Indrani, who migrated from Sri Lanka to Lebanon to work as a maid, was locked in her employers' house in Beirut for eight years and was not paid. The Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre sheltered her when she escaped. Photo by Laura Sheahen/CRS

By Martina Liebsch

For people in poor nations, migrating to another country to find work should be an option and not a necessity. That’s a nice thing to say, but how do we get to a point where it’s true?

At a Global Forum on Migration held in Geneva in late November, the focus was labour migration, both regular and irregular, as well as what conditions need to be created to expand choices for potential migrants.

The key is to create jobs back home. This means encouraging investments, specifically in small and medium-sized enterprises, because they can be a solution for creating jobs. Bridge the mismatch between needed skills on the labour market and those who are taught to be prepared for it. The diaspora can play a role in this, by getting complementary funding to the money they invest back home (remittances) or by investing in education or creating/investing in business and thus creating jobs. One proposal was that there could be a tax exemption for sending remittances in the same way there is for donating to charities. A key issue that needs to be addressed is unemployment of young adults in many of the countries who send migrants.

According to Rainer Muenz, a well-known German researcher who was one of over 150 participants at the forum, migration will always be part of the picture. That’s because migrants will be needed to fill gaps of qualified personnel in the northern hemisphere. But as this happens, countries will need to address the brain drain affecting many countries who send migrants. Muenz suggested that the North should invest in secondary and tertiary education in countries of origin to build sufficiently skilled people both for North and South.

So if migrants will be needed and also would contribute to “humanisation,” why not remove some of the complicated bureaucratic barriers which make people’s lives difficult and sometimes even miserable–as in the case of detention. Is it always necessary?

Regularisation was the other buzzword, which seems to have lost its connotation of being impossible, at least in some countries. However, European countries were suspiciously silent in this dialogue.

Caritas representatives discussed these and other topics with participants at the forum. Learn more about the forum and read its statement.