The Dialogue on Human Movements and Immigration, held on September 2-5 within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures–Barcelona 2004, brought together 249 speakers, including specialists, government officials and members of various local, national and international institutions. More than 1800 registered participants took part in the debate on the complex and diverse aspects of the migration phenomenon, sharing their views on human mobility as a tool for development and for the construction of progressive societies in which diversity is a integrating factor rather than a source of conflict. For that to be possible, multilateral management of migrations is essential.
Is successful migration management possible? Is the world ready to cope with this constant flow of people? The Dialogue on Human Movements and Immigration, held between September 2 and 5 within the framework of the Universal Forum of Cultures, addressed the complexities of the migration phenomenon.
Migration was approached from a variety of perspectives: as a constantly evolving process, as a source of enrichment for societies, and as an invaluable contribution to development. Attention also focused on the inequalities, discrimination and exploitation that have accompanied migration, as well as the proliferation of mafias specializing in human trafficking, plunging their victims into the worst forms of degradation. It was agreed that it is vital to find models of migration management to regulate the flow in a balanced and fair manner, favor social integration, and acknowledge the valuable contribution of human movements.
Globalization, a driver of migration and demographic change
Human movements are the most blatant expression of our globalized world. Although migrations have been taking place since the dawn of humanity–“
the history of humankind is the history of human movements
,” declared Estrella Rodríguez Pardo, director general for Immigrant Integration at the Spanish Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs–the economic and social effects of globalization at the start of the 21st century have led to an intensification of human movements, fueled partly by the widening gap between rich and poor.
Currently, the most important phenomenon at world level is globalization, an almost exclusively economic process allowing total freedom of movement of capital and goods, but imposing severe constraints on the flow of people. For Professor Massimo Livi Bacci, a demographer working at the Università Degli Studi in
economic inequalities are one of the factors that have strengthened the forces driving migration; but, at the same time, those forces clash with the forces of the police barriers
In a similar vein, Thoraya Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, said that “
immigration is driven by globalization, as people are forced to emigrate
,” and yet they find that many states are more protective when it comes to migration than they are of the market.
Although most migratory flows are driven by differences of economic opportunity, we must not forget the migrations caused by persecution, violations of human rights, conflicts, and wars.
Many societies are in the throes of demographic change and, according to the speakers, there are likely to be far-reaching transformations in these countries’ socio-economic make-up. Despite the belief in unlimited growth, the world population will grow more slowly, and the relative weight of each continent in the distribution of the world population will be significantly altered.
Between 2000 and 2050, the population of working age (20-50 years) will decline in the developed countries, owing to the low birth rate, while in the underdeveloped countries it will increase by around 60%. That means that if current demographic trends continue, the decline in population in the rich countries will have to be offset by immigrant population
,” affirmed Livi Bacci.
Discrimination, exploitation and trafficking
Throughout the Dialogue, reference was made to the current situation of immigrants and how in many cases they have become scapegoats for the societies in which they have settled and are blamed for cultural and economic decline. Thoraya Obaid, executive director of UNFPA, stated that, despite the efforts of international organizations and NGOs, “
immigrants’ rights are still being violated
For women (who make up 50% of immigrants), the situation is even worse, as they face twofold discrimination: as immigrants and as women.
Generally speaking, female immigrants find employment in the service sector (domestic service, eldercare, etc.), which makes them more vulnerable as they lack the protection of social security and very often are confined to their workplace. A large percentage of female immigrants fall prey to trafficking and are exposed to abuse and sexual exploitation. “
The trafficking of women is a form of immigrant exploitation over which politicians have no control
,” said Esohe
, of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.
In turn, women who emigrate leave their children behind in their home country, thus weakening the family and eventually undermining society.
The global figures for human trafficking merely put numbers to a situation that remains unresolved: 800,000 people per year are victims of transnational trafficking. The absence of policies to regulate this situation leaves the way free for mafias that encourage migration among people who are desperate to find a better future than they can hope for if they stay at home.
, member of the Royal Thai Police, explained the need to take a series of measures to combat illegal immigration and regulate the mafias. He stressed the need to establish stricter control of trade, as existing economic inequalities encourage immigration. He also insisted on the need to improve regional cooperation.
After the September 11 attacks, the situation for migrants has become even more unfavorable, as border controls and visa requirements have been tightened. Emira
, executive director of the American Arab Family Support Center, considered that, particularly since 9/11, the Arab community in the
has endured many traumas. “
Our community has been silenced in many ways. As a rule, immigrants have been blamed for all society’s ills, they are scapegoats
”. Faced with this situation, the speaker maintained that an open society is the best way forward. “That crucible is not a utopia, it is a necessity in a shrinking world,” she said. At the same time, she felt that the results of government policies show that government is not the answer; rather, the answer is to be found in civil society.
