Migration connects countries, cities and communities. It follows long-standing mobility patterns or creates new ones as political, social and economic conditions change.  Migration reflects shared histories, responds to economic needs, and fosters cultural ties. It poses challenges and offers opportunities for both migrants and societies.

Around 258 million international migrants live in today´s world – around 3.4 percent of the total population.  Yet, migrants contributed USD 6.7 trillion – or 9.4 percent – to global GDP in 2015. That is 4 percent more than if they had stayed home.  Ninety percent of this economic benefit is captured by 25 countries receiving migrants.

Both high-skill and medium or low-skill migrants add to productivity.  As of 2015, foreign nationals had filed half of all patents in the United States where immigrants and their children have co-founded over 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies. In Saudi Arabia 9 out of 10 construction workers are foreign nationals and migrants providing care help women stay or get back to their jobs.

In 2017, migrants sent USD 466 billion to low-and-middle income countries – more than 3 times amount of official development aid.  Providing new opportunities for youth, international student mobility is up from around 3.96 million in 2011 to 4.85 million in 2016.

Despite the overwhelming positive nature of migration, serious challenges remain.  Among them are 25 million victims of forced labor worldwide20 percent of whom are exploited and abused as domestic workers, in factories, on farms and fishing boats and at construction sites abroad. Producing an economic return of USD 5.5 to 7 billion for organized crime, an estimated 2.5 million migrants were smuggled in 2016.  Since 2016, over 4,800 migrants lost their lives while trying to reach another country.

Determining whether and how many low-skilled workers, highly skilled professionals, family members, students or other categories of migrants should be admitted is an important sovereign process for every country. Some countries have been built on immigration, others are severely restricting it.  Either way, these decisions have far-reaching and often unintended consequences affecting a nation’s competitiveness, social fabric and cultural make-up, among others.

How can countries maximize the benefits of migration while minimizing its risks?  What tools do policy makers have at their disposal to make migration safe, orderly and regular?

First, adherence to three basic principles is crucial

Humane and orderly migration requires adherence to international standards - the obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of individuals within a state’s territory and to do so without discrimination based on nationality, race, gender, religion or migration status.  

Migration is also not just a matter for interior and labor ministries but also one for social, health, educational and foreign ministries. The involvement of all sectors of government based on evidence ensures that migration policies advance countries´ broader interests and avoid a narrow focus with unintended consequences for both host society and migrants and their communities. For instance, discussions between interior, development and foreign ministries can make the reintegration of returnees more sustainable by focusing development efforts on migrant sending areas. The successful integration of migrants in host society is typically a longer-term endeavor requiring resources, innovative approaches and engagement by social, educational ministries and their counterparts in the local communities where migrants live.

Timely and accurate data on migration is a crucial element in combatting xenophobia and racism. To minimize prejudices, change stereotypes and counter sometimes wide-spread misinformation on migrants, evidence on all aspects of migration needs to be effectively communicated.

The transversal nature of migration also means that a wide range of actors including local authorities, employers, unions, civil society as well as migrants and their communities have a role to play in managing migration.  For this, partnerships are crucial. They broaden the understanding of migration and ensure comprehensive and effective approaches to migration´s social, economic, and cultural challenges.

Secondly, making migration safe, orderly and regular needs to consider some broader objectives.

For countries to reap the benefits of migration, their policies and practices need to advance the socioeconomic wellbeing of migrants and society.  Migration needs to be a win-win situation that fosters strong socioeconomic outcomes for society and migrants. For instance, fair and ethical recruitment reduces the risks of that migrants are trapped in debt bondage, supports local integration and provides economic and reputational benefits to companies.

By the end of 2017, persecution, generalized violence, or human rights violations forced 68.5 million individuals to leave their homes and seek shelter either within their own country or abroad. Natural disasters displaced 18.8 million people in 135 countries. Therefore, good migration governance needs effective ways to save the lives of displaced people, help them and their communities recover from man-made and natural disasters and put them on a solid path to sustainable development.

Ensuring that migration takes place in a safe, orderly and dignified manner requires to mitigate the inherent risks associated with the movement of persons, particularly the most vulnerable ones. This includes detecting and preventing irregular migration, including trafficking in persons and smuggling in migrants, strengthening immigration and border management as well as offering assistance to return voluntarily, facilitating legal migration through visa schemes and building inclusive public health services.

By adhering to these three principles and striving towards these three objectives, countries apply the Migration Governance Framework – in short MiGOF – which all IOM member states welcomed in 2015. To date, MiGOF is the only internationally agreed concept the defines and measures progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals’ target 10.7: “Facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”.