Keynote Speech by Ambassador Ajay Bramdeo on Migration between Africa and Europe

I’m very happy to welcome everybody to
our annual conference migration policy Center annual conference we’re delighted
you can join us obviously there’s many people around the table who are people
we work with colleagues who are involved in projects with us some people here are
maybe it’s her first time here at EUI or collaborating with MPC so we’re very
happy that you’ve been able to join us our annual conference is a two-day event
and this year we are focusing on the theme of migration between Africa and
Europe and we are particularly keen as the migration policy center one of our
objectives one of the things that we aim to do is to engage the researched in
which we are involved at the migration policy center with the world of policy
and practice so for others researchers to understand more about the the worlds
of policy and practice and also for people from those worlds to understand
and engage with us about the research we’re doing and through those
connections we think we can strengthen the research we do and hopefully make
contribution to these important debates about migration and the relations
between Africa and Europe the conference program you all have it in front of you
we’ve got a delighted with the people who’ve accepted the invitations to speak
it’s we’re very grateful that people have been able to spare the time to
share their views with us over these two days but the program itself will touch
on a number of I think key and important themes thinking about that dynamics of
migration and mobility in all of their diversity the politics and governance of
migration we’re also going to look at patterns of mobility we’re going to
think about development relationship to migration development we’re going to
have perspectives from people from working on African migration and people
looking from a perspective of Europe European governments and European
institutions so hopefully what we have is the basis for a dialogue and an
interchange will be effective for people to leave this event and hopefully have
made connections through their own work with other people who share their
interests and also hopefully we will have opportunity for debate
so we’ve very deliberately arranged the room in a table rather than rows of
chairs and it’s still a big room so it’s maybe it’s an aspiration we’ll see how
it how it actually works out but we want to promote discussion and debate we have
we’re delighted with the speakers we have but we’re also delighted that other
people have been able to join us who aren’t speaking on the programme but of
course are more than welcome to intervene in the discussions I’m without
further ado I’m very happy to welcome Mr. Bramdeo and pass the floor to to
you thank you very much Andrew and a very good morning to all of
you colleagues let me at the outset state
that very flattering introductory remarks about my rich experience is
questionable but I shall accept that compliment in the spirit in which it was
attended migration of course and the GCM is something that we all are quite
familiar with and I think your own experience of the process the concept
and the content of the GCM is probably giving us all a similar understanding of
the work that lies ahead indeed I will share with you some ideas and some
thoughts from the African perspective as we see the Global Compact as we see the
process moving forward particularly in terms of knowledge production attitudes
and the governance issues migration we all accept is intrinsic to the human
experience anthropology tells us from the time man
was or human societies were hunter-gatherers
we have always had migration the need to migrate
is related to satisfaction of basic needs it is for purposes of
self-preservation purposes of survival and so it is a phenomenon that is going
to be with us forever human societies have changed over the
millennia but regardless of the type of society that dominates our contemporary
world migration will remain a constant companion of human civilization in
recent years we are all aware migration has been elevated to the political
sphere as a human phenomenon requiring greater attention by many States due to
its role in the socio-economic development of any nation the global
compact on safe orderly and regular migration adopted in December last year
represents the first multilateral framework of cooperation on migration
governance even though it’s a non-binding policy document many
countries in Europe and elsewhere have rejected it on the grounds that it
undermines their sovereignty in matters of migration management however for the
majority of the UN member states that have signed the GCM it represents a
historic global recognition of the potential of safe orderly and regular
migration as a development tool and the importance of a people centered and
human rights-based approach to managing migration this approach to migration is
essential in preventing the dehumanization of migrants specifically
on irregular migrants interestingly an article published in the American
Political Science Review seeing the world through the other’s eye
an online intervention reducing ethnic prejudice aimed at addressing anti-roma
sentiment in Hungary and showed that participating in a perspective-taking
game reduced participants prejudice against the Roma and even antipathy
