Our briefing on Migration was held by Ms Anke Strauss, who is Liaison Officer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to the United Nations. The briefing gave us a basic introduction to the work of the IOM. In addition to that, Ms Strauss focused on the impact of the global economic crisis on migration and of the situation of Australia. As an intergovernmental organisation, the IOM is not a Member of the UN but holds Observer status at the General Assembly.
Ms Strauss stated that the IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society. The Organization has offices in over 100 different countries whose work focuses on migration management, advancing the understanding of migration issues, encouraging social and economic development through migration and furthering the human dignity and well-being of migrants.
Ms Strauss gave us an overview on the global situation that migrants and countries are facing. During the past years, the number of migrants has been constantly increasing. Some reasons for this development are labour migration and the problems caused by climate change. Today there are over 192 million migrants around the globe. The largest number of migrants is leaving their homes in developing countries in order to have a better perspective in the developed world. The problems are not only faced by the big migration countries, like the United States, but also in the developing countries that together with workforce loose one of their greatest powers. Another big group the IOM deals with a great number of political migrants that leave their home due to discrimination or war. This kind of migration mostly affects the receiving countries that are mostly developing neighbouring countries.
The IOM also takes part in intergovernmental negotiations on climate change-induced migration, where particularly small islands have started being affected by global warming and the rising sea level. For example the pacific island of Tonga tries to reach an agreement with the government of New Zealand to move its entire population to its neighbour.
Another big issue the IOM deals with is the rising problem of illegal migration. For example, some 12 million people are living and working illegally in the United States alone. The human trafficking issue has been addressed by the IOM with many different programmes. In the countries of origin, development programmes, in co-operation with different international actors are trying to eliminate the root cause for trafficking. Furthermore education programs in those countries try to provide better chances for children and information campaigns alert to the risk of human trafficking.
The most recent problem the IOM sees coming up is the migration that results from the global economic crisis. Since this is still a very new phenomena there is no well-grounded statistics available. But anecdotal evidence shows large numbers of job-loosing migrants in Middle East. For example in Qatar where about 80 per cent of the population are migrants, we see an increasing number of migrants that lost their job.
This of course affects countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh or any Latin-American country that are depending on large amounts of remittances sent to families by migrants that are working abroad. The problems that this causes for the families back home are obvious. But also the returning migrants have difficulties of reintegrating the society.
Information regarding Australia, traditionally an immigration country, was mainly concerning its immigration policies. Australia has been criticised by many different international human rights organisations for its detention centres. But without an efficient alternative for both migrants and the government, the detention centres seem the only option than leaving them on the boat just off the shore.