Migrants’ Complex Global Movement Affects National Economies, Communities, Families, Say Speakers in Commission on Population and Development Debate

24 April 2013

Migrants’ Complex Global Movement Affects National Economies, Communities, Families, Say Speakers in Commission on Population and Development Debate

24 April 2013
Economic and Social Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Commission on Population and Development

Forty-sixth Session

6th & 7th Meetings (AM & PM)

Migrants’ Complex Global Movement Affects National Economies, Communities,


Families, Say Speakers in Commission on Population and Development Debate


The increasingly complex movement of international migrants — who now flowed circuitously between countries, bringing with them skills, ideas and capital — had a profound impact on families and communities around the world, declared speakers today as the Commission on Population and Development continued its forty-sixth session.

Sharing their national experiences, a number of delegates underscored the growth and diversity of current migratory flows, referring in particular to the benefit of remittances — funds sent home by foreign workers — on the economies of origin countries.

Some pointed to the direct effects of migration on families, including shifts in traditional gender roles and long separations from family members.  Still others expressed concerns that migration continued to pose serious risks for the increasing number of female migrants around the world.

Keynote speaker Stella Go, Deputy Secretary-General for External Affairs of the Philippines Migration Research Network, said that, in many cases, “migration is for the sake of the family.”  In Asia, migration was not only increasingly circular and temporary, but feminized, with women now representing approximately half of all international migrants.

Because both female and male migrants were forced to leave families behind, a number of notable social shifts were occurring, she said, such as the changing of household structures and gender roles.  Grandmothers, aunts or older daughters were frequently taking over family care.  As well, when husbands left, wives often took on both economic and traditional functions. 

She stressed the need for a concerted effort by social networks, Governments and civil society to mitigate the potentially negative effects of migration on individuals and families, adding that States should also enact gender-sensitive legislation and integrate the issues of gender and migration into development plans.

During the ensuing dialogue, a number of delegates noted that households headed by women were often not as poor as those headed by men.  In that regard, delegates considered whether remittances from abroad were increasing women’s financial independence, or if women were simply better at utilizing household funds.

The representative of Burkina Faso, spotlighting the fact that women sent remittances home more frequently than men, wondered if women should be encouraged to migrate.  However, Ms. Go emphasized that more important than encouraging women to migrate were pre-departure orientations, which included discussions about responsibilities — especially for those with families.

Throughout the general discussion, many speakers underscored the importance of remittances to their economies, with the delegate from Bangladesh noting that they had made up 4 per cent of his country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001 and 14 per cent in 2012.  That had resulted in a significantly reduced number of families living below the poverty line.  A functioning compact between sending and receiving States was needed in order to protect migrants and help all parties reap the benefits of migration. 

In the same vein, Tobias Billström, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy of Sweden, said that migration could improve development outcomes in both origin and destination countries.  Indeed, migration was one way to help mitigate the effects of his country’s ageing population and shrinking workforce.  Origin countries could benefit, not only through remittances, but also through the promotion of trade and investment and the transfer of skills and ideas, as temporary migrants returned home.

However, some delegates pointed out that the negative aspects of migration could outweigh its benefits.  Ecuador’s delegate, for one, said that because of the global financial crisis, there had been a recent reduction in migrants’ wages and an upsurge in discriminatory practices.  National policies in his country focused on human beings “over and above capital”, including prohibiting expulsion of migrants back to countries where they would be in danger.

As well, female migrants were a particularly vulnerable group, said a representative of the non-governmental organization Action Canada for Population and Development.  Women and girl migrants often faced particularly poor working conditions, low wages and lack of access to health services.  They were also vulnerable to violence, including physical abuse and rape.  It was critical that the post-2015 development agenda fully integrate a gender perspective, address gender-based violence and prioritize sexual and reproductive rights.

Participating in the general discussion today were the representatives of the Philippines, Tunisia, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Kenya, Togo, the United Republic of Tanzania, Niger, and Zambia.  The Head of the Delegation of the European Union participated, as well.