towards refugees as well as decreased intentions to vote for the Hungarian
far-right party the question begs how would a change in the negative political
rhetoric on migrants and refugees impact public sentiment and affect national
policy if we look at the economic model of migration this also is quite
important for us to understand and perhaps to research measuring the
benefits of migration is done in scale in economic terms and contextualized to
the needs of the sending and receiving countries circular migration is often
cited as offering a win-win strategy for low-skilled migrants in destination
countries it is temporary and therefore supposedly places less stress on the
social systems of destination countries while offering migrants higher incomes
to spend in the lower cost countries of origin circular migration appears to be
a favoured option for European countries requiring low skilled or unskilled
labour in the agricultural and service sector the Gulf countries too are well
known for their circular migration policies which see their employment and
residency of low-skilled workers in construction and domestic service
managed through the Kafala system a system infamous for leaving migrants
vulnerable to exploitation and abuse the benefits of circular migration is
measured in economic terms but how beneficial is it to the individual
migrants life experience in terms of psychological
family and social welfare what is the impact of circular migration on the
families of migrants is the migrants personal struggles to support a family a
sacrifice of little consequence when measured against purchasing power the
benefits of migration outweigh the benefit to the migrant who remains a
commodity and a unit of production mainstream knowledge production on
migration tends to focus on migration governance driven by economic benefits let us look at the role of media particularly in the negative migration
narrative in Europe the growing nationalist sentiment fueled by the 2008
financial and economic crisis and consequential lack of trust in
liberalized policies has found an easy scapegoat in migrants politicians and
biased media are often distort the facts on migration to divert attention from
seething internal systemic economic failures and political crises the role
of media in perpetuating a negative narrative of migration and migrants has
been most demonstrable in the USA where popular media houses display political
preferences rather than impartial reporting the question then arises as to
how free is the media in our current age knowledge is power but information is
for sale there is an abundance of information available but sorting it
understanding it and accessing it remains challenging
information is easily manipulated distorted and prepackaged for an
increasingly consumerist public seeking validation of their own fears and
prejudices the conflation of terrorism and Islam migration and criminality has
led to anti-immigration policies that spur public antagonism against migrants the Trump administration for example
banning immigrants from certain Muslim countries is a conspicuous case in point
the growing alienation isolation and failure to integrate the Muslim
community in France is another in 2015 at the height of what has come to be
termed as the migration crisis in Europe anti-immigrant and anti-refugee
sentiment rose as people from the Middle East and Africa undertook perilous
journeys across the Mediterranean into Europe the reaction of Europe was to
tighten border security and immigration policies externalization of borders
became a favored strategy leading to bilateral agreements of development aid
in return for action against migrant smuggling in Africa Agadez in Asia was
identified as a key area for anti-smuggling intervention and curbing
the flow of West African migrants into Europe via Libya and Algeria in addition
the EU financial support to the Libyan Coast Guard and militias enabled it to
intercept migrants and asylum seekers at sea and subject them to arbitrary
detention in Libya EU supports to improve conditions at the detention
centers have been criticized for having negligible impact
while all these interventions were justified as means of addressing
smuggling and preventing deaths in the Mediterranean it has in fact raised the
questions about the EU s complicity in human rights abuses of migrants who were
detained in Libya there is a need for all of us to address the negative
narrative sometimes promoted by the mainstream media which has impact on the
way migrants especially from Africa are treated in the destination countries
further there is need for us to address the negative media narrative that
sometimes promotes prejudices that may lead to migrants being discriminated
upon the media just like policy think tanks and academia should be the doyen
of responsible reporting that will aim at promoting the human face of migration
which fortunately is what the GCM is all about we often hear of the need to
address the root causes of migration as a means of dealing with it so many
migration studies have focused on these so-called root causes we’ve come up with
conflict political instability and environmental degradation climate
change poverty unemployment economic opportunities as common root causes for
migration this has also influenced the public discourse on migration as a
failure of countries of origin and a burden for developed countries to bare
