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ESCAP Report Highlights Migrants as Development Actors

united-iom29 February 2016: The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched a regional report on the contribution of migrants to development. It highlights the need for migration policies to be aligned with national development priorities, and for promoting dignity and respect for workers' rights. ESCAP reports that the region hosts over 59 million migrants, most of them temporary labor migrants, as well as 5.5 million refugees, with three of the world's main refugee-hosting countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fifteen organizations, including many UN agencies, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Bank, collaborated under the Asia-Pacific Regional Thematic Working Group on International Migration to produce the report, titled 'Asia-Pacific Migration Report 2015: Migrants' Contributions to Development.'

The authors review national migration policies, and propose strategies for maximizing the contribution of migration. They comment that, while the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) contain two targets referring specifically to migrant workers (8.8 and 10.7), it remains to be seen how effective the SDGs will be in promoting the labor rights of migrant workers and facilitating orderly, safe and regular migration.

SDG target 8.8 calls to "protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment." Target 10.7 calls to "facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies."

The ESCAP report also highlights the potential for regional cooperation. While governments have discussed migration issues in regional processes within the Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN), Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and others, the full potential for sub-regional cooperation is yet to be realized, the report finds.

The authors' recommendations include: ensuring decent work and social protection in countries of origin; reforming labor laws that exclude domestic and agricultural workers from protection; implementing programmes to enhance migrant workers' skills; and negotiating for mutual recognition of workers' skills among countries. With regard to the recruitment process, they propose accurately informing migrant workers about the jobs and working conditions at the destination, and adopting models such as IOM's International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS) or the International Labour Organization's (ILO) Fair Recruitment Initiative. Overall, they call for migration policies to be consistent with long-term social and economic development strategies, and to focus on areas where migrants can add particular value. They note that prejudice and negative perceptions of migrants in host countries are hindering this process.

Speaking at the report launch in Bangkok, Thailand, Nenette Motus, Director, IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, called for building strong cross-sectoral partnerships. Nilim Baruah, ILO, said fair migration means creating instruments of governance that result in a fair sharing of prosperity that migrants themselves help to create. Hongjoo Hahm, ESCAP, said policy changes will be needed to advance productivity, reduce inequality and eliminate human rights abuses. [ESCAP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [Publication: Asia-Pacific Migration Report 2015: Migrants' Contributions to Development] [SDGs and Targets]