Cities of the Future - Where Local Authorities Lead on Migration


Human beings have always been motivated to move about in search of better land, better resources and better opportunities for their children. Mobility is mankind’s oldest and most successful poverty fighter — to make the poor richer, and the rich even richer still by spreading wealth, trade and expertise that benefit all of us.

However, in modern times, we are finding the pressures on both our sender and receiver societies and economies to be draining, so we need to find solutions that benefit both the mobile newcomers and the host communities they flock to.

Migration is driven by a variety of push-and-pull factors which, in turn, are shaped by context and circumstance. There are currently 250 million migrants worldwide, all facing challenges. Many forcibly displaced seeking refuge find themselves among those who already struggle with poverty in lower-income countries. 

Yet, regardless of where in the world migrants are — or why — with more than half of the world’s population living in cities, migration and the factors that drive it are predominantly urban in nature.

People are of course drawn to the natural concentration of services and opportunities that can be found in established human settlements. But there are other, more subtle pull-factors, too.

Cities often provide wider opportunities for participation where migrants can have their demands heard. Their institutions are closer to the population and more attuned towards understanding the different needs of people. Cities can also directly benefit from new inputs to processes and workflows, and are quicker to react and accommodate extra workers.

At the same time, local authorities also face the most direct demands on resources to provide services to various sections of the population, and have closer contact that allows them to understand which different approaches provide the most efficient access.

This is why local authorities are critical to the dialogue around migration and how to harness the opportunities it generates for local and national benefit. City planners and managers need to take migration into account when looking at the future of urban areas and human settlements.

We need to meet this challenge head on, together.

In December 2018, UN member states will gather in Morocco to endorse the first Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The GCM will present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility and set out a range of actionable commitments, means of implementation and a framework for follow-up.

In the run up to this, the city of Mechelen and the Government of Belgium hosted the Global Conference on Cities and Migration on 16 and 17 November.

The conference aimed to influence key decision makers’ views on actionable recommendations on cooperation for migration governance, at the local and national level, in follow-up to the Habitat III conference and the New Urban Agenda, and as input to the stocktaking meeting for the Global Compact.

It explored more effective approaches to urban governance that account for greater diversity, including migration policies for inclusive growth. The discussions of the conference resulted in the Mechelen Declaration on Cities and Migration, to be considered as input to the preparatory process of the GCM ahead of the intergovernmental stocktaking meeting in Mexico, in December 2017.

The challenges migration presents are significant. With honest and open dialogue about how we plan and manage our urban areas, the opportunities will be greater.

*This entry was originally published here.


About the authors:

Dr Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-Habitat.

William Lacy Swing, Director General of the UN Migration Agency (IOM).

Emilia Saiz, Deputy Secretary General of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG).



How has the pandemic affected migrant children?

How has the pandemic affected migrant children?
Categoria: Migrant Protection and Assistance
Autor: Guest Contributor

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statistics and available data reveal that children belong to the population group that has suffered the least health impact, as they are less prone to the risk of infection, especially compared to older adults.

However, these data refer merely to the health effects of the pandemic. Critical social consequences, such as school closings, mobility restrictions and increased economic difficulties, have contributed to increased insecurity and vulnerability of the younger population, who will have to cope with the short and long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.

The situation of double precariousness of migrant and displaced children, who are already among the most vulnerable populations in the world, has deteriorated during the pandemic, due to greater exposure to situations of poverty aggravated by the economic crisis, to human rights violations, such as in the cases of labor exploitations of minors, fostered by losses in household income, and temporarily suspended access to education, together with an increased risk of suffering from mental illness in such a discouraging and critical context.

According to an IOM article on the implications of the pandemic on migrant children, among the most relevant are:

Increase in dismissals: In some countries, the pandemic has been used as a justification to increase the return of minors to their countries of origin and to paralyze distribution in shelters. In the United States, however, 24,000 migrant children have been able to leave immigration detention centres since the beginning of the pandemic. Even more numerous have been the forced repatriations of minors to Central American countries, in particular Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala, despite the fact that the communities of origin of migrants may not present the necessary conditions to guarantee their safety and protection. Furthermore, the dismissals have been carried out without testing for the virus and without ascertaining whether migrants needed protection for fear of being persecuted in their countries of origin.

Deterioration of the situation in shelters and detention centres: The reduced number of humanitarian workers in shelters, the shortage of basic resources and supplies, and the decline in services provided to migrants have hardened the living conditions of children in reception centres, intensifying their vulnerability. During the COVID-19 emergency, the capability of child protection systems in northern Central America and Mexico has also been weakened due to a lack of personal protective equipment, which has implied fewer protection services, virus testing and treatment.

School closure and exclusion: Isolation measures have forced schools to paralyze their activities. Migrant children may lack the resources to take courses online, such as computers and other types of digital technology devices. This lack can affect the future possibilities to get out of poverty through their human capital and skills, together with the increase in school dropouts. Likewise, migrant children may encounter more difficulties in terms of language learning, which leads to a lower ability to integrate. It also has to be taken into account that, being at home and not at school, children need more attention. This could force their mothers and fathers to leave their jobs to take care of them, affecting the economic situation of the family, which in turn may lead to child labour episodes in the future.

Border closure and increased xenophobia: The journey of unaccompanied and accompanied migrant children to the country of destination has been abruptly interrupted, due to measures to restrict mobility and border closures. Young migrants, temporarily stranded in areas near the borders, have been exposed to greater forms of xenophobia by the community in the country of transit, being accused, in many cases erroneously, of bringing the disease or facilitating contagion. As the IOM report indicates, the closure of borders, together with the deportations of minors, has led to a drop in cases of protective custody of children.

Discrimination in the community of origin: Young migrants who escape from situations of conflict, persecution, environmental calamity, abuse, violence and lack of opportunities, are exposed to human rights violations and difficult conditions not only along the way to the country of destination, but also when returning to their country of origin, as they are sometimes perceived as possible sources of contagion. Henrietta Foe, Executive Director of UNICEF, pointed out that “many children who return face a double risk and are more in danger than when they left their communities”, as they have to confront again with the situation of insecurity in their community of origin and are victims of increased discrimination.

Effects on mental health: The highest levels of tension and stress of the migrant population also affect children, especially in cases where the COVID-19 disease causes the death of their fathers or mothers, which can lead to increased exposure to abuse. Many migrant and displaced children may suffer from psychological trauma, marginalization or stigma, in addition to not being able to receive psychological support during the pandemic.

Although the reports in the media focus on sharing mainly statistics and data about the number of people who have contracted the COVID-19 disease, we must also focus our attention on generating debates and policies for the population stratum that will experience the longest-lasting impact of the pandemic: children.

Migrant children need immediate protection and social and health assistance, that will allow them to learn, grow and achieve better living conditions. They must be a priority to counteract and reduce the short and long-term effects of the pandemic.