29 June 2006

Expert Meeting on Migration Part of Trend Towards Global Dialogue, United Nations Envoy Says

(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

TURIN, 28 June -- Migration is too important an issue to be defined "through anecdotes and hunches", or via fear and manipulation, United Nations envoy Peter Sutherland told experts who will be analyzing the topic for three days in the northern Italian city of Turin.

The United Nations-organized symposium brings together diplomats, Government policymakers, economists and demographers to assess migration patterns and the impact of policies.

Mr. Sutherland, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on migration issues, said that, in discussions with 60 Governments to date, he has found broad agreement on the value of global dialogue, including between sending and receiving countries.  That assessment will be put to the test in September, when the General Assembly holds a special session on international migration and development.  Despite a perception that the issue is too hot to handle at the United Nations, Mr. Sutherland expressed confidence that heightened cooperation and dialogue on migration issues is taking shape.

Contrary to the general misperception that migration is strictly a South-to-North phenomena, only one third of the current stock of international migrants are natives of developing countries who now live in a developed country, United Nations Under-Secretary-General José Antonio Ocampo said on the opening day of the meeting.  Another third are from a developing country and are now residing in another developing nation, and the remaining third originated in a developed country.

Without the benefit of an influx of workers, however, the developed world would see a 22 per cent decline in its labour force over the next four decades, according to United Nations population projections.  In receiving countries, migrant workers do not compete with local workers, but rather complement them and allow the economy to perform better, Mr. Ocampo said.  The positive effects of labour migration are heightened in the many developed countries where educational levels and the average age of the population are rising.

On the vexed issue of illegal migration, Mr. Sutherland said at a midday press conference that sending, as well as receiving, countries have a responsibility to facilitate migration through legal channels.  "The only way to promote regular migration is by engaging in dialogue and seeking solutions," he said.

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