General Assembly General Assembly

Statement by

Ambassador Tanmaya Lal

Deputy Permanent Representative

Intergovernmental Conference and its Preparatory

Process to Adopt a Global Compact for

Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

United Nations General Assembly

14 May 2018

 

Co-Facilitators,

  • We thank you and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the able guidance that you continue to provide to this process.
  • We have reached the mid-point of this process of intergovernmental negotiations to finalize a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
  • The negotiations that commenced earlier this February are expected to conclude over the coming months so that the Global Compact can be adopted in Marrakesh later this year.
  • This is, therefore, a useful occasion to take stock of the progress that has been achieved in these negotiations.
  • We would like to take this opportunity to clarify and reiterate our position on various aspects of this discussion.

Co-Facilitators,

  • Science confirms that all of us are migrants.  The deep and the more recent history of our migration and mixed ancestry is, in fact, recorded in our genes. 
  • Most nation states and societies have been built upon waves of migration over the past several centuries.  Migration has continued to expand and is now aided by the integration of economies over the last few decades.
  • All of us also recognize hundreds of examples of foreign-born scientists, inventors, businesspersons, artistes, sportspersons, authors, academics, doctors and political leaders who have made an indelible mark not only on societies where they lived but globally.
  • Mahatma Gandhi, who studied, worked and lived in South Africa and England for considerable periods of time, is among the most well-known international migrants who contributed hugely to our collective progress, in recent memory.
  • There are several Nobel Prize winners of Indian-origin, who made seminal contribution to science while working outside India. There are numerous similar instances relevant to other nationalities.
  • At a less celebrated level than these, all of us have witnessed infrastructure in a number of cities or nations being built or re-built over the last several decades, by the hard work and sacrifice by millions of construction workers from abroad. Emigrant workers continue to toil hard on vast farms. Generations across continents have been taught in schools and colleges; nursed and treated in hospitals by those who were emigrants from distant lands.
  • While it is estimated that on an average, only around 3% of the global population constitutes international migrants, we are meeting in New York City, the energetic global hub of diversity, where nearly half of the workforce is immigrant and nearly 40% of the population is foreign-born. This counts in very large measure to the city’s success.

Co-Facilitators,

  • Despite this, today we find that migration has become a complex and divisive issue, and may imply different things to different groups at different times.  We, in India, are acutely aware of this complexity.
  • These negotiations are taking place against a difficult backdrop of large movements of refugees fleeing armed conflicts in different parts of the world.
  • These negotiations are also taking place at a time when there is a growing angst among sections of people in many developed economies who are unable to adapt effectively to the uneven impacts of integration of economies, and the rapid pace of technological change leading to changes in various economic sectors.
  • Both these situations have contributed to a rise in nationalist sentiments in many parts of the world, especially the developed economies, that is feeding a certain anti-immigrant narrative.
  • This negative sentiment has, unfortunately, clouded the deliberations on this Global Compact. We need to change this narrative, especially at the United Nations.

Co-Facilitators,

  • Firstly, as is clear thus far the current discussion is about regular international migration and does not relate to refugees.
  • The issue of refugees is defined by a precise international legal framework because of the very specific and distinct context that forces people to flee and take refuge in foreign lands.
  • But, what we are discussing here is not about that situation. Instead, it is about voluntary migration.
  • We, therefore, do not agree with any attempts to bring concerns relating to refugees into this discussion.
  • Such attempts can only dilute the prospects of a constructive engagement on the issues of interest to migrants and politicize this debate.

Co-Facilitators,

  • Secondly, we need to acknowledge upfront that the modern global economic system inherently is based upon a certain amount of international migration of workers and professionals, alongwith mobility of capital and goods and services.
  • There are a series of respected international academic studies that corroborate how the international migration, as part of the international economic system, makes extensive positive contribution to economies and societies in the countries of destination as well as origin.
  • These international migrants cut across a whole range of sectors.
  • They include low or semi-skilled but hard working workers across construction, agriculture, manufacturing and a range of service sectors; domestic workers; teachers; professors; nurses; doctors; engineers; researchers; IT experts; businesspersons; students and many others.
  • Through their hard work and skills, they contribute greatly to the economies of their host countries. 
  • They bring in skill sets and willingness to work in sectors where there may be gaps in host countries.
  • They also fill in demographic gaps in certain other contexts, in cases where there may be an ageing workforce. 
  • At the same time, they contribute to their countries of their origin through remittances and the expertise and qualifications gained from their work abroad.

