Migrants make up 3% of the world’s population according to the United Nations – that is, some 214 million people. This figure only includes people resident outside their country of origin. Internally displaced persons (IDPs), regular and seasonal migrants living within their country of origin are in addition. Overall, migrants form a very diverse group of people, and whilst many are poor and vulnerable, this is not true of them all.
Refugees and IDPs are often particularly vulnerable groups as in most cases they have been forced to leave their homes because of conflict and/or disasters such as floods, earthquakes or famine. Through Humanitarian Aid, SDC aims to address their most immediate, basic needs of food, sanitation and shelter and then work towards reconstruction.
For many years economic migration was seen as a negative product of poverty that should be discouraged as far as possible. In areas experiencing out-migration, it was linked to family break-down and an often increased work burden for women, a decline of agricultural production in marginal areas, indebtedness from unpaid loans, and the spread of diseases (particularly HIV/AIDS) from urban areas. As far as migrants themselves were concerned, employment sometimes turned into exploitation amounting to a violation of human rights. Whilst the standard image of an economic migrant was a young man, this is changing; an increasing number of economic migrants are women.
It is now recognised that migration is not necessarily negative, and can bring many benefits in terms of remittances and exposure to new ideas. Recognising this potential, the development challenge today is seen as determining how migrants and their families can be supported so that the negative effects of migration are minimised, and the positive ones maximised.
Migration, by its very nature, is a dynamic phenomenon. One significant factor for the future is likely to be climate change and the increased occurrence of related “natural” disasters. The UN estimates that by 2050 around 200 million people will be considered climate refugees; many of them are likely to be very poor.
For more information on SDC’s Global Programme on migration, please visit: http://www.sdc.admin.ch/en/Home/Themes/Migration
The next two years will be particularly important for international efforts to promote synergies between migration and development. In autumn 2013, the UN General Assembly will hold a follow-up high-level dialogue on international migration and development (1). Drawing on the synergies between migration and development is also relevant in the efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the new global goals for sustainable development that will be established over the next couple of years. Read more »