Impeding migration crisis Win-win situation

Migrants are, as the head of the International Migration Organization Mr. William Lacy Swig put it, “the human face of globalization”. The unequal distribution of opportunities in our globalized society had created a need for the movement of workers from one region of the world to another. But today climate change, food subsidies in developed nations and the like have added to their numbers, while the financial crisis has caused a backlash against immigrants in their unemployment ridden developed hosts. As the opportunities and necessities for migration rise and the legal paths simultaneously become narrower, there

is a danger to the safety and security of the imminent wave of new migrants, unless a quick and effective response to this problem is forthcoming. This matter is of critical importance to us in Nepal, as we have a large migrant outflow, and our economy is hugely dependant on migration.

Migration has taken a terrible twist in that, unlike in the past where people migrated in search of better opportunities, migration today is forced; necessitated by subsidies in the west and climate change. Climate change induced forced migration is predicted to affect millions of people, according to a report published by the UN. University, CARE International and Columbia University. What is even worse is that this would stretch the UNHCR, which after expanding its brief to the internally displaced, is already stretched. To focus in on South Asia and Nepal, a report commissioned last year by the international activist group Greenpeace, titled Blue Alert: Climate Migrants in South Asia - Estimates and Solutions, has estimated that 50 million people in India and 75 million in Bangladesh will be rendered homeless by the turn of the century. The outlook for Nepal is particularly bleak. The impact of climate change on agriculture and the fragile ecosystems in Nepal will have a direct impact on agricultural productivity and tourism, and consequently on the country’s economy. The melting of the glaciers will create a water crisis or, more aptly, worsen the crisis that we in Kathmandu are already facing. The report by the UN University et all had a stern warning, “Environmentally induced migration and

displacement has the potential to become an unprecedented phenomenon — both in terms of scale and scope”. We will ignore this at our own peril.

Subsidies in western nations, food aid and aid to drive unsustainable behavior have caused wanton misery to farmers in developing nations like Nepal and driven them to menial jobs, slum living and abject penury in the cities. Import liberalization as stipulated by the WTO in a market distorted by subsidies has had a disastrous impact on developing countries from Mexico to Mali, and the overproduction from the subsidies are dumped into poorer nations as “aid” making local produce and, with it, the lives of the poor farmers that produce them redundant. Aid that drives such unsustainable practices such as water mining will force the farmers, barely scraping a subsistence living, to move once the local ecosystem’s carrying capacity collapses. The response to this growing crisis is disheartening, to say the least. The recent trend in developed countries (especially after the financial crisis) to limit the entry of immigrant workers is a flawed policy that will have disastrous impacts for the poor who depend on remittance for survival. The World Bank now estimates that remittances to developing countries in 2009 will be less than the estimated total of US$ 283 billion for 2008, as migrants are sidelined. The BBC reported that opinion polls suggest that as few as

four out of 10 EU citizens believe immigrants make a big contribution to society showing the lack of information regarding the positive impacts of migration.

In conclusion, we have seen some of the causes that are going to lead to migration becoming a central issue in the near future and, with the impeding increase in migration, will come xenophobia and discrimination in host societies. While the best way to deal with the issue is to create more awareness of the benefits migrant workers bring with them and remove the stereotypical image that shows them as parasites to the host society, we also have to recognize that the legal frameworks in place today to provide them with protection are flawed and counterproductive and so reform and expand these frameworks to deal with the climate change induced migration of the future. The International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, while providing a good framework, is not pragmatic, especially given realities like terrorism. The treaty is good in that it helps check clandestine and undocumented movement of migrant workers, but the basic human rights of the workers can be protected even within a stricter regime of punishment for illegal entry, which will allay the genuine and justified security concerns of many host nations. This, coupled with a relaxation in immigration policies, will on the whole provide a better means of protecting national security and immigrant rights or, in other words, a win- win situation for all involved.