Co-Facilitators,

  • We are talking about the regular or legal migrants here. 
  • Regrettably, we find that the current discourse on this Global Compact is not only coloured negatively in the contexts of ongoing large movement of refugees in certain parts of the world; and the uneven impact of economic globalization, but also the context of the phenomenon of illegal migration in some countries.
  • This is unfortunate, since this negative narrative is not at all helpful and, in fact, hurts the genuine interests and concerns of regular, legal migrants whose ongoing contribution to both their host and origin countries is well-documented but risks being ignored.
  • Undoubtedly, there is also a small percentage of illegal or undocumented migrants across countries.
  • In many instances, such illegal migration is based on criminal networks engaged in human trafficking.
  • All of us must step up cooperation among our agencies to control this international challenge from such criminal networks. 
  • We fully agree that the basic human rights of this category of migrants, especially the more vulnerable sections such as women and children, must be respected and protected and that they should have access to due process of law. 
  • However, at the same time, it needs to be stressed and made clear that this category of migrants cannot be treated at par under national laws with the legal migrants.
  • Any such attempts to blur any sort of distinction of legal status between regular and the numerically far fewer irregular migrants can only disadvantage the larger interests of regular migrants and even incentivize irregular migration. Surely, that is not our intention here?
  • Therefore, while a humane treatment of irregular migrants is essential, it is also important to not let the focus on regular migrants and their contributions be diluted in the Global Compact that we are working on.
  • We, therefore, strongly urge the co-facilitators to rework and rearrange the narrative in the draft Global Compact to highlight the overwhelming positive contribution of international migration upfront in the document and be provided adequate space in the text.
  • The current draft provides much greater attention than necessary to the discussion on what rights the irregular migrants should be entitled to. It must, instead, focus more on how to facilitate regular migration. This needs to be corrected.  

 Co-Facilitators,

  • We believe that the purpose of this Global Compact is to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration by encouraging international collaboration through greater awareness of the positive aspects of migration, in larger interest of all nations and economies.
  • It is in this spirit that we have engaged in these negotiations.  It is in this spirit that we have brought forward specific constructive aspects of interest to the varying range of international migrants that need our careful attention. 
  • These range from provision of information to migrants; enhancing regular migration pathways; ethical recruitment; skills development and pre-departure training.
  • They also include facilitation of arrangements for cheaper, faster and safer remittances; portability of social security entitlements and earned benefits; international recognition of educational and professional qualifications; to decent working conditions; consular protection; and prevention of abuse of migrants.
  • We welcome the fact that many of these aspects now find mention in the draft text.  We believe that such specific references would help provide practical context to this debate.
  • Such specific references need to be provided greater prominence in the text, instead of being listed at the end of the text as is done currently.

Co-Facilitators,

  • Similarly, in our view, an overwhelming emphasis on the so-called adverse drivers is misplaced in this discussion on migration.   
  • Migration, inherently, is overwhelmingly voluntary and linked to the way today’s global economy, businesses, trade & investment work.
  • A more constructive approach would be to examine whether the spirit of global partnership reflected in the SDG 17 is being reflected on ground in helping developing countries work for greater prosperity and sustainable development, not as a charity but in the larger collective interest.
  • This aspect must be reflected appropriately in the text.

Co-Facilitators,

  • While India is widely considered to be among the top countries of origin for migrants globally, the rate of emigration from India is less than half of the world’s average.
  • It is much lesser known and appreciated that India is also among the major countries of destination, as also a transit country, for migrants largely from our neighbourhood.
  • The Indian Government and people, therefore, are no strangers to the entirety of issues, compulsions, opportunities, challenges and policy dilemmas associated with the issue of migration.
  • The Indian civilization has been built upon successive waves of migration throughout history comprising traders, soldiers, missionaries, communities escaping persecution, artists and academics and artisans seeking better opportunities.
  • Today, this mega diversity of our peoples is among our greatest strength.  
  • Indian traders and missionaries have also settled on distant shores on the spice routes.  In colonial times, Indians were taken to different continents as indentured labour and officials.  Indian traders followed them. 
  • In more recent times, Indian migrants, including a broad cross section of professionals, small entrepreneurs and skilled and less-skilled workers, have migrated to various countries around the world. 
  • Today India, with one-sixth of the world’s population, has over 20 million strong Diaspora contributing to the economies and societies in various ways in their host countries.

Co-Facilitators,

  • The Indian Government focuses attention on the entire range of issues relating to Indian emigrants, especially those with lesser skills.  These are primarily welfare oriented issues that include their ethical recruitment; safer working and living conditions; non-discrimination; preventing xenophobic or racist attacks on them; preventing trafficking; facilitating remittances and providing assistance to those in distress abroad.
  • India has made considerable investment in skilling and training workers prior to their departure for employment abroad.
  • India has implemented effective measures to regulate the emigration of low or semi-skilled workers through a digital project known as ‘e-Migrate’ that is managed by the Protectorate General of Emigrants.  This electronic platform brings together various stakeholders, including foreign employers and registered recruiting agents, along with various government agencies.
  • At the same time, the Government is also alert to any requirements relating to safety and security within our country.  This often requires constant and careful vigil and efficient border management and law enforcement arrangements.  

Co-Facilitators,

  • India has actively engaged partners in regional arrangements such as the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue to overcome various challenges faced by migrant workers.
  • India and the European Union have established an India-EU Common Agenda for Migration and Mobility as a framework to manage various aspects of this multifaceted issue.  India has also concluded several bilateral and multilateral agreements to facilitate mobility.
  • India has also engaged actively with international organizations such as the IOM (International Organization of Migration) and the ILO (International Labour Organization) and various multilateral processes such as the GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development). We have also engaged actively with the SRSG (Secretary General’s Special Representative) on Migration.

Co-Facilitators,

  • To conclude, we would like to re-emphasize that migration is a longstanding and positive phenomenon across the globe. 
  • Today’s knowledge and innovation-driven economies require mobility of persons just as the modern economy is built upon movement of capital, goods and services across borders.
  • Our Global Compact must reflect and reinforce this reality.
  • India will continue to engage in this process actively with you and all our partners to work towards a positive narrative and a constructive outcome that will help create better conditions for safe, orderly and regular migration in our collective interest.

Thank you.