UN Population Commission issues report on migration

The Population Commission of the United Nations concluded its session with a five-page report on international migration and immigration issues. The resolution (document E/CN.9/2007/L.5) was unanimously adopted and the report transmitted to the UN Council.

Its mission was to identify appropriate ways and means of maximizing development benefits and minimizing negative impacts of the migration of workers between countries, especially focusing on the skilled workers of developing nations seeking work in western economies. This has been an on-going theme for several years, with this Commission report reiterating many points to be taken up formally later this year.

It is requested of States that they protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their immigration status. The responsibility of Governments to safeguard the rights of migrants against illegal or violent acts is reaffirmed and emphasized. All States are urged to "devise, enforce and strengthen effective measures to eliminate all forms of trafficking in persons, counter the demand for trafficked victims and protect the victims." Strongly noted also is the need to promote cooperation and address the ongoing challenge of undocumented immigration and other less than legal migration.

The option of remaining in one's own country viable for all people is considered another important topic and member States are urged to aggressively take action on this issue. In particular, action and legislation needs to support and facilitate family reunification.

José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, specifically noted in closing statements that countries of origin and destination should pursue measures to facilitate the contribution of migrants and migrant communities to the development of their origin countries. Measures to reinforce the positive contributions of migrant women make to development are also important to adopt.

Consideration of how the migration of highly skilled persons and those with advanced education impacts the development efforts of developing countries must be undertaken. Action by member States is required to ensure these countries remain viable.

Additionally, there is a "need to promote conditions for cheaper, faster and safer transfers of remittances, in both source and recipient countries."

Austria's representative, Hannah Liko on behalf of the European Union, notes that, "while the resolution covered a number of important issues, it had missed a deeper analysis of the root causes of migration."

"Well managed migration could bring benefits to sending and receiving countries and contribute to the Millennium Development Goals." She reaffirmed the Union's commitment to the Cairo Programme of Action.

Much of the Population Commissions works is an extension of the United Nations Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants, which entered into force on 28 January, 2004. Core provisions of that Protocol are :

- the criminalization of the smuggling of migrants and those who practise it

- recognizing that illegal migration itself is not a crime

- recognizing that migrants are often victims needing protection

Under the Protocol :

- governments agree to make migrant smuggling a criminal offence under national laws

- adopt special measures to crack down on migrant smuggling

- boost international cooperation to prevent migrant smuggling

- seek out and prosecute offenders

- States party to the Protocol agree to adopt domestic laws to prevent and suppress activities related to the smuggling of migrants

In an article published in The Wall Street Journal this week, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan showcased what he saw as general benefits of worker migration, referring to them as "the motors of human progress." He argued that incoming migrants do essential jobs, which a country's established residents are reluctant to undertake.

"Yes, migration can have its downside," the UN secretary general wrote, "though ironically some of the worst effects arise from efforts to control it: It is irregular or undocumented migrants who are most vulnerable to smugglers, traffickers and other forms of exploitation."