Perhaps one of the most vexing challenges of the 21st century will be how to manage migration effectively, humanely, in the national and global interest, as well as in the interests of migrants in particular. We all have agreed that international migration is a process that we can neither stop nor reverse.
Managing migration is of vital national and global importance. This is more so in the context of our world characterised by deep socio-economic disparities between the developing and developed worlds. Unless migration is better managed, it will itself inadvertently reinforce the current global inequalities.
In reality, no country, whether developed or developing, can afford to shun migrants. However, the challenges between developed and developing countries in regard to migrants vary. Developing countries face challenges of a different nature, such as that:
* Most migrants are reported to be moving both within their own regions as well as within the South to South context, basically, within countries and regions already confronted with immense development challenges of their own, struggling to meet even the basic needs of their own populations and nationals
* Many skilled people from developing countries have been recruited to developed countries en masse, resulting in what has been termed the brain drain in the context where developing countries already lack the requisite resources to replenish these skills fast enough to compensate for their loss
* Increasingly, because migration is difficult for poor migrants who need it the most, many migrants moving between developing countries involve low skilled and unskilled and poor migrants who are often not easily welcome in the countries of destination because migration policies generally favour the skilled and affluent and
* Most developing countries face enormous capacity challenges to manage migration, particularly to be able to forge the linkage between migration and development, so that even the locals can recognise the benefits of this process.
Yet, international migration has become a veritable driver of development and the countries that have managed it well have also reaped immense benefits and simultaneously minimised the risks and negative impact. For many people in developing countries, including the poor, migration offers a way out of poverty for them and their families.
Among some of the crucial features of managing migration effectively, humanely, in the interests of migrants as well as in the national and global interest entail:
* Establishing multi-stakeholder forums to assist the government to manage migration, involving not only all relevant departments, but also other stakeholders such as business, trade unions, and civil society organisations and non-governmental organisation (NGOs). Such cooperation should harness the largest possible array of social forces to manage migration and address the issues of national policy, coordinated implementation and capacity building, and facilitate public debate and dialogue on international migration and
* Forging inter-state cooperation at bilateral, regional, inter-regional and global levels to ensure shared responsibility and shared benefits, especially between sending and receiving countries and countries of transit.
Managing migration must be underpinned by human rights principles.
What the Migration Dialogue for Southern Africa (MIDSA), a joint project of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Southern African Migration project (SAMP), then does is to offer an opportunity for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) states to share ideas amongst themselves, supported by the relevant international agencies as well as experts, on how better to manage migration in the region.
Regional consultative processes such as MIDSA offer a more informal engagement on various key issues, departing from the usually formalistic sessions of the multilateral meetings of governments where there is often little space for debates on various topics relevant to migration and its management. The MIDSA regional consultative process creates a framework for a regular migration dialogue that includes:
* Provision of a forum in which to build trust and confidence between participating SADC migration officials
* Promotion of the positive aspects of migration among SADC member states
* Development of regional institutional capacities to deal with migration, while strengthening the capacity of governments to meet their migration challenges in a comprehensive, interactive, self-reliant and, ultimately, sustainable way.
Previous successful regional consultative processes have focused on:
* migration and border management
* harmonisation of migration policies and legislation in the SADC region
* irregular migration and migrant smuggling to, through, and from the SADC region
* migration and health
* human trafficking legislative responses and regional protection mechanisms for human trafficking victims in Southern Africa
* migration and development.
All of these dialogues have adopted various resolutions aimed at assisting the participating states with a broad policy framework relevant to migration management. The challenge in developing countries is to assist them to develop the capacity effectively to manage migration and harness it towards development.
The participation of migration experts such as academics and researchers helps to fill the vacuum left by the lack of such capacity among many states. The paucity of reliable data has an irrefutably negative impact both on the states capacity to manage migration as well as on the public discourse about migration, leading to many myths, misconceptions and stereotypes parading as informed opinion about migration. This then often feeds into the rise of xenophobia.
However, the question we need to address honestly is, what impact these dialogues have and what can we do further to enhance their effectiveness! That these dialogues are useful and have a positive impact is irrefutable. But, one major weakness is that they are never attended by ministers, who bear ultimate responsibility for executive decisions pertaining to migration. It was in view of this that a previous MIDSA workshop recommended that future workshops be elevated to ministerial level.
Given the increased complexity of migration in the SADC region, including the challenge caused by irregular migration which includes human trafficking and human smuggling, the migration of low skilled and unskilled working class migrants, and more seriously trans-national crimes and the impact this has had on stirring up misconceptions about migration and xenophobia, and bearing in mind that no country is unaffected by what we have just described, it is vitally important that ministers responsible for migration management should participate in such dialogues particularly among themselves, supported by their officials, international agencies, experts and NGOs.
Given that forums such as MIDSA are voluntary initiatives, and their recommendations are not enforceable, the participation of ministers can consequently not be stressed enough. Furthermore, such dialogues should not merely limit themselves to state parties, but should also in all sessions bring on board business, labour and non-governmental organisations as constant participants because migration policies and programmes irrevocably impact on them too. Their opinions are vital to the management of migration and they also could and will learn a lot from these engagements.
Mini-MIDSA consultative processes could be replicated at national levels to involve national stakeholders, to discuss all topics discussed at MIDSA and more. This will help to disseminate MIDSA recommendations beyond immigration departments and officials.
Some of the possible future topics should include:
* Measures to protect the human rights of migrants
* Managing economic migration in the context of developing countries
* Protecting immigrant or refugee workers and traders. It seems extraordinarily bizarre that in the context of the growing international migration phenomenon membership of trade unions and business traders organisations should still be limited only to locals, yet when immigrants default on taxes, labour relations and other regulations pertinent to locals, or when they get exploited by unscrupulous employers, they get blamed for lowering prizes, wages, employment and trade regulations and of displacing local workers and or traders and consequently subjected to xenophobic attacks at worst
* Social activism and advocacy on migration so that migration extends beyond government and social partners become involved in public education for and mobilisation about migration
* Interface between international and national migration, its dynamics and impact, and how they can both be harnessed for development and
* Migration and gender.
There are of course other consultative dialogues across the continent, some of which involve states parties and yet others involve NGOs. It is important that all of these forums be intensified, especially during this period, to involve:
* Interfaces between various regional consultative processes on the African continent and other developing regions in Asia and Latin America so that they could share experiences as they largely share common dynamics
* South to South participants so that they could share common ideas and experience in managing economic migrants and other migratory trends pertinent to countries of the South and
* Developing and developed countries so that they could engage common challenges which often lead to tensions between these two spheres such as the brain-drain, irregular migration to the north, sharing of benefits and responsibility and others.
The African Union Heads of State summit was a very novel idea towards promoting African solutions and perspectives on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons. The challenge going forward is to ensure that forums as senior as this discuss migration broadly and adopt policies and programmes aimed at enhancing migration management in each country and across the continent.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Home Affairs
26 November 2009