Cities the key to successful global migration regime, report
Cities may well hold the key to safe, orderly migration as national governments increasingly succumb to populist politics and fear-mongering about immigration, according to a new report from the UN’s migration agency.
The IOM’s World Migration Report 2018 says that cities are not only the major magnets for the world’s top talent; they are also the destinations for those millions of migrants seeking employment, greater security for themselves and their families, and the hope of a better future.
“As larger cities become in some ways less livable due to congestion and crowding, smaller cities will become increasingly sought after as destinations, and these cities, perhaps with less experience in managing migration and integration, will benefit from the learned wisdom of others,” the report says.
It calls for enhanced mutual exchanges of knowledge and experience among cities, their elected leaders, their policy officials, their planners, and the many institutions within them whose actions contribute to the outcomes of the migration processes.
The report says migration is largely an urban phenomenon with “nearly all migrants, whether international or internal, are destined for cities”.
And it says cities respond very differently to migration.
Many cities are supportive, boost the rights of migrants and reap the benefits of migration but others seek to restrict migration and actively exclude migrants from social, economic and political participation.
The report says this will play a role in the success of the implementation of the United Nations’ ambitious agenda, descried in the Global Compact on Migration – an intergovernmental agreement on migration expected to be adopted by the vast majority of UN member states in December.
It uses the example of so called US ‘sanctuary cities’ such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles which have rejected US government policy that allegedly treats migrants unfairly and denies them rights and services to highlight the positive effect cities can have in promoting safe migration.
The report says cities will become increasingly important in migration patterns.
“The emergence of cities as world leaders in determining migration patterns is the result of continuing urbanisation now a fully global phenomenon,” the report says.
“Cities are the major magnets for the world’s top talent, but they are also the destinations for those millions of migrants seeking employment, greater security for themselves and their families, and the hope of a better future,” it says.
“It is not only global cities or larger cities that attract migrants; indeed, as larger cities become in some ways less liveable, due to congestion and crowding, some smaller cities will become increasingly sought after as destinations, and these cities, perhaps with less experience in managing migration and integration, will benefit from the learned wisdom of others.
“Although we recognise that it remains the purview of national authorities to manage borders and migration policies, we urge national governments to also enable cities to take on more responsibilities as the global actors that they have become in international migration.
“Urbanisation, long-term history would suggest, is not going to be reversed, making it ever more appropriate for cities to be represented at national migration policy tables.
“Furthermore, the international community can serve as conveners of city officials and institutions to enhance our collective thinking on how to go about this complex business,” the report says.
Cities around the world serve diverse purposes as migrant destinations, transit hubs or places of origin.
It is clear, however, that the successful implementation of the Global Compact for Migration will need the cooperation and input of cities.
In 2015, then director-general of IOM William Lacy Swing, said that cities and local governments had yet to become significant voices in global debates on migration.
But things are changing and, as we’ve seen in the US and in Europe, cities increasingly asserting their positions recognising their key roles in tackling the challenges of migration.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist