Migrants – Causes, Consequences and Solutions

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The following is a report from the LASER Spring Council meeting at which our speaker event focussed on the issue of migration. The Region was very fortunate to have two distinguished speakers for this event, Myrian Cherti and Marley Morris. Myrian Cherti is a National Officer at the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Marley Morris is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)

This report was written by Neville Grant

Myriam Cherti is a former Senior Researcher at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) where she led several projects, including “Beyond Irregularity,” a major research program on irregular migration, Myriam holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences and a PhD in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex.

Myriam gave an account of how the 2015 GCM – Global Compact for safe, orderly and regularised Migration, an international (albeit non-binding) “declaration” had been adopted. An issue fraught with politics, the process required numerous drafts, and international meetings, starting in 1994; in the end, it was adopted by 152 member states at the UN General Assembly; 12 member states had abstained; five had voted against – The US, Israel, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.

The GCM involved a list of 230 objectives, based on The UN Convention on Human Rights, and constituted a collective commitment to improve co-operation, and present a unity of purpose and a common understanding of the issues, and benefits, of migration. It also reinforced SDG item 107. To this end a UN Network on Migration had been formed, and the IOM – the International Organization for Migration – was its secretariat. GCM was a major achievement and (no doubt because of the rise of populism in many parts of the world) was largely unheralded; yet observers agreed that it was an example of “multilateralism at its best.”

During the ensuing discussion, it was established that GCM’s status as a “declaration” meant that it had no legal status; yet it had a strong moral significance, and certainly indicated that member states recognised that it was in their interest to co-operate. It was also pointed out that the GCM did mention the B-word – benefits: it was important to recognise that migration as a force in the world had huge benefits. It was thought likely that most of those states that had abstained were likely to sign up to GCM eventually.

Marley Morris currently leads the institute’s work on Brexit. He specialises in migration policy and has published research on freedom of movement and the labour market, international students, and post-Brexit immigration policy.n Marley is a regular contributor to the UK’s policy debates on migration. His research has been widely covered in the national and international press, including the Financial Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Observer, BBC, Channel 4, Libération and Der Spiegel.

Marley Morris provided copious data on migration in the UK – In 2014, there were 265,000 migrants.

Britain is attracting fewer EU migrants than three years ago: Brexit-related political uncertainty was certainly a factor, as was the falling value of the pound, making UK wages less attractive; in addition, job opportunities have improved in other EU countries.

Estimated non-EU net migration has been consistently higher than EU migration for decades.

Migration had had a positive impact on the economy, especially with regard to productivity and innovation. Migrants paid far more into the system than they took out, and in this respect compared very favourably with the indigenous population.

So, with reduced EU migration, one could expect lower tax receipts, and a negative impact on the economy – and on service provision. For example: 81% of NHS staff were from the UK; 5% were from the EU/EEA; from the rest of the world: 6% and unknown – 8%. There were currently 100,000 vacancies in the NHS. But with Home Office policies currently working somewhat more favourably towards immigrant NHS staff, it was likely that the Social Care sector would suffer much more, as the immigrant staff tended to be lower paid workers, whom the Home Office was discouraging.

Research on attitudes indicated a significant divergence in views on immigration: both negative and positive attitudes showed increasing divergence. Most concerns were about integration; there was little evidence that immigrants had lowered or undercut wages.

The discussion that followed focussed on both the benefits of migration and the question of sustainability regarding the number of migrants entering the UK.

Workshops Two parallel workshops ensued:

Workshop 1. Facilitator: Antony Vallyon

The discussion focussed mainly on integration: the media certainly had a role, but education was regarded as crucial: the curriculum needed to reflect cultural diversity, and communality; in this respect, it was suggested that the encouragement of faith schools was counter-productive.

Workshop 2. Facilitator: Neville Grant

The discussion focussed mainly on attitudes: migrants had mixed reasons for coming to the UK: the situations they were leaving were often dire through conflict; a reputation for tolerance, a shared language, and in some cases a shared heritage were strong reasons for coming to the UK. The reasons for coming to the UK were varied, and experiences varied from welcoming to unwelcoming. Negative attitudes to migrants were strongly deplored; negative attitudes were encouraged by populist politicians, misguided government that caused disasters like the Windrush drama, and media playing to the gallery. Newspapers were not the only culprits: as they covered Brexit, the BBC in their search for “vox.pop” gave undue time for people with negative views.

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