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UN Migrants and Refugees

Long, dangerous journeys on the rise but migration drives prosperity

Speaking at the opening of a two-day meeting on harnessing the power of migration, IOM Director General Amy Pope expressed hope that participants will help deliver prosperity, benefits and innovations for migrants and for their countries of origin and destination. 

Roughly 281 million people worldwide are one the move, representing around 3.6 per cent of the global population, according to a recent IOM report. This is up from 153 million in 1990, and more than triple the 84 million in 1970. Global trends point to more migration in the future. 

Reasons to flee 

“More people are fleeing war or fleeing violence. More people are fleeing economic hardship, or lack of opportunity. More people are fleeing the impacts of climate change, for food scarcity. And increasingly, people are fleeing a combination of all of the above,” Ms. Pope said. 

Migrants are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, violence, abuse and discrimination, she continued. This is especially the case in the context of irregular migration, with desperate people making long, dangerous journeys in the search for a better future. 

At the same time, migration is one of the most crucial drivers of economic resilience, growth and prosperity, she said, and is even recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a catalyst for a more just and equitable future for all people and the planet. 

Widespread benefits 

“Obviously, it brings benefits in terms of economic prosperity,” she said. “But it also leads to the exchange of skills, to the strengthening of the labour force, to investment and cultural diversity. It also brings some really good food, if we’re honest.” 


The fact that migrants improve lives, whether in their new or old countries, is evidenced by another finding from the IOM report. The money they send home increased by a staggering 650 per cent during the period from 2000 to 2022, rising from $128 billion to $831 billion.  

Most of the remittances, $647 billion, were sent to low and middle-income countries, constituting a significant portion of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and surpassing foreign direct investment. 

Invest in migration 

Ms. Pope said any talk about investment must also include investment in people and in migration. 

“And the way to do that is by building safe and regular pathways for migration,” she said, highlighting the need to protect the human rights and dignity of migrants, and ensuring “that they are able to access essential services and are not fodder for exploitation in the countries where they’re going to work.” 

The Ambassador of Uganda to the UN, Adonia Ayebare, said migration is driving rapid urbanization in many parts of the world. He stressed the need for countries to “create an eco-system for joint action” on regular pathways to migration as current options are inadequate. 

“This mismatch comes at a high cost, both in terms of lives lost and human suffering due to unsafe migration, and in terms of countries of countless missed opportunities for individuals and societies,” he said. 


Controversy and misinformation 

But as UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed noted, the issue of regular pathways has become a controversial topic in some regions due to the political atmosphere surrounding migration and the proliferation of toxic misinformation campaigns. 

“Instead of putting regular pathways in place to boost labour forces, to better integrate migrants in host communities, and to make migration safer for all people on the move, policymakers are encouraged to treat migration as a problem; to believe that irregular migration represents the majority of migration, and to focus solely on the crisis dimensions,” she said in a video message. 

She pointed to the Global Compact for migration, adopted by UN Member States in 2018, which represents a commitment “to ensure that policymaking and cooperation around migration is not dictated by falsehoods and such skewed perspectives, but by facts by common sense, and by taking a 360-degree approach to migration, including through regular pathways.” 

Young potential 

The head of the United Nations Youth Office, Felipe Paullier, recalled that half of the world’s population is below the age of 30.  At 1.8 billion strong, they represent the largest generation of young people in history, overwhelmingly live in developing countries, and account for just under a third of all migrants. 

“Harnessing the potential of young migrants is pivotal to unlocking human mobility’s contribution to development. Young migrants’ experience, aspirations and contributions are integral to shaping a better future for all,” he said. 

Mr. Paullier called for ensuring that “young people have a seat at the table and a voice in the decision-making processes”, including the Global Compact for migration. 


New Goodwill Ambassador 

IOM announced on Tuesday that the award-winning television and film actress and social activist America Ferrera has been appointed as its new Global Goodwill Ambassador. 

Link:, dated May 21, 2024 12:00 pm

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