however there’s a need to delve deeper into the root causes of these push
factors themselves by strengthening research and studies that offer
critiques of globalization and the impact of post colonialism in spurring
migration towards former colonial powers such as
the UK and France in addition how has the scramble for control over resources
and markets especially in Africa contributed to perpetuating inequality
exclusion and subjugation of the right to development particularly in Africa
the root causes of migration cannot be addressed without holistic understanding
of these often missing factors in migration studies a shift in migration
and border studies from a focus purely on governance to a more critical
perspective on capitalism the nation-state and geopolitical interests
in relation to migration and border regimes is needed in addition questions
around rising white supremacist movements nationalism racism
Afrophobia Islamophobia amongst others are essential in addressing inequality
and exclusion in increasingly multicultural societies let us talk
about demographic changes because this is also a key element the demographic
imbalances across the continents is expected to heighten even further as
Europe and other developed nations such as Japan age in contrast to the
increasingly youthful populations of the developing world by 2050 Africa’s
population is expected to double to about 2.4 billion migration flows to
Europe and other developed countries will therefore rise with ageing nations
looking to the youthful populations of Africa to meet the labor market needs now I focus only
on Africa but of course there are other parts of the the world from which you
could as well have youthful populations moving to Europe
managing migration as a development tool is the underlying principle driving the
GCM well-managed migration through increased legal pathways has the
potential to yield significant benefits for both Europe and Africa however
current policies around border security speak more to controlling migration as a
solution to migration in particular irregular migration if developed
countries are going to negotiate bilateral agreements with favored
countries based on selectivity around how many of whom they want irregular
migration will continue for example is Europe more hostile to certain migrants
and refugees from certain regions than to others is it that we as Africans are
unable to negotiate bilateral agreements that not only provide access to wider
labor markets but also preserve the human rights of our migrants as they
journey to other parts of the world is it racism and afro phobia which is a
factor in determining entrance into Europe what is the experience of
middle-class and educated Africans in the Diaspora as compared to unskilled or
low-skilled African migrants does class and education levels of migrants
influence perceptions of them are middle class migrants more protected from
negativity due to the nature of the middle-class lifestyle less reliant on
public services more private space and more resources to engage in the social
and cultural life of their adopted country
our poor migrants more vulnerable to xenophobia racism and anti-migrant
sentiment due to the harsher social environment in which they live their
greater reliance on support networks of fellow migrants and thus lack of
integration and perceived otherness lastly there is a need for Europe to
have a paradigm shift on how they view African migrants according to a recent
study finding by IOM eighty percent of Africans thinking about migration have
no interest in leaving the African continent and they have no intention of
moving permanently they move in search of opportunity and sometimes safety the
movement brings advantages to the families and communities and therefore
to the nations as such there’s a realization within the African Union
with the need to promote intra African human human mobility and movement of
goods and services for socio-economic development of the continent to realize
this the African Union has developed both policy and legal instruments to
guide their member states in opening borders and markets for the people to
trade and interact the continental free trade area protocol that and that of the
free movement of persons together with the implementation of the revised
migration policy framework for Africa is a clear indication of the continents
zeal to tap into the benefits of migrations we are also working to revise
the Ouagadougou Action plan against human trafficking and to develop new
policy documents on the prevention in trafficking of persons and smuggling of
migration of migrants in the continent to guide member states in addressing
challenges of irregular migration this would be complemented by the ongoing
efforts to establish migration data centers in mali
an observatory in morocco and an operational center in Khartoum this will
not only build a capacity of member states to address irregular migration
but also support them to tap into the benefits of migration through the
provision of verifiable data that will inform their migration policy
development and operational strategies the chair I apologize for being
long-winded but I thought that I should share some of these thoughts with this
August gathering and perhaps most of what I’ve said is already known it was
part of the point I needed to make thank you

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