Migrant rights benefit all, yielding development gains and ensuring economic recovery

Global Migration Group meets in Geneva to explore links between principled policies and economic growth

Geneva, 28 May 2010

To ensure widespread human development, security and prosperity, Governments and all sectors of civil society need to work together to improve conditions for migrants and eliminate barriers to human mobility, concluded delegates at a two-day symposium of Government and civil society experts, organized by the Global Migration Group (GMG). The GMG is comprised of several UN organizations, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank.

The delegates stressed the importance of publicly recognizing the contributions of migrants to economic growth and human development. “However,” said Olav Kjorven, Director of the Bureau for Development Policy at the UN Development Programme, and current chair of the GMG, “in times of economic hardship, as legal migration opportunities and jobs are dwindling, migrants are at a higher risk to experience exploitation, discrimination and xenophobia.

“Leaving migrants unprotected and in limbo could prove to be short-sighted in a world in which competition for migrant labour is on the rise, especially in aging societies, and where a country's ability to attract skilled migrants is a factor determining its competitiveness and dynamism.”

Kjorven emphasized that migration is neither a tool nor a substitute for development. Rather, he said, “being able to decide where to live is a fundamental element of human freedom.”

Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said moving is not always associated with human development gains, but can entail risks and vulnerabilities, especially for migrants who do not have access to regular, legal channels for migration. “Even those who make it to their desired destinations are often targeted by hate speech, harassment and violence and blamed for societal problems, including crime and economic difficulties, she said.

The symposium explored ways to forge new partnerships and encourage greater cooperation. To accomplish this, “capacities need to be developed at the individual, local, national and international levels”, said Carlos Lopes, Director of the UN Institute for Training and Research. “Having a joint strategy that clearly spells out common objectives in the area of migration and development and which is rooted in human rights can unite different stakeholders to remove barriers to mobility. In the long run, this will benefit both the destination and host countries.”

Contact in Geneva:

Adam Rogers / UNDP Senior Communications Advisor and Spokesperson

adam.rogers@undp.org ; tel +41 22 917 8541

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