It is logical that allowing migrants to enter a country in a regular manner is beneficial for them, by protecting them from risks such as human trafficking, human smuggling or different types of violence, which they may experience during irregular migratory movements. But it also gives them access to a wide range of rights through visas for humanitarian, employment, educational or even health reasons.
In fact, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), more specifically in its objective 5, "Increase the availability and flexibility of regular migration channels", emphasize the potential of regular channels to ensure the protection of migrants and their rights, including migrants in vulnerable situations.
However, the greatest beneficiaries of more and better regular entry and permanence pathways, defined by the United Nations Migration Network as "the legal, policy and administrative mechanisms that facilitate regular travel, admission and stay in the territory of a State," may be the countries and communities that host migrants. Although it may not seem obvious at first glance, here are five examples of how this may be possible.
1). Better economic and fiscal conditions for countries. When people choose to migrate to a country irregularly, they are often employed in the informal economy or in illegitimate businesses. With the opening of regular migration and stay channels, States have access to the formal labor market, thus improving their ability to collect tax revenues and positively impacting the country's social security and social protection systems.
2). Better strategies to mitigate the effects of a crisis or emergencies. For example, during the period of border closures enacted by many countries in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, some sectors of the economy were affected by migrant labor shortages, especially in the case of economic activities, such as agriculture, that rely heavily on the recruitment of migrant workers. In these cases, adapting or creating regular pathways for admission and permanence can help fill the gaps between labor market supply and demand caused by the limited participation of nationals in such economic activities.
3). Combat exploitative labor practices and conditions. Regular migration channels provide governments and countries with better tools to identify, combat and reduce exploitative labor situations, thus helping to comply with applicable international standards. People in regular status can access the justice system more easily to report or denounce labor abuses than people residing in the country irregularly, due to the latter's fear of being detected and deported.
4). Improved socioeconomic conditions and social inclusion. Migrating on a regular basis lays the foundation for social and economic inclusion of migrants in host societies, as migrants with regular status enjoy better access to community services, as well as secure and better paid employment. By improving the welfare of migrants, regular admission and permanence pathways facilitate the empowerment of migrants, as well as their contribution to economies and societies.
5). Improves the effectiveness of public health strategies. In times of health emergency, such as the one experienced during the last few years with the COVID-19 pandemic, regular admission and permanence pathways can help authorities to access communities and groups such as immigrants and raise their awareness of public health measures and provide them with accurate information. When people are in a country irregularly, their distrust of institutions tends to be greater, so they will try to avoid contact with the authorities for fear of being deported.
The above are specific examples of how regular channels can benefit the countries and communities that receive migrants in different ways. However, for these benefits to be tangible, not only the will, but also the real commitment of governments, international organizations and civil society is necessary for the creation and examination of more and better regular channels of admission and stay.
The International Migration Review Forum (IMRF), which will take place in May 2022 at the United Nations Assembly in New York, is presented as the appropriate opportunity for the main stakeholders in processes of human mobility to evaluate the challenges and progress achieved in terms of regular pathways of admission and permanence, always having as a guiding framework the protection and defense of migrants, but also the search for social, political and economic benefits for our societies.