International Migrants Day

unacto11.jpgOn International Migrants Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to shape diverse and open societies that provide opportunities and lives of dignity for all migrants.”      Ban Ki-moon message for International Migrants Day 18 December 2014

Migrant worker : a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national (Convention).

We live in a world of unprecedented mobility; the globalization of people, culture, and capital is a characteristic of the modern world. Working and living abroad has become a luxury enjoyed by many. At the same time, working outside one’s country has become increasingly necessary for citizens of the developing world. This coincides with extraordinary control over mobility; restrictions on where one can work, how long one can travel a given country, and where one can establish permanently is a feature of the Westphalian model of the nation-state, of which humanity’s existence is organized. Today, no country in the world allows open access to immigrants (Moses 54).  Yet despite the web of laws regulating immigration, labor and citizenship, movement flourishes.

In response to this phenomenon in order to protect those outside of the protection of their home country, The International Convention on the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families was adopted on December 18th, 1990, 24 years ago. Since then, economic, social and political inequalities, curiosity and ambition continually lead over 232 million people to emigrate (double the number in 1990); most of which is pursued in order to secure an income through improved employment opportunities abroad.

Today every region hosts migrant workers; Europe (France and Germany) and Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia) and the United Arab Emirates host voluminous numbers. International migrants are both men and women respectively, often between the working ages of 20 and 64 (UN). Remittances sent home from workers abroad totaled $440 billion in 2010, of which $325 billion was sent to the developing world (World Bank 2011). It has been regarded that remittances can help decrease poverty, providing a “dependable, short-term economic lifeline for many” (Moses 129). For a long time, high fees were charged per transaction, a large economic burden however, after concentrated efforts transaction costs have decreased this year, now sitting at an average of 7.98%. This decline occurred in almost all regions of the World, with the exception of Latin America and the Caribbean (World Bank Sept 2014). Despite the benefits afforded by working abroad, the drawbacks can be much more severe than high banking fees.

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The greatest issues concerning migrant workers include: wages, social security and workplace safety. A recently example of job insecurity is evident in the Middle East, where deportation of illegal workers is common. Over 7,000 were deported from Bahrain in 2013 (Migrant Rights). Beyond the risk of working illegally, is the lack of oversight that can occur in an international private setting. For instance, in Saudi Arabia domestic workers clock an average of 63.7 hours per week (Migrant Rights).

At the same time in the West, migration has been met with growing securitization and a rise in domestic hostility to foreign immigrants and workers. This fact is evident everywhere: In the harsh criticism by Republicans against Obama’s efforts to seek legal status for millions of Mexican and Central Americans living in the country (the United States/Mexico route is the most populated in the world – witnessing an increase of 23 million migrants in the 24 years since the Convention’s establishment) and in the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric in Europe, where right-wing parties have recently gained influence.

Both the Middle Easter and European examples demonstrate the need for an international body monitoring the increasingly large number of migrants around the globe. Join us in raising awareness on this day of observance.

For more information on migration issues, see:

Moses, Jonathon Wayne. International Migration Globalization’s Last Frontier. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus ; 2006. Print.

Post written by UNAC-Vancouver website writer Brittney Potvin.