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IOM: Migrants Are a Good Thing

The International Organization for Migration says migrants make positive contributions to the economic well being of societies. On International Migrant's Day Thursday, the IOM urges countries not to shut the door against migrants who the IOM says give more than they take.

As the world sinks deeper into recession, the International Organization for Migration says it fears migrants will become scapegoats for the things that are going wrong.

Migrants fill vital gaps

It says countries should recognize the positive contributions that migrants can make to economic growth and recovery. It says they should resist the temptation to shut the doors on them.

IOM spokeswoman Jemini Pandya tells VOA people in economic distress tend to look at migrants as being part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. She says migrants generally are a positive force for economic growth and prosperity.

"In the past, history has shown that at times of economic crisis, that there always is a structural need for migrants in any economy, mainly because there are often jobs in any country that locals cannot do or do not want to do," said Pandya. "And, this is where migrants come in and fill in the vital gaps. And, that need remains even during economic crisis."

Many countries depending more on migrant labor

There are an estimated 200 million migrants, worldwide. The IOM says they are a vital part of the global work force. It says labor shortages are growing in industrialized countries because of falling birth rates and ageing working populations.

It says these countries will become more dependent on migrant labor. Indeed, the IOM says migration has become a linchpin of globalization.

Migrants need protection from abuse

Pandya says migrants often are exploited and abused by their employers. They work long hours for low pay and they do the dirty jobs no one else wants.

She says the economic crisis should not be used to exploit migrants by lowering their pay or withholding their wages. She says this not only hurts the migrants, but has a serious knock-on effect on their families back home.

"These migrants usually send their money back home to families who depend on that money for paying for such basic needs as housing, education, food," added Pandya. "And, already we are seeing that remittances in developing countries have fallen sharply in this third quarter of this particular year. And, the projections are that next year, the remittances will shrink in comparison to this year. And, that obviously has an impact on development in countries of origin."

Pandya says remittances far exceed official development assistance. She says it is important that countries do not decrease aid to poor countries at a time when remittances are falling.

She says, if this happens, programs in poor countries will falter and this is likely to push more people to leave their countries and go abroad in search of work.