Six essential elements to make migration safe, orderly and regular

Six essential elements to make migration safe, orderly and regular

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”. 


7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).