UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations recommended to rich countries that they open themselves up to immigration or, alternatively, suffer population and economic decline, contending that they will never be able to halt the entry of immigrants, who will enter illegally if they cannot do so legally.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented on Thursday a report to the General Assembly that will serve as the basis for the negotiation this year of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The international agreement should be approved at a summit in Morocco in December.
Guterres said that countries that place “obstacles” in the way of migration are “inflicting economic self-harm,” adding that an open policy on immigration “maximizes (its) benefits” and is the best way to eliminate people-trafficking organizations.
The UN chief said that “migration is beneficial both for migrants and host communities in economic and social terms – our overarching task is to broaden the opportunities that migration offers to us all.”
Migration “powers economic growth, reduces inequalities, connects diverse societies and helps us ride the demographic waves of population growth and decline,” Guterres said.
The UN’s special representative for international migration, Louise Arbour, said that the report seeks to change the “narrative” that immigrants only “steal jobs” and it should serve to help ensure that immigration policies are based on “reality” and not on “fiction.”
She said that if developed countries maintain a “zero” level of net immigration – where the number of immigrants equals emigrants – then their populations will fall by 9 percent between 2020 and 2025, a situation that will hinder economic progress.
She recommended that countries broaden the “legal” ways for people to migrate and regularize their immigration status because nobody is interested in having people live and work in a country outside the margin of the legal system.
The Global Compact is burdened, even before its implementation, by the withdrawal of the United States, with President Donald Trump’s administration backing stricter immigration policies and adopting numerous measures along those lines.
This month, for instance, the US government announced the cancellation of Temporary Protected Status for some 195,000 Salvadorans, most of whom have lived in the US for at least 20 years.
Arbour encouraged political leaders to reflect on the “destabilizing effects” of not providing citizenship to immigrants who have lived in their countries for years or even deporting them.
She warned of the negative impact that leaving immigrants in limbo or expelling them has on a country’s companies, the immigrants’ relatives and neighborhoods, not to mention on their home countries, adding that often these migrants take jobs that nobody else wants.
According to the report, migrants spend 85 percent of their salaries in the countries where they live and send the remaining 15 percent back to their countries of origin, a total of $600 billion in remittances each year, three-quarters of which goes to developing countries.
That figure represents up to three times the amount of investments in international development, and for some countries it represents 20 percent of their GDP.
There are some 258 million migrants in the world, whom the UN defines as people who cross an international border to live and work in another country for at least one year. They represent about 3.5 percent of the world’s population.