By Linda Bordoni
Entitled “Common Home: migration and development in Europe and beyond” Caritas Europa’s just-launched publication highlights the links between migration and development in Europe and in other parts of the world.
The document, launched with a panel discussion at the European Parliament, puts forward 27 specific recommendations to EU policy-makers, and aims to impact the current European approach to migration by raising awareness about the positive aspects that migration can have both for the host countries and the migrants’ countries of origin.
Caritas Europa’s Policy and Advocacy Director, Shannon Pfohman, told Linda Bordoni that at the roots of the publication is an in-depth analysis of the links between migration and development.
Depending on your starting point, Shannon Pfohman explained, the topic is “interconnected and intricate and really quite complex” and can lead to different interpretations and meanings.
She pointed out that many believe that investment in development overseas is a way of stopping migration movements. But in fact, she explained, the opposite is true: “the more money that’s invested initially inspires more people to migrate because they are able to access different resources and achieve opportunities to be able to travel”.
Pfohman also noted that another key aspect that was analysed concerns the ‘drivers’ of forced migration which for Caritas include inequalities - while many EU member states consider only conflicts and war, ruling out poverty and climate change as driving factors of migration.
She said the report is based on 11 national country studies, which are part of the Caritas MIND Project (Migration, Interconnectedness and Development), a 3-year project financed by the European Commission.
“Within this we looked at the possibilities for migrants for achieving integral human development,” she said, taking into consideration both the situation in countries of settlement in the EU, as well as in countries of origin.
Migrants need to be able to access resources
Thus, she said, “assessments were made regarding the impact of EU policies on the lives of migrants and how they facilitate or hinder their ability to access resources and regain their lives”.
“What we found is that of course it varies very much in the different countries” and depends very much on the countries of origin of the migrants, as well as the member states in Europe past colonial and response to migration in recent years” she said.
We focused on the opportunities that come with migration, she said, “both for the countries of origin and for the countries of development.”
Contributions that migrants are making
The Caritas research highlights how migrants are making really important contributions to countries of origin outside of Europe.
“By looking at the amount of remittances alone, we estimated that in 2018 migrants had spent 689 billion dollars on remittances which is contributing greatly to countries overseas,” Pfohman said.
She explained however, that if migrants are not able to access resources such as houses and jobs in countries in Europe that impacts their ability to earn and send money home, which in the long term influences development in those countries as well.
She held up a model provided by Congolese-Belgian migrants who have been able to make a huge contribution to transnational socio-protection schemes in an Italian-Burkinabe partnership for agricultural development.
So, the argument is based on the fact that migrants who are integrated, have jobs and pay taxes, contribute to the revenue of the host country and are able to send money home and play an important part in the development of their own country of origin.
“All the 11 country reports show that in many cases migrants are paying more into the European welfare systems than they are taking out,” she said.
Pfohman pointed to Portugal, in particular, where she said successful integration programmes and policies are giving migrants the chance to access employment initiatives, do start-up businesses, and put the virtuous circle into motion.
Changing the negative rhetoric
Another issue of major importance, she stressed, is to change the current negative rhetoric that echoes in many European countries regarding the effects of migration. This must be done said, by providing information and raising awareness about development and the interconnection between migration and development.
In order to change that negative rhetoric – which in some cases develops into blatant lies - Pfohman said we need to focus on the fact that everyone in our societies is able to access social protection systems.
She noted that marginalization and poverty are contributing “to the spread of hate and the negative perception of migrants when certain people fear they do not have enough for themselves” and are struggling to survive economically in our system.
“So it is important to focus not just on the migrants but on the receiving societies” as well, she said.
Recognizing migrants as development actors
Pfohman reiterated that is necessary to recognize migrants as development actors and to recognize the many opportunities that come with migration and the contribution of migrants to our societies.
“Because currently the political rhetoric focuses just on the challenges of migration, and our publication aims to show that’s not just the case: there are many opportunities that need to be recognized, she said”.
Pope Francis: welcome, protect, integrate, promote
Pfohman concluded revealing that during the launch event of the publication at the European Parliament, Caritas members recalled Pope Francis’ four active verbs and call to action, “Welcome, Protect, Integrate, Promote,” saying “this needs to be the way forward in the agenda of European policy-makers: to make sure that the needs of people are addressed”.