Don’t treat migrants as foreigners

While the host citizens do not accept the migrants easily, vested interests may impinge on the sovereignty, and also disturb smooth amalgamation of two groups, like Rohingya issue at home. (Reuters file photo)

People have shifted from one place to another for livelihood or just to satisfy their exploratory urge. Most communities trace their nativity to a place other than their current habitation.

The demarcation between who is native and who is not is nebulous; often certain cut-off date is arbitrarily fixed to distinguish the ‘natives’ from the ‘non-natives’ including the migrants.“History in its broadest aspect is a record of man’s migrations from one environment to another,” said Ellsworth Huntington.

Initial reservations notwithstanding, migrants bring in insights that lead to superior outcomes. To survive, grow and carve out a niche, the migrants work harder in alien ambience and turn out to be valuable asset to the destination state or country. As such, rather than being frowned upon the migrants need to be welcomed.

That hardly happens; the migrants are accorded pariah status and viewed with suspicion, and played as pawns on the chessboard of humanity. In a message on International Migrants Day, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “[Migration] allows millions of people to seek new opportunities, benefitting communities of origin and destination alike”.

Employment, study, escape from violence and family reunification are the prime drivers of migration. Of the 258 million migrants around the world, half are women and girls and 28 million are youth, reports the UN affiliate, International Organisation for Migration.

In India, the number of outward migrants in 2017, highest in Asian region, was 17 million. As of 2015, about 5.2 million immigrants were living in India, mostly from neighbouring countries: Bangladesh – 3.2 million, Pakistan – 1.1 million, Nepal– 540,000 and Sri Lanka – 1,60,000.

However, only 1% of those born in India emigrate, world average being 3%; half of Indian migrants are in United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and United States. In India, Delhi, the migrant capital of country, has been the choice destination of migrants in 2016, a third of its people migrated here from other states or abroad.

Migration has social, financial, political and security implications for both the migrants and the native populations. While the host citizens do not accept the migrants easily, vested interests may impinge on the sovereignty, and also disturb smooth amalgamation of two groups, like Rohingya issue at home. Exodus of North Indian migrant labour, 25,000 from Pune 15,000 from Nashik in October this year and similar incidents in past show how political interests jeopardise peaceful fusion of intra-state migrants with local people.

Migrants cannot be denied their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The recently adopted Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration report (‘Compact’) by representatives from 150 countries at the Marrakesh (Morocco) conference covers the strong points of earlier fora like Universal Declaration of Human Rights; International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, UN High level Dialogues on International Migration and Development (2008 and 2013) and New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.

Sustainable development

Though not legally enforceable, Compact can help achieve 2030 Agenda for sustainable development through collective commitments of the member-states. It offers modalities to remove barriers that compel people to leave their native country by investing in human capital promoting entrepreneurship and skill development so as to reduce the chances of quitting native shores. The ultimate vision is empowerment of migrants and societies to realise full inclusion and social cohesion.

In increasingly connected world, transnational and intra-state migrations are here to stay. Just reckon the proportion of children leaving their native state or country, and later settling happily in new locations. The migrant people also enrich the destination country culturally with their local festivals and rituals in the new settlements.

Fears from migrants are largely visceral. “When labour migration is properly managed, it is a conduit for skills and wages to flow where they are most needed” said Guy Ryder.Another positive aspect of Indian migrants abroad is their contribution to country’s exchequer.

In 2015, Indians remitted about $69 billion (around 3% of GDP) making country the top receiver of remittances as per World Bank estimates.

It is to be accepted, as Gael Garcia Bernal said, “Migration is as natural as breathing, eating, sleeping. It is part of life, part of nature. So we have to find a way of establishing a proper kind of scenario for modern migration to exist”.

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