The Permanent Observers of the Holy See and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also spoke.

Representatives of Partners in Population and Development, International Labour Organization (ILO), Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) took part in the discussion.

Also speaking were representatives of the non-governmental organizations Rutgers WFP, Asian-Pacific Resource Centre for Women (ARROW), Catholics for Choice, Endeavour Forum, International Federation of University Women (IFUW), World Youth Alliance and the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network.

The Commission will continue its work when it reconvenes at 10 a.m. Thursday, 25 April.


The Commission on Population and Development reconvened this morning to continue its general debate on the topic “national experience in population matters:  new trends in migration — demographic aspects”.  It was also expected to hear an address by a keynote speaker.  For background information, see Press Releases POP/1011 and POP/1012.


MARY GRACE TIRONA, Undersecretary for the Commission on Filipinos Overseas of the Philippines, said that, while overseas migration had changed the demographic landscape in her country, there had also been a trend towards urbanization.  Although internal migration had many benefits, its impact had resulted in some development concerns, such as increases in overcrowding, congestion, and environmental degradation, to name a few.  An estimated 10.5 million Filipinos worked overseas.  Many were temporary, irregular or undocumented migrants.  The social costs, including abuse and exploitation, were major risks for those workers.

Moreover, she continued, the Government felt that “working abroad should not be a necessity, but a choice”, and that the Filipino people should not have to leave the country in order to live comfortable lives.  Therefore, there was a focus on increasing opportunities and improving living conditions “at home”.  A Remittance for Development Council had been established, aimed at lowering remittance costs and channelling them into positive development impacts.  Among other laws, the Government had also put in place new ordinances on reproductive health, and had revised or strengthened laws directly related to migration — in particular, those addressing anti-trafficking and protecting the rights of domestic workers living abroad.

MAJED ZEMNI (Tunisia), noting that 10 per cent of Tunisia’s population were migrants and contributed to its development, said that his country was making efforts to create a comprehensive migration policy.  As a country of origin, transit and destination, that policy should address the concerns of all migrants.  He stressed that such policies must be coordinated among all categories of countries on the basis of reciprocity, mutual respect and human rights, as well as on sustainable development and international treaties.

Expressing support for emigrants and their countries of origin, he urged them to invest in their home countries.  A new approach, based on efficiency and cooperation, was needed.  Efforts were being made to mitigate external barriers and obstacles, such as creating flexibility in transferring remittances and encouraging foreign companies to invest.  As well, unregulated migration required legislation, particularly in regards to human trafficking.  In closing, he emphasized that the post-2015 agenda should consider the benefits of migration.

JOSÉ ALBERTO BRIZ GUTIÉRREZ (Guatemala) said that the growth and the diversity of current migratory flows demonstrated that migration was no longer a marginal issue in development policy.  It was crucial for States to strengthen institutions established to protect and care for migrants, especially vulnerable groups among them, who were often exposed to violence, exploitation and abuse.  National programmes and prompt intervention were needed, as well as rehabilitation and reinsertion programmes.  It was also particularly important to protect the human rights of migrant children, especially those not accompanied by their parents.

He went on to say that he was alarmed at the number of victims around the world suffering from the “plague” of human trafficking.  He called on all Member States to approve and implement measures to combat sexual violence and exploitation, as well as trafficking in persons, and to strengthen international cooperation to protect migrants from becoming victims of organized crime.  His Government was working to strengthen academic and research activities on those issues; equal research was now needed on the positive impacts that migration had on destination countries.  Finally, he stressed that migration in the post-2015 development agenda must be a major topic to be considered by the upcoming high-level dialogue of the General Assembly.

SHAVENDRA SILVA (Sri Lanka), associating with the “Group of 77” and China, said that migration had been the human experience since the beginning of civilization, and that many countries had been built by migrants.  Implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (the Cairo Programme of Action) was crucial to poverty reduction, and should be consolidated into the post-2015 agenda and sustainable development goals.  He also noted that 23 per cent of Sri Lanka’s labour force worked abroad, contributing greatly to the economy.

