Forum on Migration (36th FIDH Congress, 2007) - International Migration and Human Rights: Summary of the facts

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The Forum on Migration, organised in Lisbon from the 19 to the 21 of April 2007, gathered FIDH member organisations, international and regional organisations, other partner civil society organisations, researchers and experts. It examined the human rights situation of economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people in the different regions of the world, with a special focus on South-South migration. During the Forum, the participants explored the many challenges arising as a result of global mobility: growing feminisation, the developpement of irregular migrations, the diversification of flows and trajectories, the limits of regional and international bodies in charge of protecting migrants rights, etc.

1. A phenomenon of limited proportions, but expanding

Although the statistics are incomplete, particularly for SouthSouth
migrations, and while figures should be treated with caution, the number of migrants, including refugees, stands at 200 million (including 9.2 million refugees) in 2005 or 3% of the world population. Visions of unstoppable hordes of migrants invading rich
countries are therefore generally unfounded, despite the fact that migratory flows are expanding: the number of migrants has doubled in 25 years and will continue to develop due to disparities in development, demography and democracy ("the 3 D") between rich and poor countries.

2. Growing feminisation

In 2000, women counted for a little less than half the number of migrants, and more than 50% in developed countries, as well and in Latin America, the Caribbean and the exSoviet Union. An increasing number of women emigrate alone in response to the demand of wealthy countries’ for traditionally female jobs (domestic work, cleaning, care of the elderly, sex industry) and their understanding of their rights as women, in societies where their possibilities of emancipation remain limited. While immigrant women find themselves relegated to certain types of employment which exposes them to more violence and discrimination, their migration pattern reveals - and strengthens - the transformation of traditional public and private gender roles.

3. Development of irregular migrations

According to the OECD, 10 to 15% of the 56 million migrants living in Europe have an irregular administrative status and more than 500 000 undocumented migrants enter EU Member States every year, which is as many as in the United States. Moreover, the majority of migrants living in Subsharan Africa, in India (estimated at nearly 20 million), the Maghreb and Latin America do not have any legal status and the ILO estimates that 3.5 to 5 million migrants are employed in the informal sector in Russia. The increase of irregular migration is linked to the lack of possibilities of migrating legally and the development of human trafficking (which would affect more than half a million people a year). These migrants and in particular women and children are vulnerable to many dangers and violations of fundamental rights during their lengthy and uncertain journey, caught between criminal networks and State control policies.

4. Major consequences

Transfers of funds (money sent by immigrants to their families back home) are estimated at more than 150 billion dollars in 2004, or in other terms, three times the amount of public development aid, equivalent to an increase of 50% in only five years (World Bank). In addition, it is estimated that 300 billions dollars are transferred informally. For certain countries, these transfers are one of the main, if not the primary, sources of currency (for example, 23% of Jordan’s GDP) and for all developing countries, these transfers are the second source of financing, after direct financial investment. For many, immigration is an extraordinary means of fidh exerting diplomatic pressure. Population movements can also lead to crises in the host countries. The migration issue is, for almost all countries, an area of questioning, public debate and controversy by reason of its strong ideological and symbolic connotations.

5. Diversification of flows and trajectories

While more than 40% of immigrants leave their country to seek work abroad, there are other reasons for the present migration flows. With increasing frequency, the great flows are triggered by natural disasters (drought, floods), by famine, and above all, by armed conflicts and civil war. Having taken temporary exile in a neighbouring country, most of these refugees - often entire families are unable to return to their native region. It is often among these exiled that future irregular immigrants are recruited. Academic stays abroad (more than a million), family migrations (which have increased significantly over the last decades) and the "international exchange of the professional élite" are other current types of migration. All world regions are
affected: countries of emigration can become countries of immigration or transit points, or all three at once.

6. Selection and limitation: increasingly restrictive legal regimes and administrative statutes

Since the 1970s, migrants have been facing legislative and administrative measures that clearly reflect protectionist or selective policies. Up to this time, illegal migration was often tolerated, but since then conditions of entry, of family regrouping, of access to the labour force for certain categories (women, for example), were reformed to be more restrictive. In Europe, but also in other parts of the world, policies are focusing more and more on the "hunt for clandestine immigrants" and the detection of "bogus refugees". Whilst the circulation of goods, capital and services is now the norm, and the movement of people theoretically easier (cheaper, faster transportation, etc.), at the same time obstacles to immigration are being reinforced through a generalisation of visa requirements. Increased controls have led to the emergence of a new market operated by mafia networks which are getting more and more numerous and better organised.

7. The development of new migratory poles

The USA remains the prime magnet for migrants, followed by Western Europe (the EU and Switzerland) and Australia. But two important new poles have emerged since the early 1970s: the oilproducing countries (the Arabian Peninsula, Venezuela, but also Libya, Gabon, South Africa) on the one hand; Japan and the new industrialised Asian countries on the other. In these new countries of immigration, especially in the Middle East, the precariousness of the immigrant’s legal status, and even the denial of any rights at all, is often the norm: temporary contracts, the Kafil system (the sponsor), the almost total ban on family regrouping, massive expulsions after an economic downturn or a political crisis.

8. The development of southsouth migrations

Just over one migrant out of two (54%) lives in a developing country. There are four reasons for this growing trend. Besides the traditional migratory flows, often longestablished (from the Sahel to West Africa for example), there are the "fallback" migrations: stricter conditions of access to the major poles, such as Europe, cause transit countries to become countries of immigration; this is the case for Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, to mention just the Mediterranean region. Then there is the refugee explosion, with huge numbers being received essentially in Asia and Africa, particularly in the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa. Finally, we must not forget the flows of displaced persons and those whom certain researchers now call ecorefugees.

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