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Migrants Worse off Than Others During Recession

The global economic crisis is having a particular impact on the well-being of those who cross borders seeking better opportunities for themselves and their families, a senior United Nations official said today, noting that migrants are often the first to suffer job losses or worsening working conditions.


“While the impact is not the same in all countries and regions, globally speaking, worsening economic conditions and more restrictive policies for labour movements have led to a slowdown of migration and remittance flows,” said Carlos Lopes, Executive Director of the UN Institute for Training and Research (http://www.unitar.org/) and Chair-in-Office of the Global Migration Group (GMG).


Established in 2006, the GMG is an inter-agency effort aimed at enhancing cooperation between UN agencies, the International Organization for Migration (http://www.iom.int/jahia/jsp/index.jsp) and the (http://www.worldbank.org/) World Bank in the field of international migration.


Addressing the Global Forum on Migration and Development, which opened today in Athens, Mr. Lopes noted that remittances are a major source of foreign income for developing countries, especially at a time when foreign direct investment (FDI) has declined owing to the economic slowdown.


While remittances remain relatively resilient, the World Bank forecasts that flows to all developing regions will decline between 7 and 10 per cent in 2009.

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“Many countries which depend upon these flows will be adversely affected not only economically, but also socially. Households that receive fewer remittances are under pressure to cut back on expenses.


“Too often this will negatively affect development outcomes, for example in the area of children’s and especially girls’ education and health,” said Mr. Lopes.


The recession has also led many States to adopt restrictive requirements for obtaining entry, legal residence and work permits. Mr. Lopes noted that curtailing regular migration tends to increase irregular flows that are more risky for migrants, particularly the most vulnerable such as unaccompanied minors.


“Additional restrictions can also reinforce the impression that migration is a questionable, criminal phenomenon, thereby contributing to anti-migrant, xenophobic reactions in destination countries,” he stated.


“From a development perspective, such measures risk slowing down the resumption of growth,” he said, adding that migration policy should keep sight of its development implications as it adapts to the crisis.


In addition, he stressed that migration policies and practices must be rooted in human rights, and that States must be vigilant against xenophobic sentiments and discriminatory practices prompted by the economic crisis.


The recently released 2009 UN Human Development Report, entitled Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, called for wide-ranging reforms to maximize the gains from migration and to protect the rights of migrants – now estimated to be one out of every seven persons in the world.


The report, written by independent experts and commissioned by the UN Development Programme ("http://www.undp.org/"), proposes reforms to migration policies in source and destination countries that it says are politically feasible and will increase people’s freedom and strengthen human development.


ENDS

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