Heidi Hautalan avauspuhe “Migration and Communication: Re-balancing information flows and dialogue” -seminaarissa 13.10.2011. Seminaarin järjestivät ulkoministeriö, IPS ja IOM.[:]• Warmly welcome to Finland and Helsinki! I am honoured to welcome you all to this seminar on Migration and Communication organized together with IPS (Inter Press Service), IOM (International Organization for Migration) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland. The Ministry has a long tradition of successful cooperation with both the IPS and IOM and it is very good to have you here today to share your expertise and insight with the Finnish audience.
• Migration is very important and topical issue always but now perhaps even more than usually. We all have seen the news from the world – be it in North Africa where migrant workers are in a very vulnerable situation or in Somalia where people are forced to leave their homes due to drought. In these grave situations it is clear that people are vulnerable to many violations of human rights, have insufficient access to basic services; and need protection.
• Migration is not a burden but a reality. Migration is also a complex phenomenon. Situations causing people to leave their homes as refugees or migrants can be various. Some people are willing to leave and some are forced to do so. Some people leave permanently and some return. People do migrate, due to war and persecution; bad governance including widespread corruption and absence of rule of law; lack of civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights; climate change; or large inequalities of standards of living around the world.
• In Finland we are living in a far away Nordic country – however we are a part of a globalized world and we cannot isolate ourselves from the surrounding world. Fear and suspicion towards “others” is not helpful. Challenges of migration should be addressed openly but one should remain vigilant that during the exchange no hate speech or defaming of an individual or a group on ethnic, political, religious or any other grounds is allowed. Our starting point must always remain respect of human rights.
• Positive aspects of migration to Finland and Europe are many. Ageing Europe needs more people to maintain our societies. Migrants bring economic benefits but also cultural richness and it is clear that migrants should not be seen and treated only as a needed work force. The so called work-related migration should not mean selective approach towards migrants which drains only educated and highly skilled people from developing countries.
• The impacts of emigration to countries of origin, often developing countries, are also many. Already mentioned brain drain belongs to the controversial ones, including loss of potential tax payers and highly skilled persons. However, recent studies have shown that brain drain can have also positive implications on development for example by creating incentives for others to acquire useful skills and education following the example of those who emigrated.
• The money that migrants send home – remittances – can contribute importantly to the recipients’ welfare and to the country’s economy. (According to the World Bank’s recent report remittances from North to South in 2010 were 325 billion USD which is many times more than the annual ODA.) Remittances, investments, trade, networking and skills’ transfers are among issues that may have positive impacts on development.
• A major challenge presently seems to be an increasing criticism towards migrants. To better integrate migrants in Finland and in Europe we must have good resources for implementation of more active integration policies.
• Another challenge is to further develop regular migration. Presently many persons are forced to seek entry into the EU territory in ways that put their lives in danger. Illegalizing irregular migration is not an efficient or human way to solve issue. It is crucial to create systems for increased regular migration.
Human rights commitments must be respected at all times, including when it comes to irregular migrants.
• One challenge relates to the treatment of refugees. An assumption that all countries would always respect human rights and keep their citizens safe is not necessarily true, as we know.
At the EU level a lot of money is used for returning persons and supporting third countries to stop people before they reach the EU territory. The benefits of this funding and the readmission agreements are questionable.
• No country alone can answer to the migration question. We need solidarity between countries. Migration flows are most often and increasingly South – South, people migrating to neighboring countries (as we have seen in North Africa and Middle East). Also at the EU level there is need to increase solidarity between member states on migration challenges.
• Let me say few more words about the question of refugees. The right to an asylum is one of the central human rights challenges in Europe. Finland is among the countries to develop the EU’s asylum system. The system should be both just and efficient and it should guarantee the protection of refugees respecting the international commitments. Practical cooperation between EU-countries in asylum matters must be improved so that the procedures can be harmonized to a greater extent.
• Displacement is often a result of human rights violations connected with crises of different degrees ethnic, political and religious conflicts that lead to the persecution of individuals. Hence, a functioning and effective human rights policy is one way to prevent situations that force people to seek refuge.
• The rights of women and children are central at all stages of displacement. Finland and many other countries are committed to the Geneva Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which prioritizes the interest of a child.
• Let me conclude by returning to the migration and development nexus. Mutual development impacts of flows of people, remittances, skills and knowledge are of great interest for us for example within our work in the Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD). By understanding these aspects better we will get tools to design our development policy so that migration is effectively mainstreamed in the development planning. We also focus on better policy coherence to ensure that migration policy and development policy support each others.
• We find it very important to involve immigrant diasporas living in Finland and utilize their capacity in projects implemented in the country of their origin. One of our current projects in Somalia has this approach and appears to be particularly promising and sustainable.