Global perspective Human stories

Migration benefits sender and receiver countries, Annan says, welcoming new panel

Migration benefits sender and receiver countries, Annan says, welcoming new panel

Calling attention to the rights of migrants around the world, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today gave his backing to the establishment of a new global panel that will examine how international migration can be managed better.

But while migration can be managed, it should not be halted, because migration brings benefits to sender and receiver countries, Mr. Annan said in a speech in New York.

“Migration is one of the tools we have to help put more of the world's people on the right side of ? and ultimately, to eliminate ? the vast divides that exist today between poor and rich, and between fettered and free,” he said in the Emma Lazarus Lecture on International Flows of Humanity, given at Columbia University.

Mr. Annan said he supported the proposed Global Commission on migration, an independent, non-UN body to be launched next month in Geneva. It will be co-chaired by Jan Karlsson of Sweden, a former Migration Minister from that country, and Mamphela Ramphele of South Africa, a managing director of the World Bank.

According to a senior UN official, the idea for the Commission came from a core of 11 countries from the North and South, led by Sweden and Switzerland. The panel is expected to begin work in January and complete its final report by the middle of 2005.

The official said the Commission would have a three-part mandate: to bring the issues surrounding international migration to the top of the global agenda, to analyze shortcomings and gaps in approaches by governments or other bodies to migration, and to make practical recommendations for how to manage migration better.

In his speech today, Mr. Annan said migration could be a solution to economic problems. Migrants provide vital skills to receiver countries with a labour shortage and an often ageing population, and send home vast amount of remittances to their families in home countries.

Last year alone, the Secretary-General said, migrant remittances from the developed world were at least $88 billion, more than the amount sent in official development aid to the same developing nations.

“Emigration also relieves the pressures of overpopulation and unemployment, and in time endows sender countries with an educated diaspora who often bring or send home new skills, products, ideas and knowledge.”

Mr. Annan added that more needed to be done to create economic opportunities in poor countries so that potential migrants have a greater incentive to stay home, and said tighter border controls in receiver countries have generally not been successful in reducing migration.

“Instead, immigrants are driven to enter the country clandestinely, to overstay their visas, or to resort to the one legal route still open to them, namely the asylum system.”

The Secretary-General said these issues highlighted the value of countries harmonizing their policies on migration and maintain networks of cooperation and information-sharing against people traffickers.

He also called for receiver countries to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families ? so far only sender countries have ratified the treaty.