About 60 per cent of that force, he went on to say, consisted of unskilled workers, many of whom were domestic workers.  They received particular attention, with laws enacted to protect their children.  A special desk at the airport registered information on children being left behind by mothers.  Systems were being devised so that those mothers could be in touch with their children.  All mothers working abroad must register with the bureau.  To mitigate the impact on families of migrant workers, the Government also offered scholarships for their children’s education, as well as health care and day care, among other benefits.

FESTUS UZOR, Commissioner for the National Population Commission of Nigeria, said that, like others, his country was experiencing the movement of people both internally and overseas.  Nigeria had one of the youngest and fastest growing populations in the world; undoubtedly, that situation posed great challenges for national development.  Among the factors influencing internal mobility were droughts, ethnic conflicts and the search for land, he said, adding that Nigeria was also a country of origin, transit and destination for many people across the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

As well, he continued, many people were leaving Nigeria “in search of greener pastures”; in that regard, the “brain drain” was a major issue.  Reiterating the importance of remittance flows for his country, he also stressed the need to reduce those costs.  His Government was taking steps to remove the exclusivity clause in relationships with financial institutions, which prohibited competition.  Further, elaborated national policies were addressing several migration-related issues, such as the plight of internally displaced persons.  Finally, he asked Member States to continue to support Nigeria’s development, to help it collect data on demographic issues, to help reduce remittance costs and to give irregular migration “a human face.”

KOKI MULI GRIGNON (Kenya) noted that his country, a source of emigrants, benefited greatly from remittances from the diaspora and had established an office for diaspora affairs.  However, the continued instability and fragility in Somalia and other neighbouring countries had resulted in a continued influx of refugees, contributing to Kenya hosting more than 700,000 refugees in north and north-eastern camps.  “The burden falls disproportionately on Kenya, while the attention of the international community wanes and fades,” he said, calling on partners and the United Nations to do more to help.

Still, he said, the Government had adopted refugee specific legislation and established national institutions to address those concerns.  As well, its legal and institutional framework guaranteed legal rights for all people in Kenya, including protection against violence and access to reproductive health.  Also being addressed were cross-border problems, such as forced migration and human trafficking.  Although some notable achievements in reproductive health had been made, insufficient resources and social and cultural barriers impeded skilled maternal care throughout the pregnancy, delivery, post-partum and post-natal periods.  Thus, restructuring and strengthening of the health-care system to effectively manage those challenges would continue.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN (Bangladesh), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said that with a population of more than 150 million, his country had managed to bring down its population growth rate.  Urban areas had been growing at 3.5 per cent a year due to climate change.  By 2031, it was anticipated that the urban population would make up almost half the total population.  Nearly 8 million Bangladeshi workers were building towns and cities in host countries and serving their factories, with some 6.5 million as short-term workers. 

Remittances received from those workers, he said, represented 4 per cent of his country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2001 and 14 per cent in 2012.  The impact of households that had someone working abroad had resulted in a significantly reduced number of families living below the poverty line.  The best way to protect migrants was through a functioning compact between sending and receiving States.  The benefits to receiving States must be emphasized.  Border control was not a good option to control migration.  More sensitive means of control were needed.  If migration were to be beneficial to all and spur growth and development, it was important to address migrant skills.

TOBIAS BILLSTRÖM, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy of Sweden, said that migration could improve development for both origin and destination countries.  His country had an ageing population and a shrinking workforce; in that context, migration could be one of several instruments to prevent labour shortages and preserve a high quality of life.  Moreover, Sweden had one of the most flexible and efficient systems of migration in the world, allowing Swedish companies to recruit people of all skill levels from around the world under one framework.  The demographic challenges facing Sweden were not unique, he pointed out, adding that, across Europe, high rates of unemployment in some countries did not necessarily preclude labour shortages; the challenge was skills matching.  Migration was crucial for fulfilling targets set out in the European Union’s growth strategy.

