ext Monday December 18 is international Migrants Day with the theme this year being Safe Migration in a World on the Move and the United Nations in a statement has highlighted vital issues relating to migration. It says throughout human history, migration has been a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, has greatly increased the number of people who have the desire and the capacity to move to other places.
According to the UN, this new era has created challenges and opportunities for societies throughout the world. It also has served to underscore the clear linkage between migration and development and the opportunities it provides for co-development, that is, the concerted improvement of economic and social conditions at both origin and destination. Though the United States President Donald Trump appears to be taking the powerful country backward with several widely criticized steps against migrants and migration, the UN says migration draws increasing attention in the world nowadays. Mixed with elements of unforeseeablity, emergency and complexity, the challenges and difficulties of international migration require enhanced cooperation and collective action among countries and regions.
On September 19, last year the UN General Assembly adopted commitments during its first ever summit on large movements of refugees and migrants to enhance the protection of refugees and migrants. These commitments are known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It paves the way for the adoption of two new global compacts next year: the global compact on refugees and the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The total number of international migrants has increased from an estimated 175 million in 2000 to 244 million people in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of all international migrants live in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million). Significantly one of every ten migrants is under the age of 15. The impact of remittance-flows is also significant having reached $436 billion in 2014 – far exceeding official development assistance and excluding China, foreign direct investment. The UN says the lure of a well-paid job in a wealthy country is a powerful driver of international migration. The attraction has intensified as income differentials among countries continue to grow. This holds true not only regarding the large and growing differentials between high and low-income countries, but also with regard to the more dynamic and the less dynamic developing countries.
During the past few decades in Sri Lanka, about two million people -- including a large number of girls and mothers -- have migrated mainly to the Middle East and other countries such as Italy. Their remittances amount to Sri Lanka’s largest foreign exchange earning. Unfortunately hundreds of thousands of them including mothers in rural areas go because they have no jobs here and find it difficult to survive. As a result many families have broken up while the unskilled or untrained domestics or housekeeping workers have suffered much in some Middle Eastern countries and are forced to work like slaves.
The government in its Vision 2025 sustainable development programme has pledged that about one million jobs will be made available for young people mainly in rural areas. The first such major project was started in Hambantota last week in collaboration with a big Chinese company to develop the Hambantota Port and also set up several development zones in surrounding areas. While providing jobs here for young people and giving them vocational training in various fields including information and communication technology the government also needs to give incentives for professionals such as medical doctors, engineers, architects and lawyers for advanced training overseas so they could come back and make Sri Lanka a developed country. In medicine for instance many countries are using the DNA technology for cancer treatment to avoid the use of chemotherapy which has many side effects and often leads to death. If Sri Lankan specialists could go overseas and bring this modern medical technology to Sri Lanka it would be a major step forward towards building a healthy and wealthy nation.