Statistics indicate that the great refugee waves of the 1980s and ’90s have declined, which is not to say that there have been fewer conflicts, merely that at world level it appears now to be more difficult to obtain refugee status. In fact, while most people have the impression that the rich countries, in
for example, are being overwhelmed by hordes of refugees, the figures show that the proportion of refugees is highest in developing countries. And given the very strict border controls in the more developed countries, that situation is unlikely to change. “
We are seeing a regression to medieval times, when people believed that walls would keep the enemy out
,” declared Professor Stephen
. Some studies on this subject suggest that one way to understand and reorient the refugee phenomenon is in terms of the assistance that the more powerful countries can give to the poorest ones.
The difficulties faced by refugees have increased since 9/11 because “
countries are reluctant to accept applications for asylum or refugee status for fear of harboring potential terrorists
,” said Carlos
, Spanish representative of UNHCR.
Migration as a source of development and economic growth
Migration not only enriches the migrant’s home country through remittances; it also enriches the host country. Yet it is not enough to understand development in purely economic terms, as human movements also bring cultural enrichment.
Migrants who have lived in democratic societies or who have experienced greater freedom may take democratic principles back with them when they return to their home countries. In many cases, they bring about changes in the law to benefit minorities. Migrants support the economies of many families and communities through remittances. In many countries, remittances from nationals resident abroad are a significant contribution to the gross domestic product and a genuine source of development, as not only are they used by families to buy consumer goods, but also in many cases they are invested in construction or other areas of industry and commerce.
Latin American migrants send 60% of their earnings back to their home countries, which, in turn, makes up 60% of family income in those countries, although it represents only 10% of average earnings in the rich countries. Another example that helps to quantify the economic impact of remittances is that of
, where transfers from emigrants help to maintain and develop 1,200,000 people. The country from which migrants send most remittances is the
, where every year 28.4 billion dollars are transferred, 14 million by Mexican immigrants. “
In some regions of the world, the value of these remittances exceeds that of foreign investments or development aid
,” said Mamphela
, managing director at the World Bank, who also said that it is estimated that in 2005 remittances will reach 100 million dollars. That is why it is vital to put in place financial structures that ease the flow of remittances, as remittances are an important force in the fight against global poverty and the struggle for development.
Migration management: the challenge of integration
In the current situation regarding migrations, governments are obliged to search for suitable tools and strategies to protect the interests and human rights of migrants, while at the same time safeguarding the interests and rights of the host society.
To do that, there has to be dialogue between governments. To maintain the right balance, bilateral policies are needed that establish a framework for the enforcement of a multilateral system of rules and principles that take the rights and obligations of all the parties involved into account. Migration management therefore will have to be a constant quest for creative solutions; but at the same time, it will require international cooperation and the participation of international bodies such as the United Nations to promote universal principles on migration and win acceptance for such a multilateral framework. Furthermore, in managing migrations it is important to establish broad-based policies that facilitate integration of immigrants in the host societies.
It is essential that the public management of immigration be on the national and international agendas
,” said Consuelo
, secretary of state for Immigration in the Spanish government. She also pointed out that the current administration is working on the implementation of the Immigration Law and called on immigrants in Spain to be patient.
, director of the External Relations Department of the International Organization for Migration, explained that “
there is no legal framework for regulating migrations, and the solution is not to curb them, but to facilitate legitimate migratory movements, taking human rights, economic survival and interdependence into account. For that purpose, close collaboration between source and destination countries is indispensable
Integration of immigrants into society was one of the most heavily debated subjects in the Dialogue. From all the sectors involved, there were calls for collaboration among all the parties affected by immigration, so as to favor diversity and full respect for human rights. “That crucible is not a utopia,” said Emira
, “but a necessity in a shrinking world.”
Similarly, Jordi Pujol, former president of the Catalan government, advocated a balance between the rights of immigrants and the rights of the local population.
The Dialogue on Human Movements and Migrations, organized by the European Institute of the Mediterranean and the Universal Forum of Cultures,
addressed the complexities of migratory flows from a variety of perspectives and established that the goal is to build a more integrated world in which migrations are not the result of hunger or political or religious persecution, but of the desire to find a place where each person may realize her full potential.
Immigrants can and should learn a lot from us: the concept of citizenship, gender equality, human rights, which are universally recognized but seldom applied in their home countries. Yet we, too, can learn from them in these fluctuating and porous urban spaces whose equilibrium is based on different and sometimes opposed dynamics
,” said the writer Juan
in a reading of his text
Metáforas de la Inmigración
The proposals that emerged from this Human Movements and Migrations World Congress will be part of the Agenda 21 of Migrations.