He also noted that migration and mobility had the potential to contribute to the development of origin countries, in particular through remittances, the promotion of trade and investment and the transfer of skills and ideas.  However, the protection of migrants from exploitation and trafficking was an important part of reaping the full benefit of migration for development.  In addition, he stressed that the traditional perception that migration was permanent was increasingly inaccurate.  Therefore, enabling legal frameworks that enabled mobility was important, and such policies must be based on the promotion and protection of human rights.

ABBÉKOÉ DODZI DOEVI (Togo), stating that the Cairo Programme of Action had not addressed the needs of all countries, recalled both the 2006 Conference on Migration and Development in Rabat and the 2008 adoption by ECOWAS of a common plan of action on migration and development, which had been largely financed by a Spanish fund of some 4 million euros and focused on supporting migrants and facilitating free circulation.  On a national level, his Government had established a framework that supported and protected the Togolese diaspora and that urged skilled workers among them to return.

There was, he went on to say, substantial internal migration from the interior to the coast to seek employment, study, improve quality of life, and trade, 60 per cent of which were under the age of 20. With an estimated two thirds of Togo’s external migrants living in Africa, migration had happened in three waves:  the 1970s where students left to study abroad and then remained in host countries; the 1990s, from turmoil caused by the process of democratization; and, most recently, migration in search of economic well-being.  Remittances from external migrants contributed nine to ten per cent of Togo’s GDP.

XAVIER LASSO MENDOZA (Ecuador), joining with the Group of 77 and China and with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the United Nations system must deal with migration issues on a regular and holistic basis, including commitments for poverty reduction strategies.  Emphasizing that States derived responsibilities and obligations from international law, he expressed concern at the adoption, by some countries, of public policies that did not respect migrants’ human rights.

Unfortunately, he stated, the current instability and the persistent effects of the global financial and economic crisis continued to affect migrants, with a reduction in their income and an upsurge in discriminatory practices, including xenophobia.  It was the responsibility of States to protect migrants from such risks, in particular, the rights of migrant children, especially unaccompanied minors.  On a national level, his Government had promoted public policies focused on human beings “over and above capital”.  For example, it prohibited the expulsion of migrants back to countries where they would be in danger.

RAMADHAN MWINYI (United Republic of Tanzania), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that his country had implemented policies, strategies and programmes for sustained economic development, and would continue to strengthen its national policy framework that promoted youth development and empowerment.  Although Tanzania did not have a national policy regulating migration, he said that it had formulated a labour migration management policy that was expected to give direction on attracting investment and establishing linkages to the diaspora.  Following an influx of refugees caused by political instability and conflict in neighbouring countries, Tanzania was also working to improve the database for international migration by scaling up the capacity of its migration department.

SOUMANA ADAMOU, Director General of Population of Niger, said that his country was at the crossroads of West Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, and that it had a high demographic growth rate and a young population.  Eleven per cent of Niger’s population were migrants, with interregional migration representing the largest proportion, followed by intraregional and international migration.

He went on to say that during the recent youth forum held in his country, a number of recommendations had been made, among them, to implement and apply the various regional, subregional and national migration policies, and to facilitate conditions for mobility and repatriation.  At the national level, Niger had a civil refugee registry and a High Council for Nigeriens working abroad.  There was also a West Africa subregional network for migration and urbanization, enabling all of those institutions to work together to respond to the challenges of migration.

Keynote Address

The Commission then heard a presentation on “migration, gender and the family” by keynote speaker Stella Go, Deputy Secretary-General for External Affairs of the Philippines Migration Research Network.  The segment was moderated by Vice-Chair of the Commission Juan Carlos Alfonso (Cuba).

