Financial crisis taking toll on world migrants: UN chief

MANILA - The financial crisis that has battered most industrialised countries is taking a heavy toll on the world's millions of migrants, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 29 Oct 2008, 5:57 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 2:27 PM

And if governments failed to protect the rights of some 200 million migrants who send precious remittances to their home countries, the world would be in a more precarious condition, Ban said.

‘Today, we face a cascade of national financial crises throughout the world. None of our economies are insulated,’ Ban told the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila.

He said global growth was slowing, leading to an increase in personal hardship and anxiety with many countries slipping into recession.

‘Given these developments, it would be naive to think the current crisis will have no effect on the movement of people across borders, and on how publics perceive migration and the migrants in their midst,’ he said.

Ban said there had been ‘mounting evidence’ of a significant slowdown in remittance flows, while immigration had also increasingly become a political issue in many countries ‘heightening the risk of discrimination.’

‘Already migration flows are reversing. In several instances, we are seeing a net outflow from countries facing economic crises,’ Ban said, noting that sectors such as construction and tourism have been badly hit.

But instead of imposing measures to curtail migration, governments must intensify cooperation across borders, Ban said.

Constraining legal migration could increase the number of illegal migrants, he warned.

‘Migration will flow through unsafe and irregular channels. This will undermine confidence in our ability to govern -- confidence that has already been damaged by the financial crisis,’ Ban said.

William Lacy Swing, the director general of the International Organization for Migration, said that migration was not an obstacle to development, but it was not ‘a magic wand to achievement.’

‘We must work towards policies that are carefully shaped to boost the positive potential of migration for development, while reducing negative repercussions,’ Swing said.

He said there was a real need to help boost governments' capacities to manage migration, ensuring that workers are safe and their rights protected.

‘Today, as in previous periods of economic downturn, there is a risk that migrants will be singled out and stigmatised,’ Swing said.

‘We need to make a concerted effort to prevent this and to ensure that public perceptions of migrants are fair and balanced,’ he said.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo called on governments to ratify international protocols on labour rights.

‘All eyes may be glued on the stock market, but we must never lose sight of the often unseen impact of the global credit crunch on the long-term needs of the poor, including the migrant poor,’ she said.

With about eight million Filipinos abroad, the Philippines is the world's fourth biggest source of migrant labour, after China, India and Mexico. These workers contributed about 15 billion dollars in remittances last year, or about 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, hundreds of activists faced off with riot police around Manila.

They branded the forum as an ineffective talking shop that promoted ‘modern-day slavery.’

‘We don't see migration as a tool for development. It is a reflection of a country's underdevelopment and is not a solution to poverty,’ said Sarah Maramag, a spokeswoman for the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees, a parallel gathering of more than 140 groups from Asia to Latin America.

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