Category Archives: Migration

Migrant population in Middle East more than doubles

BEIRUT — The number of migrants in the Middle East has more than doubled since 2005, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

Migrant workers, asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons increased from around 25 million in 2005 to 54 million in 2015. This 120% increase is much higher than in North America and Europe (both around 20%) over the same period despite the arrival of 1.3 million asylum seekers in Europe last year, of whom many were from the Middle East. Forced and voluntary migration in the Middle East also grew at a faster pace than  in Africa (90% increase), the Asia-Pacific (26%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (77%).

The share of migrants of the region’s population grew from 7% in 2005 to approximately 13% in 2015. In other words, one-in-ten people currently living the Middle East is either an international migrant or displaced. The Pew Research Center based its analysis on data from United Nations agencies.

This growth of migration in the Middle East is mainly caused by two factors: conflict and economic opportunity.

About half of the Middle East's 23 million displaced migrants lived in Syria or Iraq in 2015Armed conflict in Syria, Iraq and Yemen has displaced millions. This forced displacement accounts for the majority (60%) of the growth of the migrant population. The aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and subsequent civil war, the war in Syria since 2011, the rise of Daesh and the various conflicts in Yemen since the Arab Uprising had (internally) displaced 23 people by the end of 2015, about half of them living in Syria or Iraq, followed by Jordan, Yemen, Turkey and Lebanon.

About six-in-ten of the Middle East's non-displaced international migrant lived in Saudi Arabia and UAE in 2015

Economic opportunity has attracted millions of migrant workers — mostly from countries outside the region — particularly to the oil-rich Gulf States: Saudi Arabia (10.2 million), United Arab Emirates (8 million), Kuwait (2.9 million) and Oman (1.8 million). But also Israel and Lebanon continue to attract migrants.

The figures from the Pew Research Center show how war and armed conflict have wreaked havoc on the region: the portion of migrants living in the Middle East that were not displaced fell from 78% to 57% in the past decade.

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Will IOM joining the UN system result in better migration management and protection of migrants?

Last week the membership of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) approved a motion to join the United Nations. “We expect to soon have a seat and a voice at the UN table and the UN will soon have a dedicated migration agency,” said IOM Director General William‎ Lacy Swing.

But what will this mean for migrants around the world? One in every seven persons on the planet is now a migrant and 65.3 million of these are forced migrants and refugees.

Discussions about the IOM joining the UN go back a long time but were accelerated with the prominence of migration governance in the newly minted Sustainable Development Goals. Back in 2005, the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM), appointed by then-Secretary General Kofi Annan, recommended the IOM become a part of the UN system as a “global agency for economic migration,” leaving UNHCR as the key institution dealing with forced migration. This put the IOM at odds with the International Labour Organization (ILO), already a UN specialised agency, which claimed to have the monopoly on mobility. At the UN High Level Dialogue on Migration and Development in September 2013 it appeared the IOM had beaten the ILO in the battle over who would become the central agency for migration.

Unlike its long-time rival the ILO, the IOM currently has no formal mandate for the protection of migrants. Established in 1951 it acts primarily as a service provider to its member states and donors. The IOM’s mandate is to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, promote international cooperation on migration issues, assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems, and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced persons (the latter being the mandate of UNHCR, the UN refugee agency).

Although the IOM itself argues that protection of migrant rights is central to its mission, many non-governmental organisations, including Human Rights Watch and the International Catholic Migration Committee, have criticised the IOM in the past as being too state-centric in its operations, yielding to the agenda of governments with too little regard for migrants themselves. Assisted voluntary return programmes of the IOM have been criticised for not being genuinely voluntary, particularly when it involves migrants kept in detention centres.

However, the IOM does have a wealth of field experience in running programmes that have a strong emphasis on human rights and protection. It has worked for example on migrants’ health, the prevention of human trafficking, and has led migrants’ rights training programmes.

Upon acceptance into the UN family, the IOM would need to be given a formal legal protection mandate, guided by the core international human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. And IOM’s staff, both at headquarters and in field offices, would need to be trained in human rights; it already has experience and expertise conducting such trainings.

The IOM certainly seems up to the task of being the “global agency for economic migration” from an operational point of view. The new UN agency currently has over 9,500 employees in 450 offices world-wide, which assisted an estimated 20 million migrants in 2015.

Whether this will result in better global management of migration flows, the protection of migrant workers against exploitation by employers and recruitment agencies or a more effective fight against smugglers and traffickers worldwide, only the future can tell.