Ms. GO said that the week’s discussions had made clear that migration was truly about people, and not just about numbers.  Globalization had opened up national boundaries, increasing migratory movement across the globe.  In 2010 there had been an estimated 240 million international migrants, not counting irregular or undocumented migrants.  Among the causes of migration were labour shortages in developed economies and the reluctance of local labour forces to take on dirty, difficult or low paid jobs.

Focusing on migration in and out of Asia, which was largely due to economic reasons, she said that many Asian migrants moved temporarily and that about half were now women.  While most migrants moved within Asia, a large number also went to the United States, Western Asia, Australia and other countries.  There was also a growing gender divide in the job niches, with women frequently employed as domestic and care workers, and men often working in construction and related jobs.

For Asian migrants, “migration is for the sake of the family”, she continued, noting that many were forced to leave families behind.  The effect of that on household structures and gender roles varied, with grandmothers, aunts or older daughters frequently taking over family care.  When husbands left, wives generally took on both economic work and traditional roles.  Research on the effects of parental absence on children and on family cohesion, unity and well-being in Asia was varied and limited, and showed mixed results.

There were also mixed impacts on identity issues, she said, pointing out that migration had also led to the internationalization of families, which often resulted from transnational marriages.  However, new technologies — especially mobile communication — had helped to bridge the physical distance between migrants and their families.  Thus, how new media could be made more effective and affordable to those families and workers was an important question to consider.

Gender also affected the amount and frequency of remittances that were sent back home, she said, noting that women tended to send a higher proportion of their income.  Women receiving remittances generally spent them on children’s health and education.  Wives left behind were often empowered by remittances, but only if they received them directly.  In that vein, she asked:  how do you empower migrants to maximize the full potential of remittances?

Among other questions she posed to the Commission were how migrants returning to their homeland could be prepared for reintegration into their families and communities, and how the negative effects on migrant families could be mitigated.  A concerted effort was needed by social networks, the State and civil society in both destination and origin countries, in that regard.  She said, in closing, that States should enact legislation that was gender-sensitive and should integrate the issues of gender and migration into development plans.

During the ensuing interactive discussion, speakers asked about any possible comparative difference of educational success between children of families impacted by migration and those who were not.  Ms. Go observed that children left behind by migrant mothers did lag behind their peers. 

Delegates were also interested in studies that investigated how poverty reduction impacted migration and demographic growth.  While she did not know of specific studies regarding poverty reduction, Ms. Go did note it had been shown that when the welfare of the family was promoted, it generally improved national development; the inverse was also true.  There were many areas that required further study or hadn’t been studied at all.

The issue of women’s financial activities was also broached by several delegates, with Senegal’s delegate referring to a survey conducted in her country on household consumption that showed households headed by women were not as poor as those headed by men.  Asked if there was data on the possible causes of that, including the possibility of receiving remittances from abroad, being more independent on how domestic finances were used, or if women were just better at utilizing household funds, Ms. GO thought it would be interesting to study whether women with more education were better able to make use of remittances than those with lower educational levels.

In a similar vein, the representative of Burkina Faso commenting on the findings that women sent remittances home more frequently than men, then wondered if female migration should be encouraged more than that of men.  Ms. GO emphasized that pre-departure orientations that included discussions about responsibilities, especially for those with families, were more important than encouraging more women to migrate.

Responding to questions on human trafficking in Asia, Ms. GO said that it was very difficult to collect accurate data on trafficking and that those studies that had been done focussed more on how trafficking came about and who was being trafficked than the impact on families.  On whether there had been studies on the impact of internal migration on families, she said that the studies she knew of reflected similar impacts to those of external migration.

When asked about the impact of modern information technologies on migrants and their families, Ms. GO said there had been a predominantly positive effect, with mobile phones being the most common way migrants kept in touch with their households.  The new technologies “did a lot to foster family cohesion and unity, but no amount of social media or technology,” she emphasized, “could substitute for physical presence”.  She also noted that technology also enabled other familial dynamics.  In one instance of ambivalence, a study had recorded a migrant who preferred to remain abroad and be in contact with his family via technology, because the situation would be more difficult for him if he went home.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Japan, Cuba, Iran, Jamaica and Niger.


