Thursday 23 May 2024

World Migration Report 2024: Beyond the Statistical Jugglery

Mohammad Akmal Shareef

On May 7, 2024 Ms Amy E. Pope, Director General of International Organization for Migration (IOM) launched the World Migration Report 2024 at Dhaka, Bangladesh.  At the surface level, the report highlights the shared commitment of the international community to promote safe migration. However, the staggering rise in the numbers of global refugees and migrants driven by conflict, climate change, and economic in-equality gives us a grimmer picture. It cross checks the political rhetoric often shrouded with lofty values professed by the member states on the global podium. 

Sudden flaring up of Palestine imbroglio, the plight of stateless Rohingya refugees, forgotten crisis of Afghanistan, the Ukraine crisis (which gets the maximum attention of the donors!), and the fighting in Sudan between the rival armed forces, have exacerbated the refugee and IDP crises.   The images of sinking and broken boats carrying the refugees as they take the risky sea journey in the hope of seeing a better future, reminds the political artifice of the global power brokers these refugees repeatedly hear. It has given them nothing, but a congealed morass of hope built on the dead bodies of their loved ones, floating in the ocean- from the Mediterranean to the Pacific.    

While human history is a history of migration and many countries across the globe have written their success stories by harnessing the potential of migrants, the underline and systemic factors that drive unsafe migration need greater commitment and attention than ever.  Changing geo-political realities, technological divide, emergence of powerful non-state actors and armed groups- who are often seen in exasperating the problem-, and mammoth rise and influence of the private sector in shaping policies and public discourse, warrant our renewed commitment for transboundary cooperation and collaborations to address the global migration crises.   

Creating pathways for safe migration, highlighting the contributions of migrants, and addressing the even growing wave of hatred against migrants/refugees are the arenas aid communities need to highlight more.  As humanitarians we must continue to speak louder and share the stories of grief, anger, hope, and pride of the refugees; our voices need to be much louder, as there is growing concern that the world is moving more towards uncertainty and the voices of refugees and oppressed are not lost in the opera of political optics displayed in front of us.  

Globally 281 Million, roughly 03.60% of the global population are migrants; they are living in countries other than their countries of birth. There has been a growing gender gap; the share of female migrants has significantly decreased since 2020.  The number of refugees stands at 35.3 Million, whereas 54 million are asylum seekers and 71.2 million people are IDPs. Remaining 120.6 Million are those living in countries other than their birth for work and other reasons. Europe and Asia host 87 and 86 Million of International migrants respectively and that comprise 61% of the total global international migrants.

As for countries of origin, Asia has seen a drastic rise in numbers in the last 10 years. More than 40% of international migrants come from Asia, with India having the lion share, followed by China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. Nationals of countries where HDI is high, have access to almost 85% of the countries globally, thanks to the sheer capacity of their passports. The lower the HDI index, the limited access the nationals have to migrate. However, in the countries with lower HDI index, the probability and circumstances which lead to migration is much higher. 

The report also highlights the contribution of migrants in building economies. Paradoxically many countries that have been beneficiary of remittance sent by the migrants, have also seen significant rise in the anti- migrant/refugee sentiments, leading to rise of hate crime and violence against them. India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt are the major recipients of remittance. First time, India has crossed the threshold of $100 billion. It receives roughly $111 Billion as remittance.

Still effective governance of migration at global and national level continues to remain a big challenge. Changing geopolitical realities warrants an effective international migration governance framework based on the key spokes of justice, equity, rule of law, and compassion. Though, there has been progress to note, but are they enough to address the current challenges?  The subject of migration has first time got major traction in any global development document is the Agenda 2030/SDGs, which became a powerful accelerator to recognise the role of migrants and its effective governance in achieving the UN SDGs.

Subsequently, the promulgation of Global Compact for safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration 2018, became a huge stepping stone in terms of providing a broader governance framework to regulate migration at the global level. It spelt out the commitments, milestones, and process through which migration will be regulated. However, being a non- binding cooperative framework in nature, the Global Compact 2018 failed to garner the vote and commitments of all the member states.

Onus to regulate and take actions through developing national policies and action plans on the Global Compact remain in the purview of member states. Therefore many countries, though play a crucial role in the effective governance of migration, have yet to take actions and form policies to govern migration. In fact, many countries in the South and South-east Asia region, where the impact of cross border migration in recent years is glare, have yet to sign the global refugee convention of 1951; that further impedes in the way of effective governance. ‘Ostrich syndrome’ of states (especially the rich and powerful countries and blocks!) would not take us far in addressing the problem.    

Current migration crisis is perhaps unparalleled in human history. It’s complex and driven by multiple factors. The cacophony around this is loud, but gives us a ‘jarred view’, where stories of plight of migrants and refugees are lost. We must not forget those stories and continue to advocate for their rights. Circumstances have forced them to leave their homes – they need the shared commitment of humanity to sail through.

Note: The author is the Country Director, Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh. The opinion expressed in the article is solely of the author and does not represent the view of the organizations he works with. 

 Image credit: Getty Images  



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