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Migration & Refugees

Amid Record Displaced Persons, Migrant Remittances Spike—New IOM Report

Migrants use a cross-border bus in Bulawayo to enter South Africa. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

Migrants use a cross-border bus in Bulawayo to enter South Africa. Credit: Ignatius Banda/IPS

BULAWAYO, May 8 2024 (IPS) - While there have been a record number of displaced people worldwide, according to a new report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrant remittances are promoting human development.

Millions of people from developing countries rely on money sent from abroad by relatives, helping drive local economies marked by high unemployment and poverty, according to humanitarian agencies that include the World Bank.

The IOM report released on May 7, 2024, comes at a time of increasing global crises such as war and famine that have forced millions out of their home countries, while migrants fleeing economic hardships are also making perilous journeys in search of better employment opportunities.

The IOM estimates that there are currently 281 million international migrants worldwide, while another 117 million people have been displaced by natural disasters, violence, conflict, and other causes.

The humanitarian agency says these numbers represent the highest in modern-day records.

Increased migration has in turn fed a spike in remittances, with a jump of more than 650 percent from 2000 to 2022, the IOM World Migration Report 2024 says.

International remittances shot up from USD128 billion to USD831 billion in 22 years, and the IOM notes that COVID-19 travel restrictions did not disrupt migration trends.

“Of that USD831 billion in remittances, USD647 billion were sent by migrants to low- and middle-income countries. These remittances can constitute a significant portion of those countries’ GDPs, and globally, these remittances now surpass foreign direct investment in those countries,” the IOM says.

The World Migration Report 2024 also comes at a time when African immigrants especially are losing their lives in the high seas as they attempt to cross into Europe.

For the migrants who make it to the shore, the promise of better lives has been shattered by what critics say are populist right wing political parties who are whipping up anti-migrant emotions.

The IOM, however, says a more balanced telling of the migrant’s story is needed if the world is to better understand what has routinely been termed a global crisis.

“Migration, an intrinsic part of human history, is often overshadowed by sensationalized narratives. However, the reality is far more nuanced than what captures headlines,” the IOM notes.

“Most migration is regular, safe, and regionally focused, directly linked to opportunities and livelihoods. Yet, misinformation and politicization have clouded public discourse, necessitating a clear and accurate portrayal of migration dynamics,” the IOM added.

Amid such challenges, the IOM says the earnings of the migrants are not only helping address host labour market deficits but, more importantly, boosting remittances and driving the human development index in their home countries.

“The World Migration Report 2024 helps demystify the complexity of human mobility through evidence-based data and analysis,” IOM Director General Amy Pope said at the May 7 launch in Bangladesh.

In explaining the location of the launch, the IOM explained in a press release:

“By choosing Dhaka as the report’s launch site, IOM not only highlights the country’s efforts in supporting vulnerable migrants and fostering pathways for regular migration but also recognizes Bangladesh’s important role in shaping global migration discourse and policy.”

At a time when migration has become a hot button in developed countries, Bangladesh is being seen as a model for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration’s Champion country.

“As one of the GCM champion countries, Bangladesh will not only continue to act upon the pledges it has made for its domestic context but will also take up emerging issues and challenges pertaining to migration and development for informed deliberations at the international level,” said Hasan Mahmud, the Bangladeshi foreign minister.

The Asian country “has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing migration issues and implementing policies that safeguard migrants’ rights,” the IOM says.

These sentiments also come at a time of anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia, which analysts say have slowed efforts to promote human development through remittances.

“In a world grappling with uncertainty, understanding migration dynamics is essential for informed decision-making and effective policy responses, and the World Migration Report advances this understanding by shedding light on longstanding trends and emerging challenges,” Pope said.

“We hope the report inspires collaborative efforts to harness the potential of migration as a driver for human development and global prosperity,” DG Pope said.

Researchers say there is still more to be done to understand the urgency of the challenges and opportunities brought by migration.

“It is the insecurity that citizens face—economic and existential—that feeds the sense of crisis,” said Loren Landau, professor at the University of Witwatersrand’s African Centre for Migration and Society in South Africa.

For now, there does not appear to be anything that will stop the migration trend, with the IOM calling for “meaningful action in addressing the challenges and opportunities of human mobility.”

IPS UN Bureau Report

 


  
 
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