|UNITED NATIONS, Jan. 12, 2018 -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday asked governments to treat migration as a positive global phenomenon and refrain from setting up barriers to legal international migration.
"Let me emphasize: migration is a positive global phenomenon. It powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline," Guterres told an informal meeting of the UN General Assembly, which is working on a Global Compact on Migration, an intergovernmentally negotiated agreement toward safe, orderly and regular international migration.
Migrants make a major contribution to international development -- both by their work and by sending remittances to their home countries, he said, noting that remittances added up to nearly 600 billion U.S. dollars last year, three times more than all development aid.
States need to strengthen the rule of law underpinning how they manage and protect migrants -- for the benefit of their economies, their societies and migrants themselves. Authorities that erect major obstacles to migration, or place severe restrictions on migrants' work opportunities, inflict needless economic self-harm, as they impose barriers to having their labor needs met in an orderly and legal fashion, he said.
"Worse still, they unintentionally encourage illegal migration. Aspiring migrants, denied legal pathways to travel, inevitably fall back on irregular methods. This not only puts them in vulnerable positions, but also undermines governments' authority itself."
The best way to end the stigma of illegality and abuse around migrants is, in fact, for governments to put in place more legal pathways for migration, he said. "This will remove incentives for individuals to break the rules, while better meeting the needs of markets for foreign labor. It will also aid in efforts to clamp down on smugglers and traffickers and to assist their victims."
Migration is also a source of political tensions and human tragedies, said the secretary-general. "The majority of migrants live and work legally. Unfortuantely, others live in the shadows, unprotected by the law and unable to contribute fully to society. And a desperate minority put their lives at risk to enter countries where they face suspicion and abuse."
Globally, migration remains poorly managed, he said. The impact can be seen in the humanitarian crises affecting people on the move, and in the human rights violations suffered by those living in slavery or enduring degrading working conditions. It can be seen, too, in the political impact of public perception that wrongly sees migration as out of control.