MARGARET SAKALA MVUNGA (Zambia), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said that her country had experienced significant internal employment-related migration, which raised risks of sexually transmitted infections when temporal or seasonal migration flow went to areas where health services were not accessible.  As well, Zambia had been hosting refugees from civil strife in neighbouring countries for the past 40 years.

During that time, she said, her country had developed, with the help of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an infrastructure in refugee settlements that provided refugees access to social amenities.  It also was implementing numerous regional treaties and agreements relating to migrants and integrating some into local communities.  She said that Zambia sought to learn from countries with comprehensive diaspora policies how best to attract remittances from Zambians living abroad.

FRANCIS ASSISI CHULLIKATT, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said that the only sustainable solution for the ongoing “phenomenon” of migration must be the “development of the sending-countries whose encounter with the globalized economy had not rendered them able to meet the legitimate aspirations of their people”.  Unless that imbalance was tackled, redoubling border controls or tightening visa restrictions would only bolster migrants’ resolution and risk-taking, which, in turn, could threaten to undermine stability and the common good.

He expressed concern for the impact that “draconian” methods of population control had “wreaked” on countries whose populations could no longer sustain themselves.  The promotion of reproductive rights and the family had served to trivialise marriage and the family, and deny the very right to life for the unborn.  He warned against States using forced abortion and sterilization of migrants as a means to controlling or mitigating the demographic and racial impact of migrants on their countries. 

THOMAS MAYR-HARTING, Head of the Delegation of the European Union, spoke of its comprehensive migration policy, which adhered to the Cairo Programme of Action and which stressed, among other things, respect for migrants’ needs.  However, it was crucial to broaden the current migration agenda to reflect the most recent trends, including the changing patterns and developments in South-South migrations, to name a few. 

Noting the unique vulnerabilities of women, youth, and child migrants, he said policies were needed that focused on their particular needs.  However, it was difficult to collect accurate data on the difficulties they faced.  The Union had developed a number of data collection tools, such as migration profiles, which could address information on remittance flows and diasporas, as well as other issues.  Further noting that most migration took place at the regional level, he encouraged strengthening regional migration policies.

JOE THOMAS, Executive Director, Partners in Population and Development, said the number of international migrants had grown from an estimated 155 million in 1990 to 214 million in 2010, an increase of 40 percent.  Those numbers were expected to rise in the near future, which would cause significant consequences for both origin and host countries.  However, evidence showed that migration could significantly contribute to poverty reduction, provided that global communities worked “in a spirit of partnership”. 

He then expressed concern that vulnerable groups of migrants — women, children, youth, and undocumented migrants — were widely underprotected, especially with respect to their labour rights, access to justice, health care and other public services.  He urged for “migrant responsive” policies, as migrants should be considered agents of sustainable development.  Further, the preservation and portability of social security entitlements and development of skills to better match labour supply and demand needed to be promoted.

MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the question to ask was how to effectively manage migration in a safe, orderly and humane way and promote human development to the benefit of both migrants and societies.  There was a need to plan for and facilitate greater human mobility, recognizing that migration and mobility were both necessary and inevitable in the twenty-first century.  Six key areas that needed to be addressed were:  improving public perceptions of migrants; factoring migration into development planning; protecting migrants’ human rights; managing migration in crisis situations; enhancing evidence building and knowledge based policymaking on migration; and promoting coherent and participatory policymaking.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Deputy Director, International Labour Organization (ILO), said migrant labour was often the most effective way to fill skills-shortages present in different sectors of the economy and provide an agile response to fast-changing demand resulting from technological advances and changes in the market.  However, it was important to address the specific labour protection needs of the large and growing population of domestic workers.

Of the 52 million domestic workers globally, he continued, only 10 per cent were covered by the same labour laws as other workers.  Regulation of recruitment agencies was also crucial to prevent unscrupulous practices that placed migrants in situations of “dependent employment”.  The “world of work”, he added, needed to be adequately reflected and mainstreamed in debates on international migration and development at the global, regional and national levels.

