A Reflection of Progress


First published in "G7 Italy: The Taormina Summit", May 2017 issue)

The world’s experience with globalisation — the widespread transfer of peoples, technologies and cultures — did not begin in our time. Scholars argue that it dates back to 1492, when European migration, together with movements of Asians, Africans and Native Americans, forged the global relationships that help shape life to this day.

This centuries-old process has led to ever freer trade networks for goods and services, and ever increasing human mobility — the labour and intellectual property components of our codependent economies — to raise prosperity globally.

Migration embodies all we have accomplished in responding to human ambition and promoting the dignity and freedom of men and women worldwide. Yet it is that progress — which has lifted billions from poverty — that now is being shaken to its core, with a return to antimigrant nationalism. This is a threat we cannot ignore.

Fighting fear of change

The forces doing the shaking arrive under different names: ‘populism’, ‘xenophobia’. Each is a side of one coin: fear of change on one side backed by susceptibility to media images that pound away at only negative tropes, often having little basis in fact.

‘Your jobs are deserting you’, goes one trope, as corporate growth is thought to flee to other countries. Or ‘your country is disappearing’, as foreigners teem onto your shores. Or ‘these newcomers just won’t beassimilated’ — as if such criticism was not levelled at, and debunked by, every wave of ‘newcomers’ that ever arrived before.

Nonetheless, we have to face these fears and push back. We must all — be we leaders in government, civil society and the corporate world — demonstrate the many ways we can communicate a different message. At the International Organization for Migration (IOM), communicating this message is one of our core missions.

One way we do so is with the United Nations ‘Together’ campaign, which combats stereotypes of migrants and refugees with positive stories that reveal the energy released to benefit us all when newcomers renew our cities, establish new industries and create opportunities for all in their new surroundings.

Great successes

IOM’s ‘I am a migrant’ campaign profiles individual migration success stories online. For example, Jim Yong Kim, the Korean preschooler whose journey through a Texas and Iowa childhood led ultimately to Washington DC, where today he is President of the World Bank.

Or Cecilia Violetta López, the daughter of itinerant farmworkers from Mexico, who from a childhood in Idaho rose into a classical music career, performing in La Traviata and Madam Butterfly on the world’s great opera stages.

A universal movement

Of course, we must do more than demonstrate how migrants triumph over adversity to join us. We need to show how they make us all — whether we come from countries where our family roots extend back generations or whether we are still waiting for the children who will be the first to claim our ‘native’ status.

The ‘us’ I am speaking of are those thriving within any free society that welcomes the talent of the young. The foreigner who arrives as a restaurant worker but becomes an award-winning chef. The sian website designer whose talents are spotted by a recruiter far away in Europe, who then sends the designer to join a start-up in California. Or the entrepreneur who travels ‘here’ to earn a fortune, gain skills and, through both, enrich those ‘back home’.

I speak here in generalities to demonstrate just how universal this movement across has become. Any of these examples play out across boundaries that barely existed a generation ago.

Remarkable stories

These are not journeys that occur solely between poor lands and richer ones, but anywhere. We could be talking about the Nigerian trader now working in Guangzhou, which is home today to nearly 200,000 West Africans. Or the Ethiopian jazz musician who has won legions of fans in Johannesburg. Or the Sénégalais who in 2016 won Best Paris Baguette prize for his exquisite baguettes. Or the turban-wearing fan who has become a sensation in Canada doing Hockey Night in Punjabi broadcasts from his new home in Vancouver.

Just as remarkable, and possibly more important, are the hidden stories that affect all of us: the thousands of migrant health workers filling crucial labour shortages everywhere from Iceland to Zimbabwe. Or those risk-resistant new homeowners who relentlessly restore abandoned neighbourhoods in cities such as Liverpool, Detroit or Dresden.

There is a proverb: as long as books stay open, minds cannot be closed. We might say something similar about the future of our planet: as long as borders remain open, humankind must remain free. Let’s work together to make that hope real.


About the autor:

William Lacy Swing - Director General of the International Organization for Migration.


Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, and white slave trafficking, what's the difference?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

Migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons and even white slave trafficking: we might hear these expressions being used as synonyms, when in reality they have very different meanings. Let's start by eliminating one, the term "white slave trafficking".

The term "white slave trafficking" was used at different times in history, but today it is completely outdated, as it only refers to the sexual exploitation of "white-skinned women". The problem with using this expression is that it can imply that only women with certain characteristics can be victims of trafficking (a racist concept), and that the only end of trafficking is sexual exploitation, when the reality is much more complex. This brings us to the second and correct concept, "trafficking in persons".

"Trafficking in persons" refers to all those forms of exploitation for the benefit of a third party, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced labor, forced marriage, forced begging and the removal of organs. In international law, the term is left somewhat open depending on the context, since new forms appear periodically in which one person or group of people forces another to take actions against their will to achieve some benefit. It is a form of modern slavery and can occur within a country or internationally.

According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, there are three elements that must be met to characterize a crime as trafficking in persons:

  • The action: That is, the crime carried out by organized networks, where it is evident that actions were taken with the intention of facilitating the exploitation of another person, such as capturing, sending or receiving them.
  • The means: The means is how the criminals manage to carry out the trafficking, for example, through deceit and lies, force, violence, abuse of the other person's vulnerability, etc.
  • Exploitation: In itself, the abuse of another person for the benefit of a third party.

Each of these three elements is made up of many possible actions, but if an action corresponding to each element is carried out, we are dealing with a case of trafficking in persons.

Finally, there is the term "migrant smuggling," which refers to supporting the illegal transfer of a person across border, as "coyotes" do, for exmple. The big difference between "smuggling" and "trafficking" is that traffic violates the laws of the State that is illegally entered, while trafficking violates the human rights of a person. The crime of migrant smuggling is characterized by:

  • The facilitation of illegal entry of a person to another country.
  • The creation or supply of a false identity document or passport.
  • The authorization, by illegal means, of the permanent stay of a non-national or non-resident.

It is clear that both actions, smuggling and trafficking, are often related, since smuggling places people in situations of vulnerability that can trigger a trafficking process. The fact that both crimes are included in the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (also known as the Palermo Convention or Protocol) can also lead to confusion and leads to the belief that they are the same, but they are not.

To learn more about the dangers and characteristics of the crime of human trafficking, we recommend visiting the IOMX campaign.