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Global migration at a crossroads – IOM chief

28 March 20240 comments

The world will soon be plunged into a fierce competition for skilled migrants, according to the head of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Amy Pope, the Director General of the UN’s migration agency, said the world’s top 30 economies currently face labour shortages that cost $US1.3 trillion annually.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra, Ms Pope said IOM was working towards a goal of “safer, more orderly and more dignified avenues for migrants across the world”.

“We need to look at the data and evidence around the countries where migrants are coming from and not look at migrants will take but what they will give to us,” Ms Pope said.

“We are at a significant crossroads in the narrative around human movement across the world.”

But Ms Pope said she was concerned that migration would be a polarising and divisive issue at a record number of national elections due this year.

“I’m concerned about election dynamics around the world. Migration will be an issue in an unprecedented number of global elections,” she said.

“And in most of these elections the debate around migration is a narrow political one with narratives about how migrants are taking jobs.

“But the facts show migrants helped deliver a stronger post COVID world. We need to look at the tremendous potential migration brings and leverage that opportunity.

“There is a positive story around migration, a story of resilience, opportunity and aspirations. Migration can be a bridge to understanding, cooperation and mutual benefit.

“However, migrants can’t vote and politicians lay blame for things with them as a political strategy.”

Ms Pope said debates around migration were too narrow and focused on negative outcomes.

“Conversations around migration are dominated by doom-laden fear inspiring words. Too often we get stuck debating a narrow slice of the migrant story and not the whole picture,” she said.

“There’s a polarising debate in the media that is misrepresenting what is a happening around the world and the consequence of this is something that is harmful to the prosperity of Australia,’ Ms Pope said.

She said IOM had recently outlined its five-year strategic plan aimed at delivering on the promise of safe, orderly, and regular migration while supporting the world’s most vulnerable.

It will guide the agency’s activities through 2028 and was developed after extensive internal consultations, including with migrants themselves, and with member states, partners and other United Nations agencies.

“The evidence is overwhelming that migration benefits communities around the globe, yet climate change, conflict and growing inequality are making the migration landscape more complex and challenging,” Ms Pope said.

The plan set out three key objectives: saving lives and protecting people on the move; driving solutions to displacement, and; facilitating pathways for regular migration.

IOM was formed to help find homes for people displaced after WWII. Australia was a found member and it has rich tradition of migration.

“Historically in Australia, and in other nations, waves of migration have initially been met with suspicion and resistance followed by acceptance and prosperity as well as a much richer multicultural society,” Ms Pope said.

“There is an obvious skills gap in Australia and it will only become more significant. The pandemic saw migrants serving on the front line,” she said.