KARIMA EL KORRI, Chief, Population and Social Development Section, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), said that since 1990, the number of international migrants in Western Asian had increased from over 10 million to 25 million.  The social and economic impacts of those migrants entering, leaving and moving between the region’s countries were central to the opportunities and challenges facing her organization.  Migrants were overwhelmingly in the working-age population, reflecting the importance of labour migration in the region.  Countries of origin also felt the impacts of emigration, with an estimated 17 million people from Western Asian countries in 2010 living outside their countries of birth.

The mobility of migrants, she said, enabled them to upgrade their skills as well as strengthen links between origin and destination countries.  Further, the possibility of emigration had helped reduce labour market pressures in countries facing a “youth bulge”.  Her Section focused primarily on population dynamics of Arab countries, youth empowerment, and international migration.  Various workshops and events, either organized or co-organized by ESCWA, helped sensitize member countries to the importance of mainstreaming migration into their national development policies, while ensuring full respect of the rights of all migrants.

DIRK JASPERS-FAIJER, Director of the Population Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, said that, until the last decade, migration in his region had largely been from Latin American and Caribbean countries to more developed States.  Currently, however, the panorama was more “nuanced”.  There were about 30 million migrants across the region residing outside the country of their birth.  A 2010 census of 10 countries had shown an increasing number of migrants in all countries, as well as more temporary mobility and intense border transit.

There were also more arrivals in the region of migrants from Spain, he noted, which posed interesting challenges for international cooperation.  Internal migration continued to be relevant in many areas, with the main persistent trend being the emigration from rural zones due to greater economic and social opportunities in cities.

ANGELA TRENTON-MBONDE, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said the organization promoted two urgent priorities in the context of migration:  access by all mobile people, whether or not they were citizens, to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services.  Furthermore, all people, including those living with HIV, should have freedom of movement.  On the first, she said that the conditions surrounding migration could increase vulnerability to HIV infection, especially for forced migrants and victims of trafficking.

Regarding the second objective, she noted that some 44 countries and territories had restrictions on entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV.  Some required periodic HIV testing for migrants for visa renewal, but did not give them their results or protect confidentiality.  However, she pointed out that since 2010 nine countries had removed such restrictions, representing “wins we need for the dignity and human rights of people living with HIV.”

NEHA SOOD of Action Canada for Population and Development said that in the Cairo Action Programme, reproductive rights were explicitly highlighted as human rights.  Therefore, Governments must help all migrants to realize their human rights, with particular attention paid to ensuring marginalized groups access to quality sexual and reproductive health care, including safe abortion services, counselling and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

In addition, she said migrant women often faced particular difficulties and discrimination, with poor working conditions, low wages and lack of access to health and social services.  They were also more vulnerable to violence and other risks, including physical abuse and rape, and tortuous practices, such as isolation and starvation.  As well, refugee and displaced women were routinely subjected to sexual violence, increasing their risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.  She urged that the post-2015 development agenda fully integrate a gender perspective, address gender-based violence, and prioritize the sexual and reproductive rights and health of all people.

Mr. RAMIREZ, Rutgers WPF, a coalition of young advocates and activists, said that most migrants were between the ages of 15 and 24, and one third to one half were aged 20 to 29 years of age.  That population often faced violence and discrimination in host countries for some of the same reasons that had caused them to migrate.  “In the coming years, millions of young people will cross borders […] in search of safety, better opportunities, or to escape persecution,” he said.

