Published on People Move

Kofi Annan calls for a new understanding of migration as an essential part of human experience

This page in:

With the holiday season behind us, many people in the developed world will remember it as full of cheer, gifts, vacations, and lots of good food. But for many of the world’s less privileged, the holidays might have served as a reminder of the tough reality they face as legal or illegal migrants or refugees living far away from their families, often displaced not by choice but the harsh reality of difficult, even dangerous, living conditions back at home.

To highlight the significant positive development effect of migration, we tend to evaluate the “value added” of migrants by measureable criteria, such as the volume of remittances sent back to the country of origin, or productive contributions made by migrants into the local economy at the country of destination - rightly so, given that remittances to developing countries are estimated to have reached some $414 billion in 2013, proving to be a greater source of external resources than ODA and private debt / portfolio equity. Or, to emphasize negative impacts, we decry the negative economic and cultural impacts of migration on recipient economies by blaming the migrants for putting undue strain on the social benefits systems, increasing competition and driving down wages for low-skilled native workers, and generating social tensions.

But it seems that in all these debates on whether the migration is good or bad, we often tend to forget the essential human element. This is exactly what Kofi Annan reminds us of in his recent article titled: “Sympathy for the Migrant”. We will have shared a moment of sympathy when faced with pictures documenting the death of several hundred African migrants and refugees who drowned near the Italian island of Lampedusa in October. What drove them to undertake such a dangerous journey? What will happen to their families left behind? We thought about it for a moment, perhaps even tried to visualize it, but then the next headline in the news caught our attention and we moved on with our lives. That is where the problem lies, as Kofi Annan points out. Events of this type happen on a daily basis across the world, not just on European shores or in the Mediterranean Sea. But the prevailing response of governments around the world to simply tighten border controls will not stop this hazardous migration; it will not prevent future human tragedies. In fact, it will only make it more dangerous for already vulnerable migrants. In the words of Kofi Annan, “we must recognize the desperation of those who attempt these journeys…As 2014 begins, the world needs clearer lines of responsibility for averting further tragedies. As an international community, we owe migrants and refugees greater compassion. Otherwise, we will continue to wake, every so often, to find a graveyard on our shores.”

To read more,click here.


Oksana Pidufala

Policy Officer, UN Affairs

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000