The regulation of population movements has long been a pitfall of international cooperation. The European asylum crisis of 2015 revealed that, even in highly integrated and cooperative contexts such as the EU, unpreparedness, political confusion and misinformation generate inadequate and humanly costly policy responses. At the global level, from the 1990 Convention on migrant workers’ rights to the currently discussed “global compacts,” attempts to coordinate policies and foster global governance fell short of providing innovative and impactful solutions.
The recent inflow of Syrian asylum seekers in Europe forced upon EU leaders and public opinion a brutal awareness regarding the global refugee crisis that is mostly unfolding in the global south. This particular refugee inflow resonates with broader discussions on immigration, integration and diversity in European societies fragilised by the 2008 economic crisis. The current European crisis is made of the confusion of short and long-term policy issues, of asylum and migration regulation, of debates around rights, politics and economics, which cannot be solely be addressed at the national level.
Beyond Europe, the emergence or entrenchment of political crises around migration and asylum issues calls for urgent reaction of all stakeholders. Scientists, civil society organisations, activists, concerned citizens and policy makers must join forces to bring about a better understanding of migration, both forced and voluntary, of its determinants and consequences for host societies and countries of origin. By doing so, we will provide grounds for evidence-based policy making and sound practices beyond ideological constructions and discourses that obfuscate debates in the media and political arena today.
This call for a change of approach has become urgent.o Migration and asylum policies in Europe and North America as well as other countries (Kenya, Saudi Arabia etc.) have created unprecedented attacks on individual human rights for mobile populations and on asylum rights. o Since the 1990s, attempts by the UN or regional organisations such as the EU to regulate migration and asylum have failed (The 1990 Convention, the Dublin agreements in Europe, up to the global compacts) and collapsed when confronted to the trial of either refugee arrivals (Iraq, Syria, South Sudan, Burma) or political crises around migrants’ incorporation and diversity.
The policy options adopted by OECD countries in the past decade - building walls, externalizing control at high political and financial costs- will neither prevent migration, nor will it impact the determinants of migration in the long run as often repeated by scientists and shown by recent experiences.
The lack of understanding of the impact of migration in host and receiving societies generates enduring mismanagement. Ideology-driven and fear-mongering discourses infuse policy agendas. Scientific and expert knowledge on migration and asylum are not heard. Although scientific controversies on migration and asylum do exist, some well-established facts remain unheard and unused in policy making:• Migration mostly occurs within regions and not between continents. Migrants are mostly located in the global south, especially refugees• 246 million migrants only represent 3.4% of the world’s population, far less than in the 19th century• Visa restrictions increase the settlement of immigrants already present in host country: migrant workers stay instead of moving back and forth across countries. The absence of visa opportunities for asylum seekers in countries of origin and transit also increases criminal practices and smuggling.• Border closure not only restricts mobility but also exchanges and transfers of funds, know-how, ideas across borders. • Rapid access to housing, education as well as the formal labour market increases the quality of incorporation of migrants and asylum seekers in host societies further reducing inequalities, disenfranchisement. • The impact of migration on population trends is short-lived as fertility behaviours rapidly catch up with demographic patterns in host countries.• Financing development can increase emigration in poor countries, making the migration-development relations much more complex than what current policies present as grounds for action. The effect of immigrant inflows on labour market outcomes and national growth is neutral or positive overall, depending upon economic conditions and dynamics, upon workers’ mobility and labour market regulations.
In understanding the impact of immigration, analyses that are both context-specific and connected to global dynamics are crucial to determine the effects of migration. Recent concern has been formulated about the lack or unreliable quality of migration data. Beyond data, we argue that robustness and clarity in the analytical premises of policy-making is the key to sound and efficient regulation of population movement. One-size-fits-all and ideology-based policies do not work.
We therefore urge to break up with short-term and inadequate political solutions that brought us to political and humanitarian crises. We ask for a radical change of paradigm in dealing with international migration and asylum, based on rational, realistic, scientifically-informed and humanly driven approaches.
We call for an emergency meeting of scientists and experts, together with civil society representatives, policy makers and political leaders around migration and asylum.