Public perceptions in developed countries of migrants taking jobs, lowering wages and being a burden on social services are untrue…
According to reports such as the International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report 2005, competition for low skill jobs is largely between migrant communities themselves; migrants have negligible if any impact on lowering wages while studies have also not clearly proved that migrants, both regular and irregular, are a greater burden on social services than nationals.
Contrary to popular perception, many irregular migrants do not use social services for fear of being caught and deported. According to a 2004 study by the International Labour Organization, US employers paid the government up to $20 billion in social security services contributions collected from the irregular migrants they employed between 1990-1998.
This is in addition, of course, to the large sums of money paid on a regular basis by lawful migrants in the form of taxes and other forms of support to local economies.
“The significant economic, social and cultural contributions made by migrants to host communities need to be recognized,” said Brunson McKinley, IOM Director General.
“One way to achieve this recognition would be by having more balanced and accurate information and reporting on the positive impact of migration.”
Many countries have been built on immigration and the contributions of temporary and permanent foreign workers, including the United States and Western Europe.
Modern economic growth and development is also being partly fuelled by migration. In the UK, which has opened its labour markets to nationals from new European Union accession states, the economy is benefiting as a direct result, according to a new report by Ernst and Young ITEM Club. The report forecasts the economy will grow to 2.6 per cent in 2007 and to three per cent in 2008.
The vibrancy of the Spanish economy in recent years is also being significantly attributed to immigration.
Governments have the right and responsibility to determine which non-nationals to admit to their territories, and under what conditions. However, the human rights of all, including migrants, need to be respected.
At the same time, migrants have a responsibility to obey the laws of the destination country, including immigration and labour laws.
Adequate channels for legal migration need to be developed to meet the needs of modern economies, including the greater use of temporary labour migration schemes where appropriate. This is particularly important in addressing the growth of grey market employment in informal sectors such as agriculture and many service industries.
The current debate in many countries on regularisation of irregular migrants only partly addresses the need for better management of migration.
In itself, regularisation is no panacea. It should be part of a broader, comprehensive approach to migration management, and in particular, the management of labour market needs while investing in more effective poverty reduction schemes.
The same applies to border control. Although developed countries spend much money to stop irregular migration at their borders, evidence shows that such measures are not particularly effective or efficient.
A US study found that between 1980 and 2000 when spending on prevention of irregular migration rose by 20 times, the estimated number of unauthorised foreigners in the country rose by six million people despite several amnesty programmes. Many western European countries have experienced similar trends.
“Today’s mobile and interconnected world requires governments to take a fresh, multi-dimensional and balanced approach to managing the mobility of persons.
"This includes addressing the needs of an increasingly global labour market, particularly in sectors as diverse as health care and IT, demographic forecasts of aging and shrinking populations in much of the developed world, as well as recognising the important positive potential of migration in contributing to economic growth and development in the poorest countries,” added McKinley.