Monday, September 18, 2006

Allow better migration, India tells developed world

Indo-Asian News ServiceNew York, September 15, 2006

India wants developed countries to show greater openness in allowing movement of people across national frontiers, as a rise in migration from developing countries also raises incomes of their own citizens, said Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed here.

The developed world should also show greater political will and determination for a successful conclusion of negotiations on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in four key areas, Ahamed said at a United Nations conference here on Thursday.

In the context of globalisation there is need to recognise the inevitability of international migration. This presents challenges and opportunities, including the increased demand for specialists in developed countries to strengthen their international competitiveness, he said.

High income countries must address the legitimate needs of migrants, including receiving back their pension benefits and social security contributions, especially in cases of migration of shorter durations.

The lack of appropriate or matching structures in the country of origin should not be made an excuse for the denial of a migrant's legitimate pension benefits. Efforts, especially in the case of short duration migrants, also need to be made to reduce the cost of remittances, Ahamed said.

There is no restriction in India on migrating overseas. New Delhi favoured a regular, non-discriminatory and orderly process, whether for permanent or shorter-term migration.

Artificial barriers to migration by high-income countries should not be created. The receiving as well as sending countries act to reinforce the positives from migration and work together in a cooperative atmosphere while being sensitive to each other's concerns.

India also believes that countries of origin benefit from the return of migrants with skills or capital that they would not have acquired at home. 'Brain drain' as a result of migration of skilled and highly trained people can also be translated into an overall gain, he said.

In the context of international migration today, the problematic facet of irregular migration, which is a cause of concern for our collective well-being, also needed to be noted.

There are serious security implications, including the use of irregular migrants as an instrument for cross-border terrorism and for creating social tension in the host country. This needs to be tackled with a firm resolve.

A similar firm resolve is required to tackle the scourge of people smuggling and trafficking, especially of women and children, Ahamed said.

India recognises that international migration solutions and approaches relevant for a particular country or region may not be appropriate for others. Thus efforts should focus on promoting teamwork amongst nations, to maximize the benefits of international migration while reducing its negative effects.

India also believes that regular interaction among countries, including at the UN, could result in a win-win situation for all, Ahamed said.

India is a major country of origin, destination and transit of migrants, with a long history of attracting and sending people to other lands, he said in an address to the world body's first-ever high level gathering on migration and development, he said.

It is estimated that around 20 million people of Indian origin live in other countries while another 20 million migrants, including a large number of irregular migrants, are in India today.

Overseas Indians, through sheer dint of effort, very often in trying circumstances, have significantly contributed to the countries of their destination while, at the same time, playing a positive role in building a bridge with India.

Recognising this, every year India celebrates their achievement with a 'Pravasi Bharatiya Divas' or Day of the Indian Migrant and has taken several innovative investment and policy initiatives including the 'Overseas Citizenship of India', Ahamed said.

In his address to the opening of the conference, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said the landmark meeting is taking place at a time when the world increasingly appreciates that migrants can transform their adopted and native countries for the better.

General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa told the gathering that, "if harnessed constructively, migration can have a profound effect on development", with migrants' remittances to their native countries particularly helpful in reducing poverty.

More than 140 speakers - comprising individual States, regional bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) - are scheduled to discuss the issues over the next two days. In addition to the plenary debate, the meeting will bring delegates together in informal round-table discussions.


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