshops or lectures concerning these questions at national and European level.
He published or contributed to various works: MediaDiv – Le répertoire des media des diversités (Paris, Panos/L’Harmattan, juillet 07), Europe des migrations / Europe de développement (Paris, Panos/Karthala, mars 05), Histoires de savoir, migration, mobilité des compétences et développement (Paris, Panos/Karthala, avril 04), Ethnic media and diversity in Europe (in : Georgiou M., Transnational lives and the media, Londres, Routledge, août 07), Parler de l’autre / Parler d’ailleurs. De la visibilité à l’expression des diversités en Europe (in : Rigoni I., Les bannis des media, Paris, Aux lieux d’être, mai 07), Media des diversités en Europe (Agenda interculturel, n°239-240, fév. 06), South of North : European Immigrants’ stakeholdings in Southern Development (in: BRYCESON Deborah & VUORELA Ulla (Eds), The transational family, new European frontiers and global networks, Oxford and New York, Berg, 02)...
His main works are : Représentation des immigrés au sein des media : bilan des connaissances (Paris, Panos / Fasild, juillet 06), Media & Information, pratiques et réalités de la Diversité (Paris, Panos, avril 06), Immigration management in France – Strategic elements for a common policy on immigration (Bruxelles, Migration Policy Group / Panos, mai 03), Une politique d’asile en question – Le cas français (Bern, Forum suisse pour les Migrations / Panos, octobre 03), Epargne des migrants et outils financiers adaptés : le cas des maliens et des sénégalais de France (2 vol. , Paris, Ministère de l’Emploi et de la Solidarité, juillet 98).