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International Organization for Migration. Migration and remittances are increasing worldwide

08 May, 2024 | Ricardo Changala

On May 3, a statement from the Argentine government reacted to certain comments made by the Spanish Minister of Transport, who allegedly suggested that the president of the South American country had ingested some type of substance.

Beyond other considerations about this episode, I highlight a statement contained in the official message issued by the south American government: “Pedro Sánchez… has put Spanish women at risk by allowing the illegal immigration of those who threaten their physical integrity…”

True to his usual style of hurling epithets and baseless claims, the Argentine president seems to maintain that the cause of aggression against women in Spain is related to the migrant population. The false and discriminatory nature of this assertion is evident.

A few days later, on May 7, the International Organization for Migration published its 2024 report, which includes a multitude of very relevant data and information for understanding global migration dynamics.

Chapter 5 of the report includes reflections on the purported (by some) relationship between migrants and security, indirectly refuting entirely what was asserted by the Argentine government.

“We continue to witness the linking of migration and security through erroneous ‘threat’ narratives that seek to portray international migrants as dangers to countries and communities. The rhetoric framing migration in terms of national or state security emerged decades ago as part of discursive justifications for extreme (sometimes militarized) responses to migration. However, the reality is that the most significant link between migration and security relates to the human security of migrants themselves. Migrants’ vulnerability throughout the migration cycle is evident at all stages and in a wide variety of manifestations during departure, transit, entry, stay, and return.”

In other words, not only is it false that migrants themselves generate situations of social insecurity, but evidence shows that those vulnerable in their fundamental rights are the migrants themselves.

The report highlights that international migration remains a driver of human development and economic growth, reflected in the over 650% increase in international remittances from 2000 to 2022, rising from $128 billion to $831 billion annually.

Of that total, $647 billion was sent by migrants to low- and middle-income countries, comprising a significant portion of the GDP of those countries and globally surpassing foreign direct investments.

In 2022, India, Mexico, China, the Philippines, and Egypt were the top five remittance-receiving countries, with India far exceeding the others, receiving over $111 billion in total remittances.

Regarding the main sources of remittances, the United States of America has long held the top position among remittance-sending countries (with $79 billion in 2022), followed by Saudi Arabia ($39 billion), Switzerland ($31.9 billion), and Germany ($25.6 billion).

Out of a total of 281 million international migrants worldwide, there is an increase in displaced persons due to conflicts, violence, or other reasons, reaching 117 million people. Hence, there is talk of a displacement crisis, a category of human mobility that involves situations of high vulnerability and dramatic personal trajectories in the vast majority.

However, most of the migration is regular, safe, and regionally focused, directly linked to opportunities and livelihoods, despite widely disseminated narratives that emphasize other aspects, generally lacking factual support, such as the assertion made by the Argentine government mentioned at the beginning of this article.

Two other fundamental facts must be kept in mind to understand the global migration phenomenon:

Firstly, the vast majority of people in the world do not migrate but remain in their places of origin, regardless of the social, political, and economic situations they experience in their countries of birth. Therefore, the total number of migrants in the world does not even reach 4% of the world’s population.

However, there are notable disparities among the countries analyzed.

For example, there are countries like the United Arab Emirates where migrants make up almost 90% of its total population. Other Arab countries also have high numbers of migrants within their territories.

On the other hand, the vast majority of migrants do not cross international borders but remain within their countries. For the year 2009, there were approximately 740 million internal migrants.

Although global, regional, and even local data are compelling regarding the significant social and economic relevance of human mobility for development, every day we hear voices trying to blame “foreigners” for national problems, never highlighting the virtues of their presence in places other than their places of origin.

It seems very hard to believe that those promoting this criminalizing and discriminatory version are not aware of the lack of foundation for their claims.

It gives the impression that it is easier to blame the most vulnerable, the most defenseless, rather than admitting that the root causes of the problems lie elsewhere and involve other responsible parties.