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Governments Must Work Together to Help Migrants, urges Report - 2003-06-10

A new report on world migration says governments cannot manage the huge problem of increasing international migration alone, but must work together to create an orderly and humane system that benefits everyone. The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, or IOM, says such a system also would help stamp out the trafficking and exploitation of illegal migration.

The IOM report says the issue of worldwide migration is too big for governments to ignore or to try to resolve by themselves.

During the past 25 years, the organization says the numbers of international migrants has more than doubled, to 175 million in 2002. That means that one person in 35 has left his or her country in search of better economic opportunities.

Despite the perception of rich countries, the report says, most migrants from developing countries do not go to industrialized nations, but move within their own region. And it says many migrants hope to stay for only a short time before returning to their home countries.

International Organization for Migration Director-General Brunson McKinley says migrants provide huge economic benefits for their countries. The World Bank estimates migrants send home remittances worth at least $80 billion a year.

"It is a lot of money. Eighty billion a year flowing across borders represents substantially more than all the official development assistance and certainly more than international credit, which has largely collapsed in today's credit market" said Mr. McKinley. "And it approaches the figures for foreign direct investment. In fact, in reality may be larger than foreign direct investment."

The report says there has been a dramatic increase in the number of migrants subjected to abuse and exploitation by traffickers in what it calls the new slave trade. The IOM says making migration more orderly and bringing illegal migration out of the shadows will reduce this practice and remove it from criminal profiteers.

The report says the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have had a significant effect on migration issues. It says one of the nasty side effects has been to identify migrants with terrorists.

But IOM's director of migration policy, Gervais Appave, says paradoxically not all of the effects have been negative.

"I think that one way that September 11 has really affected the thinking of governments all around the world is that it has made them aware of the fact that single, uni-dimensional approaches to migration are not going to work, first of all," said Mr. Appave. "And secondly, I think it is also fair to say that it has made more governments more willing to consult and cooperate over migration.

The report says the United States and the Russian Federation top the list of 15 countries with the largest number of migrants.

It says the 10 major emigration countries between 1970 and 1995 were to be found in the developing world, but not all of the 10 major immigration countries were developed countries. Included in this list are countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.