Concerns in Western countries that immigrant numbers are spiraling out of control, causing job loss and hikes in welfare spending, are wrong, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday.
Is immigration really a cause for concern in Western countries?
The IOM said the world's estimated 185-192 million migrants -- up from 175 million in 2000 -- boost the economies of their new countries and the homelands they leave behind, although it did concede that the impact of the brain drain on poor nations was cause for concern.
"We are living in an increasingly globalized world which can no longer depend on domestic labor markets alone. This is a reality that has to be managed," said IOM Director General Brunson McKinley.
"If managed properly, migration can bring more benefits than costs," McKinley told reporters at the launch of the 2005 World Migration Report.
Filling the gaps
Focusing on western Europe, where many studies have highlighted a need to fill gaps caused by low birth rates, the IOM said direct competition between migrants and local workers is rare. Migrants are concentrated at the higher and lower ends of the employment market, often in jobs the locals are either unable or unwilling to do, said the IOM.
The IOM says many countries need proper immigration policies
They can also generate billions of dollars for government coffers, with their taxes outweighing welfare payments. However, many governments, particularly in Europe, are still failing to get to grips with the need for proper immigration policies, said the IOM.
Immigration debate flares in Germany
The report comes at a time when Germany looks set to deepen its own debate on immigration. Recent comments from Bavaria's CSU Interior Minister Günther Beckstein, who is tipped to become the next interior minister should the conservatives win the planned September elections, leave a big question mark over the way a new government would deal with the issue.
Migration Commissioner Marieluise Beck
Beckstein told voters they could choose between the plans of the ruling coalition to massively increase immigration, or vote for his party and a policy "without immigration."
But Federal Migration Commissioner Marieluise Beck (photo)said Beckstein was out of step with the reality of the situation. The number of migrants coming to Germany has in fact been declining since 2002, and last year for example, the German authorities received just 35,000 asylum requests compared to 50,000 in 2003.
Russia and the US are top spots
Germany is home to a total of 7.3 million migrants, third in place after the United States, which is home to 35 million, and Russia, where 13.3 million migrants are permanently resident. Most of them left other republics of the former Soviet Union after 1991.
The top migrant sending countries are China, India and the Philippines.
Migrant workers can help their home economies in absentia
Migrants are a key source of income for many poorer countries. The IOM study said they officially sent home $100 billion (820 million euros) in 2004, adding that another 100 billion dollars is thought to flow home through informal channels. Top of the list for remittances is Mexico, followed by India, the Philippines, Egypt and Morocco.
But migration on the scale it exists also means a loss of skilled people essential for domestic development in poorer countries. Estimates suggest that some 400,000 scientists and engineers from developing countries work in industrialized nations, compared with 1.2 million at home, the report said.