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Migrant Population on Track to Hit 400 Million

Sanjay Suri

MADRID, Nov 28 2010 (IPS) - The population of migrants worldwide could rise above 400 million by 2050 if present rates of growth continue, says a report by the International Organisation for Migration released Monday.

The report says that “if the number of international migrants, estimated at 214 million in 2010, continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, it could reach 405 million by 2050.”

“The world itself is becoming a hotspot for migration,” Peter Schatzer, chief of staff of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told IPS. “It’s no longer the traditional migration routes to Europe and the U.S. alone that will see pressure. Now the emerging economic powers also attract migration, such as Brazil, South Africa, India, China.”

Governments everywhere are ill prepared to deal with the new migration explosion, Schatzer cautioned.

“Most governments do not have a systemic and systematic approach, they do not have even a single ministry dealing with migration,” he said. “It may be the labour, health, interior ministry and so on. What we suggest is the need to coordinate and have a dialogue between countries that send migrants, transit countries, and destination countries in order to get a handle on this.”

The report warns that without such action the world “will be taken by surprise by the relentless pace of migration.”


The report, ‘The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change’, says demographics, economic needs and environmental change are driving the growing numbers of international migrants.

One of the reasons for this steep rise will be significant growth in the labour force in developing countries from 2.4 billion in 2005 to 3.6 billion in 2040, the report says. This could accentuate the global mismatch between labour supply and demand.

The economic crisis has hit migrants hard. Remittances to developing countries declined by 6.0 percent in 2009 due to the economic crisis, the report says, “although some countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines benefited from an increase in remittances between 2008 and 2009.”

“In the developing world, between 2005 and 2014, 1.2 billion people will newly move into the labour market,” Schatzer told IPS. “At the same time in the developed world populations are aging. This requires new types of work that cannot be filled by jobs by the indigenous population, but clearly the developed world cannot offer more than a billion jobs to the developing world; most jobs have to be resolved in the countries of origin.”

The mismatch is becoming ever more serious, Schatzer said. “This is a tremendous challenge for countries of the South because young people today have a lot of information. The globalisation of information has also let a lot of people in the South know how one could live, what conditions exist in destination countries. Dealing with these expectations will be a major challenge for the governments in the South.”

“It is easy to say people should go away,” he added. “But people don’t necessarily follow that if they don’t see a future for themselves. We must give people a future in their own countries.”

Recent moves against migrants in several European countries could be excessive, Schatzer said. “Such actions are a reaction to a perceived or real malaise; they are also part of the response to an economic crisis where migrants are blamed, not necessarily justifiably, for competing for jobs with the local population.”

In the EU, Frontex has become the controversial strong arm of immigration control. Such organisations have a limited role to play, Schatzer said.

“Frontex is the European agency trying to help European governments control their borders better. It is an effort to coordinate these approaches, but border guards or walls cannot solve such problems because when one area is controlled, smugglers and traffickers move somewhere else.”

Beyond the headline-grabbing migration moves into Europe, South-South migration is becoming increasingly an issue, the report says.

“The emerging economies of Asia, Africa and Latin America are becoming ever more important countries of destination for labour migrants, emphasising increasing South-South movements of people and the need for those countries to invest in migration management programmes and policies.”

Not all new migration is for economic reasons. Emerging patterns of irregular migration involve “growing numbers of unaccompanied minors, asylum-seekers, victims of trafficking, or those seeking to escape the effects of environmental or climate change but for whom there is currently little international protection,” the report says.

“Investing and planning in the future of migration will help improve public perceptions of migrants, which have been particularly dented by the current economic downturn,” IOM director-general William Lacy Swing says in the report. “It will also help to lessen political pressure on governments to devise short-term responses to migration.”

The report identifies labour mobility, irregular migration, migration and development, integration, environmental change and migration governance as areas expected to undergo the greatest transformation in the coming years.

 
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