The COVID-19 pandemic showcases the need for a fundamental systemic change in migration management. In this framework, working together is the only viable scheme to accomplish an effective and sustainable response to the international migration phenomenon. The G20 provides an important arena for coordination and collaboration as the members of this international forum account for 46% of the world’s international migration stock, that is, the total number of international migrants present in a given country at a particular point in time.
To date, numerous steps have been taken to create intergovernmental agreements for global cooperation. The most recent and relevant ones in migration, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees approved in 2018 under the framework of United Nations, must be understood as the basic starting tools and guidance to any common approach from G20. In the end, they cover all dimensions of international migration with a comprehensive and holistic approach under enhanced cooperation at the global level.
Within the T20 Task Force 10 (TF10) on Migration, we have discussed different topics from diverse disciplines and approaches. The TF10’s policy briefs have the complexity of the migration phenomenon as a starting point, under the assumption that people have been moving constantly and they will continue doing so, also considering the pandemic’s consequences on the global economy. These documents contain a variety of recommendations covering policy areas in which G20 members can act under a common perspective. Particularly, the G20 should focus on responding to:
1. Provide reliable and quality data. Data on international migration are far from being sufficient and precise. On the one hand, it is almost impossible to forecast how many people will arrive from one country to another, neither in the short nor long term. On the other hand, there is a lack of information regarding people who are already in a particular destination country, their demographic characteristics, and their needs.
2. Though for over twenty years national and international institutions have been continuously working on improving data collection and the quality of the estimates, there is still a lot to work to do. The lack of data negatively impacts the demographic analysis of population change and increases the uncertainty of population estimates and projections. Investing in collecting data and predictive tools will allow efficient global governance, where all the stakeholders can react to the migration phenomenon and make prudent and robust decisions. Otherwise, we will be making blinded policy decisions.
3. Ensure people’s well-being within a framework of international protection. The asylum and refugee community is nowadays the most vulnerable migrant group, particularly women and children. Forcibly displaced people worldwide account for about 82.4 million. In fact, in 2020, 11.2 million people were forced to flee according to the UNHCR due to the pandemic and other political and economic causes. In the framework of the Global Compact, but particularly under the Refugee Convention of 1951, destination societies should do their best to address these people’s vulnerabilities. To this aim, the TF10 Policy Briefs underline at least four key priorities:
First, devising policy solutions to improve their integration in labour markets; for example by placing displaced people in locations where they are more likely to succeed. Wider and more effective use of technology, including matching algorithms, would help to balance labour market supply and demand.
Second, developing social protection strategies, particularly in education, health, and housing. Focusing on education, for instance, we need to start fostering specific programs and support for migrants who do not speak the official languages, as well as enforcing collaborative programs between the private sector, NGOs, and local authorities to improve the provision and access to education. US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ visit to Guatemala and Mexico in June 2021 reminded us of the need to support and cooperate with non-governmental organizations without interferences.
Third, vaccination coverage for refugees and migrants (in general) must be improved. For instance, the G20 should provide an inclusive COVID-19 vaccination plan by supporting COVAX, which embodies global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
Finally, refugee and asylum-seeking women should be at the core of governments’ attention as they are the most vulnerable population group, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. To reduce women’s vulnerabilities, mainly those related to forced labour and trafficking, actions should be taken to improve and increase access to the labour market, both in origin, transit, and destination countries.
Finally, support the role and capabilities of diasporas to face the root-causes of migration. Though international institutions projected that 2020 remittances’ flows would be affected by the economic impact of the pandemic, some countries ontinued seeing a rise in remittances. In this regard, it is necessary to foster the role of diaspora organizations for development and humanitarian action. The G20 should underline the importance of initiatives that engage and connect diasporas and their organizations to policymakers, the business community, and other private actors. It also seems necessary, now more than ever, to reduce the cost of sending remittances, ensure better regulation for remittance markets, and more competition among service providers.
Furthermore, the circular migration is a way of transferring skills and experience; in the same vein strategies linked to mobilizing voluntary return migration networks must be supported. An example of this framework is the recent project approved by the European Commission entitled “Talent Partnership,” based on cooperation with third-country partners that will strengthen legal migration and mobility; also helping ato match labour and skill needs in EU member states.
These three topics are an example of the TF10’s enriching discussions regarding the challenges posed by the multiple dimensions of the international migration phenomenon, particularly during — and after — the pandemic. Undoubtedly, many other topics were addressed, such as the incipient relation between migration and the effect of climate change or the importance of effective integration of settled regular migrants in host communities for social cohesion. Despite the variety of approaches, a common vision has been constant: the only possible answer to all these challenges is working together. The G20 provides a framework to create global governance structures and solutions focused on migration and based on a coordinated multi-level and multi-actor scheme.
Elena Sánchez-Montijano is Research Professor at CIDE and Co-Chair of the T20 TF10 on Migration.