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UN Calls for Greater Effort to Regulate Migration

The International Organization for Migration is calling for action to dramatically improve the positive effects of migration on development. The call goes out to countries attending a U.N. High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development Thursday and Friday in New York.

Migration tops the political, economic and social agendas of many countries around the world.

Migrants are often painted in a negative light, depicted as criminals and a drain on society. An increasing number of countries are closing their doors to migrants, many of whom then become vulnerable to human trafficking, exploitation, and abuse.

The International Organization for Migration says human migration can be a very positive phenomenon and a potent force for development for all countries and economies.

IOM Director-General, Brunson McKinley, notes rich countries are contending with aging populations and declining birth rates. This means they will be more dependent upon people from the outside to fulfill their labor needs.

"If you match the supply and the demand effectively and if you create good procedures for regularizing this flow of workers, I think you can have a win-win situation," said McKinley. "That is being done in different parts of the world. But, it is not yet a general phenomenon. In many places that the economic realities are not matched by changes in legislation and practice so that people can come in easily and this leads to large-scale irregular flows, clandestine flows. It makes a market for traffickers and smugglers."

The International Organization for Migration says managed economic migration can boost the development prospects of poor countries. Statistics support this view. Last year, the world's 190 million migrants sent $160 billion to developing countries. This is larger than official development assistance.

The U.N. agency says policies should be put in place to encourage migrants to invest some of their hard earned savings into ventures that will further economic growth and development of their home countries and communities.

McKinley says an International Migration and Development Initiative will be proposed this week at the New York meeting. An element of this proposal is to create a data base that would help match the needs of countries with the availability of foreign workers.

"It is possible for the interested parties to know this year, next year, five years from now, 10 years from now, where are the vacancies going to be, where are the gaps going to be in a particular nation's job market which could be filled by people from overseas," he added.

The I.O.M. chief says it is not possible to stop people moving around the world in search of better opportunities. So, the best thing for governments to do, he says, is to regulate migration for the benefit of all.