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Presentation at the Third Ordinary Session of the African Union Labour and Social Affairs Commission 18-23 April 2005

African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union

Executive Summary of the Commission for Africa's report

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A series of myths about migration are today challenged in a cross-party report by the International Development Select Committee called “Migration and development: How to make migration work for poverty reduction” (HC-79).

The extensive report, resulting from a 9 month inquiry, dispels the myth that there is a “tidal wave” of migrants about to crash on our shores. The report also rebuts the idea that migration is primarily about people moving from developing countries to developed countries. In fact, most migration takes place within and between developing countries.

The Committee concludes that well-managed migration is hugely important, economically and politically, because of the links it establishes between countries. They point out that, globally, around $300 billion is sent home each year by international migrants originally from developing countries. Invested well, these funds could play a major role in reducing poverty.

The MPs say that legal migration can be of benefit to the UK, to migrants and to their home countries. But they caution that although opening up channels for legal migration may undercut traffickers and smugglers, it won’t satisfy the latent demand for migration. The report calls on the Government to tackle illegal trafficking and working in the UK and to do their utmost to protect migrants’ rights through legislation and enforcement. It also calls for more research and better data on migration, an issue which the report says can’t be divorced from the wider international system of economics and politics.

The Committee warns that if public confidence in the Government’s ability to control migration is to be maintained, then asylum claims must be processed fairly and quickly. Otherwise public support for economic migration will disappear and with it the potential development gains.

Developed countries also come in for criticism for providing aid to help developing countries while helping themselves to the nurses, doctors and teachers who prop up services in developed countries like the UK.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Tony Baldry M.P. said:

“Anyone reading the British press might assume that the UK is in the front-line of dealing with migrants and refugees. This is simply wrong. The idea that Britain is somehow being overwhelmed by migrants is wrong. Migration affects all countries, and especially developing countries. Two-thirds of refugees are in developing countries. Nor is it the poorest, most desperate people, who migrate. It cannot be assumed therefore that policies which help migrants will also help the poor. Migration relates to many other issues, including HIV/AIDS, environmental degradation, international trade, and arms exports. Policies on these issues must take account of their migration impacts, and vice-versa. Yet there is clearly a lack of joined-up thinking and some resistance to connecting issues. Well-managed migration can deliver major benefits in terms of poverty reduction, as well as being of benefit to the UK. Sadly the debate on migration and development is only at the stage where the trade and development debate was ten years ago. People are only just starting to say that there is a development dimension to migration. Much more needs to be done to ensure that it does not take another ten years only to reach the stage we are now at as regards trade and development.

"Specific conclusions and recommendations include:

  • International recruitment must be better regulated to prevent the “brain-drain” of skilled workers from developing countries.
  • Trafficking and smuggling must be tackled, decisions on asylum claims must be made quickly and fairly, and migrants must be protected from exploitation.
  • Temporary migration schemes, and mechanisms to encourage circular migration and the voluntary return of migrants to their home countries, must be designed to capture the development benefits of migration.
  • The development potential of remittances must be secured by encouraging remittances, reducing the costs of sending money home, and improving the investment climate for remittances in developing countries.
  • The UK Government should engage more with the diaspora, and seek to learn from its members’ intimate knowledge and understanding of migration and development.
  • The UK Government must establish effective partnerships with developing countries, and through international organisations, to manage migration for poverty reduction.
  • Within Whitehall, DFID must be fully involved in discussions about managing migration, to ensure that policies are supportive of the UK’s objectives for international development.

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