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The lifesaving app that wasn’t

It sounded too good to be true: an app that let’s you save refugees in the Mediterranean from the comfort of your living room.

“Every person who has watched this tragedy unfold over the past two years will now have a chance to contribute to saving lives, even if it is giving a couple of minutes of their time on an app,” Christopher Catrambone, founder of Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), told Mashable.

Here is how it was supposed to work: The ISea app “crowd-sources the search of the sea for migrants by giving access to the satellite image of the sea to smart phone users.” It then lets you scour those satellite images to spot refugee boats in trouble and alert rescue teams to their location. Teams such as MOAS, which provides professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea. MOAS collaborated with the Singapore-based Grey for Good to develop the app.

Yet one week after the launch of ISea, the first stories broke that the app did not live up to its promise. Users pointed out that the app displays the same image for every user. ISea was subsequently pulled from the AppStore. And Grey for Good turned out to be the pro bono arm of a global advertising agency.

Meanwhile, MOAS, which even without the app rescued more than 2,000 people in its first two weeks of its operations in the Mediterranean, has denounced Grey for Good and the ISea app. “We were dismayed to discover that real time images were not being used,” MOAS wrote in a statement following the revelations. “We have since discontinued our relationship with Grey for Good and spoken candidly about our disappointment to the media.”

So far 2016 has been the deadliest year on record on the Mediterranean: 2,888 migrants and refugees lost their lives, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015.

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39,399 Estonians sign petition against “mass immigration”

RIGA – Yesterday the Estonian Conservative People’s Party EKRE submitted to parliament a petition against mass immigration. The petition demands a referendum on the government’s immigration and refugee policy, the Estonian Public Broadcaster ERR reported.

EKRE is in the opposition and with seven (of the 101) seats the smallest of the six parties represented in the Riigikogu, the Estonian parliament. Mart Helme, EKRE’s chairman, told ERR that his party had begun to collect signatures last summer, after the European Commission introduced its controversial refugee relocation programme.

Under the EU relocation scheme, Estonia, with 1.3 million inhabitants, is set to receive 302 asylum seekers by the end of 2017 – a fraction of the 160,000 refugees EU member states agreed to take from Greece and Italy over the next two years. To date Estonia has taken in 19 Iraqi and Syrian refugees from Greece.

Only last year, immigration exceeded emigration for the first time since Estonia regained its independence in 1991. According to Statistics Estonia, 15,413 persons immigrated to and 13,003 persons emigrated from Estonia in 2015. The majority of the migrants – 52% of the immigrants and 69% of the emigrants – were citizens of Estonia. Ukrainians, Russian and Finns are among the largest non-Estonian migrants.

Together with Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark, the Baltic states have opposed the EU policy to distribute refugees – not immigrants – based on quotas. Given this opposition, the European Commission is now expected to present a final proposal for the reformed Common European Asylum System, next month, which will no longer feature quotas.

Along with the petition, EKRE’s parliamentary group submitted a draft bill that calls for a referendum on 23 April 2017. It would like to ask voters: “Do you agree that the Republic of Estonia participates in the redistribution of immigrants arriving in the European Union?”

The question is: which “redistribution” and which “immigrants”?

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Q&A with Monica Heller: The politics of language

In a recent book, Paths to Postnationalism: A Critical Ethnography of Language and Identity (Oxford University Press, 2011), professor Heller shows how hegemonic discourses of language, identity, and the nation-state are destabilized under new political and economic conditions. These processes, Dr. Heller argues, put us on the path to post-nationalism. She examines the notion of “francophone Canada” from the 1970s to the present through sociolinguistic practices in workplaces, schools, community associations, NGOs, state agencies, and sites of tourism and performance across francophone North America and Europe.

Dr. Heller sat down with us to discuss language choice as a political strategy, post-nationalism, and her current research project on language and identity in Canada and Europe.

Full article published on the Global Migration Research Institute’s website on 4 May 2016.

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4 myths about Brussels and jihad

The questions and criticism started only days after the March 22 suicide bombings in the Belgian capital of Brussels: Is the dysfunctional city the Jihadi capital of Europe? Could the terrorists have been stopped if not for inept security forces?

Full article published in Dallas Morning News on 19 April 2016.

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The migration crisis no one is talking about

While the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe captured headlines around the world in 2015, another major migration trend is picking up pace behind the scenes: urbanization.

Full article published in Deseret News on 23 February 2016.

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