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Europe

Study Highlights Migration's Bright Side

Among increasing fear of worldwide migration, a new study emphasizes migrants' key role in fostering global economic growth.

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Asia has the most migrants

Many Europeans fear increasing worldwide migration, seeing it as a threat to job and lifestyle. But the Global Commission on International Migration presented a study in Berlin this week that could work to ease public fears.

In publishing the study, Jan Carlsson, co-chairman of the commission and former Swedish development and migration minister, stressed the enormous economic importance of migrants. Without them, he said, many nations would no longer be able to maintain growth, as birth rates are declining and native populations ageing dramatically.

Bürgerwehr an der Grenze zwischen USA und Mexiko

Illegal immigrants cross into the US from Mexico

Unfortunately, he said, despite these facts most governments have not yet formulated a coherent migration policy that would suit the interests of both natives and migrants.

"The international community has not taken good care of the potential of people willing to move, willing to work for their own destiny and their families well being, and to make this into something fruitful for the countries of reception or the countries of origin," Carlsson said. "You could say that it's a failure. There is no such thing as a coherent approach."

Moderate migrant flows

According to the study, the number of cross-border migrants has doubled in the past 25 years to some 200 million people. As a proportion of the world’s total population, migrant flows remain rather moderate, with just 3 percent of people on the move, the study showed.

Around 60 percent of all recorded migrants are now to be found in the world’s more prosperous nations; the other 40 percent in developing regions, according to Carlsson. Asia had the most migrants -- currently 49 million people from around the globe have migrated there.

Rita Süßmuth

Rita Süssmuth advocates migrant rights

Germany’s Rita Süssmuth, a former Bundestag president and a major contributor to this country’s first migration law, urged people to see migration in a more positive light. Migrants have often been among the most dynamic and entrepreneurial members of society, she said.

In many developing countries, she added, financial contributions sent back home from migrants abroad constitute a more important source of income than all the official development assistance and foreign direct investment put together. According to estimates, overall migrant remittances to family members back home is as high as $250 billion (212 billion euros) a year.

Advocate for action

Of course, says Süssmuth, this does not justify countries' complacency on the matter. “The commission, too, is in favor of reducing forced migration by improving living and working conditions in the potential migrants’ home countries," she said.

Einwanderer in Griechenland vor Meldeamt

Immigrants lined up to renew residence permits in Greece

"But migration on a voluntary basis should not be made more difficult by too many bureaucratic hurdles. The international community will have to find a way of promoting voluntary migration based on full respect for human rights, clear regulations and fairness.”

The authors of the report urged governments around the world to pay more attention to migrants’ full-scale social integration. The better integration policies are geared to making migrants feel at home, the less policy-makers would have to be concerned about a direct link between international migration and cross-border terrorism.

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