He urged Governments to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of young migrants by:  engaging them, especially girls, in decision-making; providing comprehensive sexuality education; ensuring access to comprehensive, quality, youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services, regardless of migration status; and eliminating punitive laws that violated the rights of young people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

SIVANANTHI THANENTHIRAN, Asian-Pacific Resource Centre for Women (ARROW), pointing out that six of the top 10 countries of origin were in the Asia-Pacific region, and that half of the 214 million migrant workers were women, urged States to adopt a resolution calling for, among other things:  sexual and reproductive health rights for all; immediate ratification, implementation and reaffirmation of Government commitments to agreed international human rights standards; repeal of discriminatory laws and regulations targeting migrant workers; gender-responsiveness in migration policies; the upholding of migrants’ rights to decent work; accessible, migrant-friendly legal justice; and involvement of migrant worker communities, in all matters related to migration.

The representative of Catholics for Choice said that migrants’ human rights were of great concern to Catholics, who were on the global front lines of advocacy, as well as the providers of critical services for that population.  It was regrettable that Catholic-run institutions and aid programmes blocked access to urgently needed sexual and reproductive health care, as well as services that would help protect migrants who were at risk for contracting HIV.  That stance reflected the most conservative possible interpretation of Catholic teachings on sexual and reproductive issues, one that was considerably more conservative than most Catholics, and it made not room for people of other faiths or no faith.

In fact, she said, Catholic providers were often the first source of health care for migrants who otherwise lacked access to such services; however, if a migrant should happen to seek help from a Catholic hospital, clinic or organization, she would find her options for sexual and reproductive health care severely limited.  It was, she stressed, the responsibility of Governments to enact and implement the appropriate social, legal and policy frameworks to make it possible for migrants to be healthy and enjoy their human rights.

DENISE MOUNTENAY, Endeavour Forum, noted that most developed nations were “well below replacement fertility rates”, attributing that radical shift in demographics to the downward spiral of “ageing/dying populations” because of fewer children being conceived and born.  Large drug companies, who produced contraceptive devices, and the abortion industry profited from “the sale of ending lives of children in the womb”, she said. 

Further, she stated, population control agencies were now targeting Africa and Latin America, where abortion was often restricted, using maternal mortality as an excuse to push for the legalization of abortion.  People in developing countries needed infrastructure, education, sustainable food, clean water, sanitary medical services, clean birthing kits and access to skilled birthing attendants, not abortion, she concluded.

MARIANNE HASLEGRAVE, International Federation of University Women (IFUW), said that women moving from their countries of origin to a host country were often denied their human rights.  Because they received, as girls, less education than boys in their homeland, when they accompanied their husbands abroad, they remained isolated and unable to speak the local language or negotiate simple transactions.  They also had fewer employment opportunities.

In addition, she said, young women forced to leave their homes in search of work were often denied reproductive health rights and fell prey to violence and coercion.  Therefore, she called upon Governments to implement the relevant paragraphs in the Agreed Conclusions of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women on Violence against Women and to ensure that the sexual and reproductive rights of women and young people were respected.

YANG TZU-YI, World Youth Alliance, said that migration should take place by choice, not necessity.  He called on Governments to put in place secure, regular and orderly processes for migration, with particular attention to refugees and internally displaced persons, the majority of whom were women and children.  Member States also needed to show a strong commitment to families in the context of migration, with mechanisms that engendered family reunification and took into account the best interests of the child.  Emphasizing that the human person was “our greatest resource”, he said, “We must work toward a world where everyone’s essential needs were met,” regardless of migration status

Ms. CASTAÑEDA, of the Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network, said that the trafficking of women and girls, the lack of health information, services, sexual and reproductive health care, as well as the requirement of proof of HIV testing to get a job, were all practices that violated the human rights of migrants.  States should once again reaffirm their commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action, and those that still had reservations to that Programme should repeal them at once.

There were many negative consequences for women migrants, she said, including being jailed and prosecuted just for accessing basic health services.  As a result of the lack of political will and ties with religious leaders, Latin America continued to have the greatest restrictions to safe abortion.  She called for a political declaration recognizing the specificities of female migrants’ rights.  “We have high expectations on the outcome of this meeting,” she stressed, adding that migrants must not lose their rights upon relocating, regardless of their administrative status.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.