People were, are and always will be in movement for various reasons. Therefore, migration should not be regarded as a problem that needs to be solved, but as a challenge that needs to be answered. What we need is a vision of the future in which migration and mobility are shaped justly and globally – a vision based on human rights and global solidarity.
Shaping migration justly means that no-one should have to leave their home because of force or violence. Shaping migration justly also means that every person is able to use their right to mobility. Everyone has the right to stay, as well as the right to leave.
Shaping migration globally means that worldwide migratory movements affect all states and societies. Therefore, they are a communal responsibility that goes far beyond “managing” migratory movements. Migration shines a light on abuses and misguided developments in various policy areas. These can only be solved globally.
People should be able to stay in their home countries. For this to be possible, their livelihoods and rights need to be protected. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the United Nations as well declare it a global task to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet”.
In order to open up migration opportunities to people worldwide, states and societies must agree on principles, regulations and political projects with which migration can be shaped.
The following ten messages represent a change of perspective on migration and mobility.
Contact: Felix Braunsdorf ・ Migration & Development ・ Felix.Braunsdorf(at)fes.de・
Many people believe that they can only be granted residence status in Germany if they are officially recognized as a refugee. But only some of these people are in need of protection as defined by asylum law. Very few people know of and understand the other migration possibilities. A simpler immigration policy does not only relieve the strain on the asylum system—it can also spare migrants dangerous journeys, long waits and traumatizing experiences. A new immigration act should define conditions for immigration. Policies governing immigration must consider the rights of migrants and demographic challenges as well as current labor market realities in countries of origin and destination. A simpler and more transparent immigration policy implements clear regulations and deprives human traffickers and smugglers of their source of income.
Many people leave their homes in search of a life in dignity and security because the working conditions in many countries are catastrophic. In contrast, the working conditions in Germany and other industrialized countries are comparatively good. This gap is one reason for migration. Better working conditions and social security throughout the world would reduce the pressure to leave one‘s home in search of a better life. We too could make a contribution to better global working conditions by becoming conscious of our consumption. In Germany as well, decent working conditions need to apply to everyone. Migrants are particularly at risk of being exposed to exploitation—including here. Combatting the shadow economy and reducing temporary and agency work helps all workers.
Participatory rights ensure that we can take part in society and are not excluded or discriminated against. Many people from crisis countries long for peace, democracy and freedom and in some cases leave their homes in search of these. But often, they do not have any political voice in the country they migrated to – even if they stay forever. Integration will never succeed on this basis. When persons immigrate through an orderly procedure and settle down for a longer period, they must be able to take part in political life. The self-organization of migrants and their participation in civil society must be encouraged. If someone has lived in Germany for at least five years, they should be able to vote in local elections and referendums. Further, obstacles to naturalization should be removed.
Building walls along borders and detaining migrants have serious consequences. Many people die traveling along dangerous routes or endure harsh, inhumane conditions in camps. Their freedom of movement is restricted and their development potential is left untapped, while access to education and employment is lacking. Isolationism is inefficient, as well – it only results in migrants finding different routes. Fences are no deterrent to someone who is determined to migrate. Orderly escape and migration routes reduce the risks and costs people have to bear, easing the way to a new beginning. Further, they can travel back to their countries of origin, safe in the knowledge that they can return to their new home. Resettlement programs to protect refugees, i.e. resettlement in third countries, also make good sense, as does the granting of humanitarian visas by embassies and consulates.
Migrants contribute to the development of their new and old home countries. The aid they send to relatives is targeted, reliable and vastly exceeds the amount of development aid. If migrants experience democracy, freedom of opinion and equal rights positively, this can also have an influence on the society they came from. The positive effects have the greatest impact when people are able to travel back and forth and are accepted in both societies. But when the political environment prevents this, they are forced to choose between their old and their new home. Negative effects come to the fore particularly when a person’s resident status is insecure or migrants are criminalized. That is why transparent, flexible regulations for labor migration make sense. Migrants’ contributions for the development of their countries of origin and destination should be appreciated and their potential activated.
Development funds are increasingly being spent to prevent migration instead of being invested in education and infrastructure. But border fences and restrictions on the freedom of movement hinder economic development while criminalizing migration. This in turn allows organized crime to profit and make vast amounts of money by trafficking people. Consequently, migrants are exploited and the corruption of state-run border control agencies increases. In order to counteract this development, comprehensive investments into the development of states of origin must be made, democracy must be promoted and corruption must be sustainably fought against. Development cooperation should provide incentives to countries of origin to become self-responsible instead of making them cooperate in migration controls. Funds should not be invested in walls and fences, but rather in education, health and infrastructure.
Arms exports to dubious regimes damage the credibility of Germany‘s and Europe‘s foreign and development policy. For these arms can be used against civilians and fuel violent conflicts. Instead of arming other countries so that they can increase migration controls, an active peace policy ought to mitigate causes of displacement. Dialogue, diplomacy and prevention must be at the heart of this active peace policy. Bringing conflict parties to the negotiating table early on must be part of this strategy. In some countries, military and police reforms are necessary in order to guarantee the protection of the population and safety of refugees. An active peace policy includes strengthening the rule of law, democracy and division of powers.
Climate change is irreversible. Rising sea levels engulf coastal cities and islands. Deserts are expanding and cover more and more areas. Countless people are robbed of their livelihoods. To survive, the affected people have to leave their homes. For many people, migration is not a choice, but rather their last resort. Climate change exacerbates already-existing problems, such as clashes over resources or lower yields in agriculture. Consequently, climate protection also mitigates causes of displacement. An ambitious climate policy can alleviate climate-related damages and losses as well as help people adapt and secure their basis of existence.
The unequal distribution of wealth is a driving force of migration. It does not only exist between North and South, but also between social classes in many countries. The wealth of few stands in glaring opposition to the living situation of the vast majority of the global population. At the same time, multinational enterprises are very good at avoiding taxes—thereby robbing poor countries of crucial resources. Together, all African states have annual losses of 50 billion USD through tax evasion.
In order to bring about social justice, effective taxation systems have to be established in developing countries. Further, international tax competition and tax avoidance must be effectively combatted, for instance by means of a global tax register.
The world economy is one reason why people have to leave their homes in the face of poverty and hunger. Only fair global trade can establish and maintain the basis of people‘s life. Agriculture in the developing countries, for example, needs to be protected against cheap vegetables and meat from multinational food corporations. Only then can poor countries feed their population and develop their economy. Trade agreements should follow the United Nation's sustainability goals and contribute to reducing poverty. Local and regional economic cycles and food sovereignty should be promoted and trade agreements should be scrutinized regarding their impact on these systems. Human rights, labour rights and environmental protection must have priority over the interests of multinational enterprises. These multinational enterprises also must adhere to their due diligence obligations. It is only through these measures that we can all profit from globalization and the environment can survive.