Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Changing the migrant language

Migrants contribute to the prosperity of countries they work in as well as to development of those they left behind with money sent home, said Louise Arbour, the United Nation's special representative for international migration. But the positives are often lost amid false perceptions and stereotypes that affect national policies - with many wealthy countries focusing on security more than development, she told a conference at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

"It's quite shocking to see how the use of language in a very invidious way has sometimes really poisoned the public debate," said Arbour, who is leading U.N. efforts for a global agreement on safe and orderly migration. "We have to be alive to it... and push back," she said. 

Canadian senator Ratna Omidvar who is a co-chair of a World Economic Forum council on migration said anthropologists, musicians, rappers and poets should be asked to contribute with ideas. "I am tired of the word skilled immigrants which implies everybody else is unskilled. That is not true," she told the conference, suggesting the term "global talent" could be used instead.

Former Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino said Italy needed some 150,000 more migrants a year to cope with an ageing population, declining birthrate and young people's aversion to working in agriculture, construction and social care. "Without migrants these sectors of the economy will simply close," she explained.Yet, undocumented migrants were disparaged as "clandestines" and the political debate ahead of national elections next year was mostly focused on keeping migrants out. 

Migrants working in rich countries sent home almost half a trillion dollars in 2016, helping to lift families out of poverty by providing financial stability, access to education, housing, and healthcare.

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