UN officials call for partnership between countries that send and receive migrants

UNFPA chief Thoraya Obaid

3 April 2006 – With some 200 million people living outside their home countries, more than any time in history, partnerships are needed between countries of origin and destination to maximize benefits and minimize risks in both, a United Nations meeting on population was told today.

“Perhaps more than any other issue, international migration puts into stark relief the enormous social, political, economic and cultural transformations now occurring in a world divided between excess and need,” Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), told the UN Commission on Population and Development as it opened a one-week session at UN Headquarters in New York.

Migration is now an integral part of the economies of both developed and developing countries, she said. For industrialized countries, immigration offers a source of labour, easing the pressures brought on by declining population and a dwindling tax base. For developing nations, migration relieves unemployment and population pressure and reduces poverty through remittances sent back home.

However, many problems associated with migration need to be addressed, including disregard for the rights of migrants, their exploitation as workers, the brain drain from developing countries, trafficking in persons, reintegration of returning migrants and unmet needs for family planning that leads to poverty and undue pressure for emigration.

To mitigate such problems and ensure that migration beneficial for all, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic Social Affairs, advocated collaboration between both senders and receivers of immigrants.

“Indeed, to the extent that migrants can be exploited or abused with impunity, everyone loses: the migrants, the native workers that cannot compete with those who are paid exploitive wages, and the society that is tarnished by such exploitation and must confront the problems of marginalized populations,” Mr. Ocampo said.

Along with legal and fair migrant worker policies, Mr. Ocampo proposed strategies to leverage the impact of money sent home, including direct investment opportunities and the encouragement of the return of skilled human resources through more “circular” migration flows.

With its focus this session on international migration, the Commission hopes to contribute to the high-level meeting on the issue, to be held at UN Headquarters in New York on 14 and 15 September, Mr. Ocampo said.

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