Setting norms for migration

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Setting norms for migration

To change the narrative and perceptions on migrants, their voices need to be heard. Civil society has an important role to play in mobilising people and wider solidarity movements on the ground

Global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration: Towards realising the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and achieving full respect for the human rights of migrants” was the theme of the recently concluded 10th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Berlin, Germany. In a way, this year’s GFMD was a declaration that the walls and barbed wires between nations are to be broken and that ‘unity in diversity’ should be the norm for nations. Indeed, beauty of diversity, pluralistic cosmopolitan, inclusive societies can only make tremendous progress and development.

India was represented in this year’s GFMD by Rajiv Kumar Chander, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations Offices and Anil Kumar Rai, Counsellor (humanitarian affairs). India has a huge responsibility in shaping the global compact as it represents almost 10 per cent of the world’s migrant population.

Migration is a multifaceted or nebulous process with the human element and its complexities involving various stake-holders like the migrant worker and his family, the country of origin, country of destination, foreign employer (Government, private and domestic), recruitment agents, middlemen, traffickers and visa raders, with supply-demand and push-pull factors etc. 

The drivers of displacement and migrants in vulnerable situations, including poverty, unemployment, and the lack of good governance, need to be addressed urgently. Climate change impacts are inextricably linked to conflicts across the world, causing suffering and displacement and obliterating livelihoods and dignity. These realities need to be recognised and integrated into global and national, economic and development strategies.

Human trafficking is one of the most profiteering industries next to arms trade. Migrants are the most unorganised and exploited worldwide. The most vulnerable are migrant women and children. This year’s GFMD heard much about the migrants on the move, the migration of children looking for better living conditions crossing the borders of the US from Mexico, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Rohingyas from Burma and refugees and migrants crossing Mediterranean from west Africa to Europe. Young migrants or children are the most vulnerable who were disappeared in the migration process; held in detention with no contacts with their family; deported for lack of documents; refugees of war; survivors of the sea; international students; transnational citizens with dual passport holders etc.

Discussions were focused around global compact and how it could be made acceptable to all stake-holders of the game of migration, especially under the neo-liberal globalised socio-political and economic structure at a time when crony capital, transnational corporations and finance capital conduct business only for profiteering not into the human aspect of migration.

Accumulation of capital and marginalising the vast majority of the global population by controlling the movement of capital and natural resources for their benefit is also one of the driving factors contributing to south-north migration and south -south migration.

The global compact on migration is aimed at the prosperity and development of the migrants under the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. The Berlin GFMD discussed threadbare the most essential elements, principles and policies to be part of the global compact on migration and decided to recommend to the national Governments to adopt these elements to be part of their recommendation to safeguard the interest of their migrant populations when it comes to the final adoption and declarations of the global contract for migration in the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

First, the global compact should focus on implementing the hitherto accepted UN and International Labour Organisation conventions and treaties, multilateral commitments to migrants human rights, to labour rights, that are signed and binding, and apply to migrants across the board. The GFMD envisions a compact and national plan that includes goals, timelines and means for implementation that are ambitious, achievable, and accountable.

GFMD must focus on the urgent need for ethical recruitment, decent jobs and labour mobility with the protection of labour rights of migrants. Recruitment fees should be borne by the employer, not the migrant worker. To end a huge arena of exploitation, migrant worker visas or residency permits should never be tied to one employer. There can be no question about the rights of workers to join and form trade unions and workers organisations. Much more investments are needed in decent work and jobs ‘at home and abroad’ as well as more efforts to harmonise qualifications and invest in skills and training for example, through vocational partnerships.

Regularisation and regular pathways for human mobility across the plank should be core to the drive for implementation and thus for the compacts should be the facilitation of human mobility with human rights for all. More and better regular pathways for refugees and migrants must be created, including increases in resettlement places, humanitarian visa, private sponsorship programmes, family reunification, student visa, labour mobility etc. Such regular pathways reduce vulnerabilities of migrants and refugees en route, in transit and at the destination.

The global compact should develop principles on regularisation — a pathway to secure residency after having lived in the country of immigration for a certain number of years, in the interest of social cohesion and lift people out of vulnerable and exploitative situations. Portability of salary, social security benefits, indemnities, pensions etc should be given to the migrant worker without any hindrance.

On migrant women and their protection and emphasised that “women are not by nature vulnerable population” in need of rescue but too often find themselves in vulnerable situations due to (migration) policies, values and the denial of rights. GFMD unanimously called upon all national Governments that they should draw from the UN women recommendations on addressing the human rights of women in the global compact on migration.

The global compact on migration should not become a global compact for deportation. GFMD had laid out clear principles related to the circular or economic migrants return and reintegration with societies. The voluntary return should be tailor-made and context specific, and involve a process with true choices, including choosing the moment of return. There should be no deportation of children in no circumstances and they should not be separated from their families.

Policies are needed that put an end to the criminalisation of migrants. Migrants need to implement practical, available alternatives to detention. Citizens and organisations that help undocumented migrants in need should be admired and protected, not criminalised. The compact and national policies should include the concept of firewalls. Firewalls that allow all migrants, regardless of status, to access justice, essential services and complaint mechanisms without fear that this will result in their detention or deportation on the basis of their migration status.

Migrants themselves should be meaningfully engaged through consultation and decision-making processes.  To change the narrative and perceptions on migration, the migrant’s voices need to be heard. The civil society has an important role to play in mobilising people and wider solidarity movements on the ground — to stand firm against xenophobia and discrimination, and for equality, justice and dignity for all. 

(The writer is a social worker)

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