What Surprised You Most About Migration in 2005? Top Experts Respond
December 1, 2005
The Migration Information Source asked leading migration experts from all
over the world, "What surprised you most this year?" Their answers
came from the headlines as well as personal observations about what the media
does — and does not — report.
Dr. Rubén G. Rumbaut
Professor of Sociology, University of California, Irvine; Co-author, Immigrant
America: A Portrait and Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second
Generation; and Co-Director, Center for Research on Immigration, Population,
and Public Policy, UCI
"It never ceases to surprise me that, in a world of 6.5 billion people,
98 percent are 'stayers,' living in the country of their birth;
that the remaining two percent, international migrants of a bewildering variety
of origins, migration motives, and modes of adaptation to their new environments,
are at heart ambitious, determined, and intrepid souls, which is what makes
migration the 'selective' process that it is; and that, all things
considered, so little focused attention is paid to either of those two facts."
Dr. Mary Garcia Castro
Member of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM); Researcher
at the UNESCO Representation in Brazil; and Associated Researcher at the
Center of Studies on International Migration, University of Campinas, Sao
"The year 2005 was important to international migration in singular
ways. Its visibility grew, and despite the fact that, in the media, a great
deal of information was about migrants' vulnerability and
state control and reactions against them, as well as first-world
population fears of these 'others,' positive signals about the
importance of the issue came out.
"The Global Commission on International Migration report and its international
repercussions indicate that a coherent and sound proposal for the governance of
international migration was presented.
"Another positive trend, despite its ambiguous meaning, is how
some world media have captured the reactions of the young second generation of migrants
in France against the situation they have been enduring for so long:
racism, prejudice, and human rights violations by police and other state institutions. The
message sent by the second generation is clear: it is enough, there are limits
to human rights violations, and migrants are not as passive as they are commonly
"Summing up, other types of information and actions on international
migration are needed by the international community, first-world countries
as well as origin ones. In 2005, clear signals on such a need were sent by
different sources, including the migrants themselves."
Faculty of Law, Economics and Social Sciences, Mohammed V University,
Rabat, Morocco; President, Moroccan Association of Migration Studies
"It is astonishing that certain politicians in positions of authority
treat young citizens from the [Paris] suburbs as migrants, sons of migrants,
confirming them in their status as citizens apart, while in order better to
integrate them, they must be considered as full-fledged citizens."
Head of Statistics, UNHCR, Geneva
"In 2005, the global refugee population under the mandate of the UN
Refugee Agency dropped to 9.2 million, the lowest level since 1980.
"The number of refugees is falling for two main reasons.
First, fewer people need to escape their country due to conflict or persecution.
Second, more refugees are able to return home or to integrate in host societies.
"This may be a surprise to those who rely on the mass media for their
information, but it is very good news, not least for refugees."
Dr. Jorge Santibañez Romellon
President, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Mexico
"I will say that in 2005 the three most important events regarding international
migration took place in three different spaces and are related to three different
"First I will mention the violence initiated in Paris's suburbs,
showing that receiving countries are making a huge mistake handling immigrant's integration,
from the conceptual and practical point of view.
"The second one is related to sub-Saharan migrants trying to
cross the Mediterranean Sea through Melilla and who were shot by
Moroccan police, indicating that transit countries do not have the means,
nor an appropriate public policy, to handle transit migration processes.
"Finally, in the Mexico-US region, it is clear that if migratory reform were
to take place, if ever, it would be under the umbrella of national
security, and that Mexico is not doing the job it should be doing
regarding its own migratory flows under this umbrella in the short term and
social development in the long term, showing that we are currently facing a
worst-case scenario, where the receiving country is mistaken about its migratory
process and the exit country is not facing its responsibilities."
Federation Fellow, Professor of the Discipline of Geographical and Environmental
Studies and Director of the National Centre for Social Applications of Geographical
Information Systems at the University of Adelaide, Australia
"A most surprising (and encouraging) development in international migration
to me in 2005 was an unexpected increase in the amount of bilateral and multilateral
discussion and dialogue on migration-related issues between sending and receiving
nations in the Asia-Pacific region.
"This has partly come as a kick-on effect of discussions between nations
undertaken initially on migration and security issues in the wake of
9/11. This has set up relationships of trust and linkages which
are beginning to convince sending and receiving nations that they both have
something to gain from mutual discussions.
"While these developments have been small, they may be important in
encouraging bilateral and multilateral discussions on migration."
Prof. Rita Süssmuth
Member of the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM); former
President of the German Federal Parliament; and former Federal Minister for
Family Affairs, Women, Youth and Health
"In 2005, a new immigration law went into force in Germany; its concepts
reaffirmed the current migration paradigm that Germany is indeed a country
of immigration. It also introduced, for the first time in the history of the
Federal Republic of Germany, integration courses designed
by the government.
"Contrary to popular opinion, immigrants in Germany showed great interest
and extreme motivation in participating in integration courses on language
and culture. This disproved the notion that immigrants do not want to play
an active role in the integration process. It also showed that immigrants do
prefer integration over segregation when given a choice."
Senior Economist, World Bank
"To me, a major milestone in the area of international migration for
the year 2005 was a broad agreement in the international community that international
migration helps reduce poverty and achieve other internationally agreed development
"This was reflected by the decision of the World Bank to devote a flagship
report to remittances and migration. Remittances posted another
year of surprisingly strong growth: the 2004 figure turned out to be 26 percent
higher than what was expected earlier in the year."
Chair of the Demography Department and Distinguished Professor, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Warsaw University, Poland
"The most interesting thing to me was a sudden collapse of the republican French policy of immigrant integration, which manifested itself in recent Muslim street riots, especially vis-a-vis a German policy of immigrant selective exclusion which seems to bring about more social peace."
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