Migrants play critical role in Asia-Pacific development: report

Migrants from countries across Asia and the Pacific play a key role as development actors, helping drive GDP growth in their countries of destination while also supporting families and communities in their countries of origin, but the benefits of migration remain under-acknowledged, according to a new United Nations report.

The Asia-Pacific Migration Report 2015: Migrants’ Contributions to Development, was launched today by Mr. Hongjoo Hahm, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on behalf of the Asia-Pacific RCM Thematic Working Group on International Migration, including human trafficking, which includes 15 members from the United Nations system and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Drawing on evidence gathered from across the region, the Report finds that over 95 million people from Asia and Pacific countries lived outside their countries of birth, and that the region hosted over 59 million migrants.

While there are many reasons to migrate, the majority of these migrants are temporary migrant workers. The Asia-Pacific region also hosts over 5.5 million refugees, and three of the main refugee-hosting countries in the world are in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Report shows that many migrant workers not only benefit from their migration, but they also contribute to the development of their countries of origin and destination through their work and the remittances they send home.

However, migrants also face hardships and abuse, so action needs to be taken to maximise these benefits by ensuring that migration is orderly, safe, regular and responsible.

Too often, prejudice against migration and unilateral approaches guide responses to migration challenges. Thus, rather than making migration policies that are aligned with national development priorities and promote conditions of dignity and respect for the rights of migrant workers, many countries place restrictions not only on the entry of migrants into the country but also on their rights and their ability to access social protection.

Launching the report at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand, Mr. Hahm emphasised that the scale of migration is only likely to increase in Asia and the Pacific and the outcome of this trend is in the hands of the countries of the region.

“Business-as-usual risks heightening inequality, holding back advances in productivity, and facilitating human rights abuses,” said Mr. Hahm.

“Positive outcomes require policies aligned with national development strategies and international standards promoting fair recruitment, decent and productive employment and social protection.”

Dr. Nenette Motus, Regional Director a.i., IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific highlighted that: “Building strong cross-sectoral partnerships within countries and across the region is critical through a whole of government approach and strengthened Public Private Partnership, as well as actively engaging with CSOs, migrants associations, transnational communities, and more importantly, migrants themselves.” 

Mr. Nilim Baruah, Senior Migration Specialist at the International Labour Organization (ILO) stated that: “Migration is a key feature of today’s world of work and raises complex policy challenges. Fair migration means creating instruments of governance which result in a fair sharing of prosperity that migrants themselves help to create.”

The Report provides guidance on the steps countries, regional organisations, civil society actors and others can take to improve positive impacts, notably through securing the rights of migrants and ensuring their access to social protection and decent work, both through national policies and multilateral dialogue and cooperation. 

The Asia-Pacific Migration Report 2015: Migrants’ Contributions to Development is the result of a collaborative effort of the members of the Regional Thematic Working Group on International Migration, including Human Trafficking, namely:  ESCAP, IOM, ILO, OCHA, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UN-ACT, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNODC, UN Women, WHO and the World Bank. The group is currently co-chaired by ESCAP and IOM.

Download a full copy of the report here.

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