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Source: Migrants’ Rights NetworkThe number of people living as international migrants now stands at 244 million according to UN statistics. – a rise of 41% since 2000.
As a proportion of the world’s population of just over 7 billion the number of people mobile across international frontiers now makes up a rather modest 3.3% of everyone on the planet – up from 2.8% back at the start of the millennium.
What is the fuss and over-hyped anxiety over migration really about? We have to probe beyond these global figures to get a better sense of what dynamics are in play here.
Two-thirds of all migrants are living in just 20 countries. The 2015 figures set out by the UN tell us that these were the USA with 47 million migrants; and then Germany and the Russian Federation in second and third place with around 12 million each. Then comes Saudi Arabia (10 million), the UK (nearly 9 million), and the United Arab Emirates (8 million). Of the top twenty destinations of international migrants worldwide, nine were in Asia, seven in Europe, two in Northern America, and one each in Africa and Oceania.
The reasons why people move between countries is, in the main, economic. They are going in search of jobs and the chance of having a decent standard of life. Outside of this population of migrant workers and their families stand refugees – some 20 million who face all the hardships of people who have fled their homes because of persecution and warfare.
In the realm of economic activity migrants play an extraordinariily positive role in promoting growth. According to a report just published by Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) migrant workers moving to higher-productivity settings have boosted global GDP by around US$6.7 trillion, or 9.4 percent, to global GDP in 2015—some US$3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries. North America captured up to US$2.5 trillion of this output, while up to US$2.3 trillion went to Western Europe. MGI says that migrants of all skill levels make a positive economic contribution, whether through innovation, entrepreneurship, or freeing up natives for higher-value work.
Whilst some of the people journeying between countries have the good fortune to have the social and economic standing that allows them to access rights, others are caught up in a maelstrom that strips them of much of their capacity to stand-up against state authorities and economic stakeholders for whom ruthless exploitation is the name of the game.
A recent report from Amnesty International (AI) reminded us of the sort of risks that migrants are exposed to, even when they are set to work on such prestigious and popularly acclaimed projects like the football World Cup. According to the AI report, the Qatar is preparing for the 2022 competition with an estimated $200bn worth of spending on new transport infrastructure, housing and sports facilities, including six stadiums.
Yet the South Asian migrants who are building all this scarcely benefit, despite government reforms that supposedly tackle international concerns about widespread abuse and slave-like conditions
The situation is hardly better in developed countries. The re-emergence of Berlin as an elegant European capital in recent years is very impressive but reports of conditions on building sites show that abusive employment conditions exist for many of the migrant workers toiling on the city’s new developments.
And there may be common patterns of labour abuse across Europe. The EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency revealed widespread payment of starvation wages as well as abusive employment practice such the confiscation of passports and cutting migrant workers off from the outside world as commonplace forms of exploitation.
In the UK the worst abuses are recorded in the farming, hospitality and social care sectors. The Guardian’s Felicity Lawrence has written of how the exploitation of migrant workers has become ‘a way of life’ in the food industries. She writes of poultry workers working weeks of more than 120 hours, workers having to be continuously on the move, charging for squalid tied housing, withheld wages, and threats of violence and actual assault.
One in seven workers in the social care sector has a workforce is a migrant. The trade union Unison reports that 80 hour working weeks paid at minimum wage rates are common. Employers will push beyond even these limits with pay that falls below the legal minimum.
The Kanlungan Filipino Consortium reports many instances of exploitative conditions for Filipino workers in the social care sector, citing examples of care managers, a grade with immense responsibility for the well-being of elderly and frail people, being paid a meagre £7.02 an hour.
International students are engaged by the sector to provide care find themselves excessively working long hours to support themselves. Many people are working alongside those with a temporary visa and with documentation problems who feel they are unable to enforce basic workers’ rights.
The dangers of chronic injustice are growing worse as the UK authorities set up the conditions for a ‘hard’ Brexit process which will reduce the rights of 3.5 million EU nationals who live here. If these rights go, they will find themselves joining the vast army of ‘third country’ migrants who are fighting to survive in a country which is subjecting them to a ‘hostile environment’ born out of draconian UK immigration laws.
20 February – the plan to hold events and actions across the UK to push forward the ‘One Day Without Us’ campaign. Click on the website, and find out more on how you can get involved in the battle for the rights of all migrants!
One Day Without Migrants: 20 February 2017