Migration policy

Annette Schlicht
+49 30 26935-7486

International Cooperation Division
Global and European Policy Department

Human Mobility in a Globalized World

For a variety of reasons, human beings always were, are, and will be moving from place to place, Thus, from a social democratic perspective, migration clearly is not a problem we have to solve; rather, it is a challenge we want to accept. In our vision of the future, migration and mobility must be managed with fairness. This is a vision based on the values of human rights and global solidarity.

When we say that migration should be managed fairly, we mean that the decision to relocate should be a free choice. Nobody should be compelled to leave his or her homeland. Therefore, we must make every effort to preserve the existential foundations of people's lives and protect their rights. The United Nations, in its Agenda 2030, likewise describes global responsibilities as follows: “We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet.” Every person should be able to able to make use of that right of mobility.

Everyone has both a right to leave and a right to remain. All countries and societies therefore must arrive at a consensus about how the shape and details of migration are to be defined so that people can reach their new destinations. Because global migration movements affect all countries and societies, they are a matter of common concern. In the long run, no country will be able to manage mobility and migration on its own, at least not sustainably  Countries will need to cooperate. Toward that end they need to build on a shared foundation: principles, goals, and rules such as the ones found in the UN's Global Migration Compact.

Under the motto “Managing global migration fairly,” we have prepared ten messages for the migration policy of the future. You can order the postcards and flyers about them at no charge.

Articles on migration policy

Labour migrant in Tripoli Libya at a stall with a bright blue turban.

Navigating hardships: Migrant economic realities in Libya

Displacement, Migration, Integration | Migration policy

Despite civil wars and political instability, Libya remains an important destination and transit country for many migrants. Inside Libya, they often...

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Ein Mann steht mit dem Rücken zur Kamera und schaut sich ein Gemälde mit vier verschiedenfarbigen Kreisen an.

Untapped potentials

Displacement, Migration, Integration | Migration policy

A people-centred labour migration policy requires the involvement of the diaspora, says Dr Rachid L'Aoufir of the African-German Association.

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Footpath on the campus of Thapar University, Patiala, India, with students in front of a very modern building designed by McCullough Mulvin Architects, against a blue sky.

More targeted and coordinated

Displacement, Migration, Integration | Migration policy

The Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement with India is often mentioned as best practice. Still, its potential is far from being realized, says...

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Chessboard with pieces. A hand moves a white pawn towards the black playing field.

Migration diplomacy

Displacement, Migration, Integration | Migration policy

Help or hindrance to migrants' rights? The answer might depend on future power dynamics. A contribution by the Mixed Migration Centre.

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Paper boats in a fountain in Zagreb, Croatia, with the words in Croatian: ‘They helped me: Be a human being!’ and in English: ‘Safe passage’.

Illuminating the Unseen Struggles

Displacement, Migration, Integration | Refugee Policy | Migration policy

Salam Ibrahim Al-Nidawi on the special mental health challenges of refugees and his work. A contribution to the 2024 World Refugee Day.

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Shaping migration - justly and globally!

Ten messages for a change of perspective on migration and mobility. more

Migration policy in the spotlight

Human mobility in a globalized world

At bottom migration is all about mobility. People move from one place to another, often more than once in their lives, and not always with the intention of staying there permanently. This phenomenon is as old as humanity itself. Nevertheless, globalization has altered human mobility in profound ways. Today, because transportation and communication have gotten cheaper and border controls have been relaxed, it has become easier for people to cross international borders. The opportunity to be mobile, to travel, and to explore the world is the hallmark of a modern society. Today, new forms of temporary and circular (repeated) migration have emerged alongside permanent emigration and immigration.

Very few of us can just “be mobile” without further ado.

The opportunity to enjoy trans-border mobility all around the world is still a privilege limited to a relatively small number of people. In most cases, when people cross borders, they do so for vacations or business opportunities. One's citizenship is a ticket that either opens or shuts the gates to the world. Here too, we must not overlook the high costs associated with trans-border mobility By international standards the citizens of European countries enjoy the privilege of moving about the world fairly freely. They have the most “powerful” passports in the world. Only citizens of Singapore can travel to more countries without first applying for a visa and meeting strict stipulations. People from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have the least freedom from visa requirements. As a general observation, the more deeply afflicted by war and violence a country happens to be, the less likely it is that its citizens will be able to leave it under regular rules. Just when  getting a visa could offer an opportunity to escape a life-threatening situation, it becomes almost impossible to obtain one.

Safe and risky mobility

It makes a great deal of difference whether one is traveling or moving to a sunnier location to enhance one's quality of life or is being forced to move in order to survive and feed a family. For tourists, crossing borders hardly entails danger or privations. By contrast, migrant workers and refugees are among the groups at the greatest risk of experiencing violence and exploitation.

Access to safe mobility for every person

There is no way to reconcile our sense of justice with the fact that access to mobility is so unequally distributed and that mobility is associated with such extraordinary risks for certain individuals. Every human being should have the opportunity to become mobile. Regardless of their citizenship, people ought to have recourse to safe, orderly ways to leave their homes, move to a different place, and start building a new life for themselves.

The United Nations Compact on Migration: implementing a milestone

The Global Compact for Safe, Regular, and Orderly Migration is a milestone in international migration policy. In it, the member states have agreed on the ways in which they want to manage migration. The Migration Compact includes concrete guidelines, goals, and measures. These range from the improvement of regular migration channels to the fight against smugglers and human trafficking and to better integration of migrants into society and the labor market. The Migration Compact is linked to Agenda 2030, approved in September, 2015. It consistently refers to the close relationship between migration and sustainable development. Now that the Compact has been approved (in December, 2018), the next step is to implement it.

In accordance with the principle of sovereignty, individual countries are supposed to assume responsibility for developing their own plans to put it into effect at the national level. Here, Germany can set a good example and establish the relevant criteria. Implementation is to be evaluated at the regional level, while global conferences are to be scheduled every four years.  The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung insists that the Migration Compact be implemented in ways that encourage participation, build on a human rights foundation, and focus on development. To achieve those goals we are working together with labor unions, migrant organizations, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations.

Current data on migration and mobility

The migration data portal supplies current data on global migration movements. The metrocosm map enables us to visualize migration flows from one country to another. The global passport power ranking lists passports with the greatest freedom from visa requirements. The Federal Center for Political Education (BpB) furnishes extensive facts and figures on migration and globalization. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) offers up-to-date numbers and statistics for Germany. Finally, the Experts' Council of the German Foundation for Integration and Migration (SVR) provides a glossary offering a wide-ranging overview of the most important concepts involved in flight and migration.

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