A better integration of immigrants

Migrant stocks are higher between countries in the South than between South and North. Many developing countries have answered the challenge by increasing the management of their borders, with little thought given to managing immigrants inside their country. But how can integration be managed in the South? Even in the relatively richer North, the very nature of integration programmes is a major source of political debate.

As shown in Chapter 3, the social and economic situation in the South presents challenges different from those more typical in the North. Therefore, the integration debate in the South is likely not to be the same as in the North. In particular, an integration policy requires a strategy that incorporates the particularities and field realities of developing economies, such as the high circularity of migration, prevalent informal labour market activities and low relative deprivation between the locally born and immigrants.

Policy making cannot accordingly solely focus on immigrants, primarily because the locally born are also deprived of many basic advantages and rights. For many reasons, including jus sanguinis laws, internal politics, isolated groups and illiteracy, the locally born may be part of a phenomenon called "blurred citizenship" (Sadiq, 2009), which means they are born in, and part of, the nation, but not necessarily included in its citizenry. How can policy makers reach out to immigrants when some of their locally born citizens are even more disempowered? Much deeper and generalised policies are perhaps more imperative. To avoid immigrants from being marginalised in the general reform process, however, specific measures to protect and include them should be taken, particularly for the most vulnerable. But implementing such policies implies administrative and financial constraints.

In many cases, decision makers simply do not know how to approach the situation. Immigrant integration is still a hotly debated issue in most countries and a clear-cut solution does not exist. The status quo is a likely strategy for governments that claim a "liberal approach" to immigrant integration. In addition, even though many countries are benefiting from the boost in commodity prices over the last two decades (OECD, 2011a), most countries in the South still do not have the adequate resources fully to deal with the expensive measures of migration regulation (Chapter 2) and immigrant integration taken in the North.5

But despite limited financial and administrative capacity, many developing countries are currently dealing with integration. A better integration of immigrants is indeed possible. Priority should be given especially to the protection of rights, the fight against discrimination and incorporation into society (Figure 5.3).

Figure 5.3. The priorities of integration policies

Protecting rights

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to immigrant integration in the South is the prevalent violation of human and civil rights. The lack of rights particularly hits both short and long-term workers, while transit migrants are a particular category of migrants with few rights. Normative and institutional structures combating the vulnerable nature of certain migrants are on the rise,6 but enforcement remains low. The following guidelines would help guide immigrants away from a violation of their rights.

First is the extension of civil rights and protection for all members of society, regardless of status. This implies the inclusion of all members of society, including irregular immigrants, in all economic and social reforms. It also implies governmental support and promotion of the right for immigrants to organise, assemble and represent themselves or the groups of which they are part, including the freedom to practise and share elements of culture, but also to participate in the culture of the host country. In Argentina, for instance, the 2003 Migration Law gives migrants free legal representation, the right to a fair trial before expulsion and the right to family reunification (Jachimowicz, 2006). In Costa Rica the importance of human rights in school curriculum guidelines has also gradually increased over time (Shiman, 2009).

Second is to ensure that employers of immigrants guarantee their registration and minimum accommodation. Many employers exploit the fact that immigrants represent cheaper labour and are without rights or adequate legal representation. Insisting that they register employees implies that migrants can access basic public services. In early 2011 for instance, Bangladesh (through the Bangladesh Association for International Recruitment Agencies) and Saudi Arabia (through the Saudi National Recruitment Committee) struck an agreement on migration recruitment by pre-establishing four categories of workers, their salaries and age limits and appointed a human rights association to which migrants can voice their complaints in cases of violation. According to both parties, recruitment will surpass 10 000 workers per month.

Third is to target the perpetrators of violations. This can be done by launching awareness-raising campaigns for the local population, immigration officials, police officers and local leaders. More aggressively, tougher sanctions can also be imposed on wrongdoers. In this respect, Mexico has adopted a series of measures to protect transit migrants, for instance by establishing refuges for children, financing campaigns on the rights of migrants and prosecuting the perpetrators of human rights violations, in particular police officers.

Donors also have a role to play in curbing human rights violations through public interventions. In 2010, for instance, the UNESCO Steering Committee of the West Africa Institute (WAI) created a research institute on regional immigrant integration in West Africa. The general objective of the WAI is to advance knowledge on West African regional integration and to provide decision makers with related policy options conducive to development, peace and the protection of human rights in the sub-region. In addition, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) held two sub-national workshops followed by a series of local consultations on "the protection of vulnerable persons on the move" in eight member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).7

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