Global Forum on Migration and Development

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A week ago I was in Istanbul at the 8th Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). GFMD is an informal UN initiative that aims to address the interconnectedness between migration and development.

The first two days of the forum involved two hundred and eighty delegates from Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and a hundred people th from government.

We heard directly from a range of speakers on topics such as, Diaspora contribution to development, Xenophobia, Human Rights, Migrant Rights, Data, Agency/Self Determination, Children, Women, Recruitment practices, Politicians, the Media, CSO etc.

The most thought provoking address came from an Ethiopian man who had travelled from Ethiopia by boat to North Africa. He told us that sixty-six people  he had been travelling with drowned before they got to Europe. He was especially upset about Aylan Kurdi the three year-old Syrian who washed up of a Turkish beach as the people who drowned on the boat he had been travelling on included children

Global Forum on Migration and Development 2015

The 8th GFMD summit confirmed some of what I knew already i.e. 1). The reasons why people migrate are complex and so is making the types of choices that will lead to suitable solutions. 2). The EU lacks a joined up strategy on migration and as such EU countries are unable to cope with increased migration within their borders

The summit raised more questions than it answered such as,

  1. Who is a migrant?
  2. Are some migrants more deserving than others?
  3. How do you balance the needs of migrants against those of countries that open their borders to them?
  4. What drives migration?
  5. Would regularizing migration reduce incidences of irregular migration?
  6. Can migration be stopped in a globalized world?
  7. How can we ensure that globalization works for everyone?
  8. What is the role of the private sector in all this?
  9. Do unfair recruitment practices lead to an increase in irregular migration?
  10. Why is migration a choice for some and a necessity
  11. Is it ever right to detain a child as a migration strategy?
  12. To what extent do governments understand the role of CSO?

It is not my intention to answer these questions in the post and I include them here to stimulate debate. These are some of the issues that left an impression on me.

Language and Migration

In his essay, Post Structuralism and Feminism: The Interplay between Gender, Language and Power; Michael Wooldridge, makes some interesting observations that can be applied to the discourse on Migration. A discourse that has led to Xenophobic attacks on migrants across the world.

Wooldridge argues that language is both social and political and that language enables us to construct our sense of our selves and that is through language things are given meaning. It is also through language, that others in the our community understand and relate to us

In addition that

language’s social character implies that individuals are socialised into connecting specific words and sounds with particular objects, emotions and ideas. But more than this, that these can be perceived to be grouped together to form discourses; or, ‘historically constituted bodies of knowledge and practice that shape people, giving position of power to some and not others’.

With respect to migration, Politicians and the Media can be said to have socialised some citizens into connecting migrants with words such as, swarms of people, Boat People, flooding, threatening our way of life , “should go back” etc.

This type of discourse has left some citizens feeling that their communities are under siege or about to be overrun by migrants. Consequently there has been an increase in Xenophobia and in some in some instances this resulted in the killing of migrants and nations closing their borders to people needing help by putting up fences. Yet, as a delegate at the summit some of the people that are most afraid of migrants never come in contact with migrants.

As dominant and powerful members of society, Politicians and the Media have a role to play in shaping discourse on migration. They also have a role in the collection and distribution of accurate Data about migration and not resort to scare mongering.

Where are the African voices?

Europe is currently experiencing high levels of migration and I was not surprised that the summit focused an awful lot on Europe’s current circumstances. Notwithstanding Europe’s circumstances, I believe that the experiences of African countries should have been on the agenda at this summit.

For instance, Uganda has taken in refugees from Somalia, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan and according to the UN Refugee Agency Uganda will have at least 692330 Asylum seekers.

This is a much higher number than most European countries with more resources and better infrastructure are willing to take in. Uganda is also one of the countries that does not encamp refugees and recognizes the refugees right to work and self-reliance.

Yet, we never hear about this experience in the media nor the experience of other countries in Africa such as Kenya which has and continues to host more than half a million refugees in the Dadaab refugee camp and else where in the country

Where are the Private Sector Voices?

In an increasingly globalised world, businesses are able to set up shop almost anywhere in the world and need a diverse range of skills to succeed. The search for such skills contributes to migration, however the business voice was under represented at this summit.

It was acknowledged that business activities necessarily lead to increased migration and these included, recruitment practices, failure to pay taxes due to countries, working conditions, for instance, in Marikana South Africa, 34 workers died and 12,000 were fired for demanding better working conditions and wages from their employer Anglo American Platinum

These activities have in some instances intensified conflict and or contributed to undesirable outcomes for citizens for instance, Michael Nest has argued that the mining of COLTAN in Eastern Congo has led to increased sexual abuse of women there and the ongoing fight over this mineral has contributed to migration into nearby Uganda.

The point I am trying to make here is that, we have a free movement of money and goods but not people and this has implications for workers across the globe. It is for this reason that the private sector should be part of conversations with respect to migration.

All in all, the GFMD initiative is a great idea and I am grateful to have been invited.

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