After two days of working sessions that built upon the recommendations of past GFMDs and brought to light new concerns, civil society presented a statement to governments calling for more engagement and leadership to combat xenophobia and promote rights-based migration policies. The statement was followed by a debate on demographics, development and positive alternatives to irregular migration, moderated by BBC correspondent Zeinab Badawi with over 700 participants present.
The statement, presented by GFMD Civil Society Days chair, William Gois of Migrant Forum Asia, honed in on irregular migration, family unity, and labour mobility. Reflecting the deliberations of the over 180 civil society participants from around the world participating in the civil society programme coordinated by the Geneva-based International Catholic Migration Commission, the statement called for an end to the criminalization of irregular migration. “Evidence is overwhelming that irregular migration is fuelled by an absence of regular channels for labour migration and family reunification,” said Gois to representatives of some 160 governments, numerous international organizations, and diverse civil society participants and special guests. The statement emphasized that circular and temporary labour migration schemes should not replace permanent employment and should include pathways to permanent residence status and citizenship.
Kicking off the common space, Rainer Münz, Senior Fellow at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics provided participants with a look at the big picture of demographic trends and migration. With a large and growing elderly population in developed countries and a plummeting global fertility rate, a halt in labour migration would leave a gaping hole of millions of workers over the next few decades in Europe alone - workers necessary to sustain many social systems established in these countries. Host Zeinab Badawi of the BBC then engaged government and civil society participants from the floor, together with insight from expert panellists. Michele LeVoy of the Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) emphasized regularization as a practical tool for governments to remedy the situation and vulnerabilities of migrants in irregular status, as also expressed by representatives of Poland and Brazil.
The common space marks the end of the 2011 GFMD Civil Society Days, but the beginning of what civil society hopes to be more meaningful engagement with policy-makers. Expressing the desire of civil society to continue to work constructively with governments, William Gois stated, “To move forward, we will have to go beyond the common space at the GFMD. We will have to find more ways to interact with each other and come to respect each other’s mandates as governments and civil society. When we go back home, the migrants we serve will ask us where we have been this week, and we have to tell them what we have accomplished and how we will move forward. Our doors are always open for migrants, and our doors are always open for governments.”
Please click here (http://www.gfmdcivilsociety.org/Pages/Program.html) to download the Statement of the 2011 Civil Society Days. Presented on 1 December 2011 to the Opening Plenary of States, Civil Society and Observers, Global Forum on Migration and Development 2011.
For more information about the GFMD Civil Society Days 2011, please visit: www.gfmdcivilsociety.org