Are so-called economic migrants less in need than ‘real’ refugees? Should a child on the move who owns a smartphone not be eligible for help? Does the global compact on migration push mass immigration? Some answers that will help you to counter the misperceptions and see the people and the stories behind the numbers.
1. “They are economic migrants - they don’t need protection”
People migrate for various reasons: to escape violence and persecution, natural disasters or extreme poverty. According to some people, economic reasons are not legitimate to invest in the protection of those people on the move. But whatever their reason to migrate, people on the move face risks of vulnerability during their journey, especially children and youth. They can be victims of sexual abuse, detention, child labour or war enrolment. Precarious living conditions also put them at risk of death. Despite knowing those risks, economic migrants continue to leave their countries because they have no hope for a better future there.
Whatever their reason to migrate, people on the move have rights. Tdh works to ensure that children and youth in migration have access to their rights embedded in the Convention on the Right of the Child. These include access to services such as food, housing, education and health as well as protection from abuse, exploitation, the involvement in armed conflict, trafficking, unjustified deprivation of liberty or from the random separation of their parents. Briefly said, such international agreements give children and youth the right to have a childhood.
2. “All migrants want to come to Europe”
Even though some people in Europe can have the impression that all migrants want to cross the Mediterranean, asylum requests have kept declining since the beginning of 2016. Although the main number of arrivals of people in Spain and Italy are from African countries in 2018, around 90 per cent of African migrants never leave their region. Especially young people decide to migrate, mostly to get out of poverty and to find work. According to the UNHCR, 85 per cent of the forcibly displaced people in the world stay in developing countries within their region.
“We wouldn’t want to travel to a country that has a different culture, far from Syria. We are not planning to stay here in Lebanon, but it is better than to go to another place where everything is different and where they have another living style. We are planning to go back to Syria as soon as possible.” - Mother of a Syrian refugee family living in Lebanon
For example, more than five million Syrian refugees are hosted in neighbouring countries of their region such as Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and hundred thousands of families have fled from Myanmar to the Bangladeshi refugee camps just across the border.
3. “They don’t need help; they have a smartphone”
If suddenly a crisis happened in your country, and you had to leave your home in a rush, wouldn’t your smartphone be one of the first things you take with you?
Communication is incredibly important for migrants, being the first link to their families who might be thousands of kilometres away from them. For children in migration, smartphones are a source of information and therefore of protection, as they can avoid risky paths and are better aware of different laws in other countries and their own rights. It is therefore not uncommon for migrants and refugees to sacrifice the budget needed for food, clothing or accommodation to be able to afford a smartphone.
Terre des hommes (Tdh) develops technological tools to prevent dangerous and uninformed migration leading to child abuse and exploitation.
“When my mother died, I was abandoned and found myself with other kids of my age. I did jobs at the Grand Market in Lomé to survive. I gave my savings to a woman – but she ran away with my money.” Now, with the banking application Tdh developed with EcoBank, “we are being given support, and our money won’t be stolen anymore.” - Elie, 13 years old, Togo
Innovative ways of using technology, such as mobile applications for keeping their money safe, signalling rights abuses in gold mines or for helping domestic girls with their health management and contraception are implemented by Tdh and can protect them on their migration path but also in their countries of arrival.
4. “Migrants are criminals”
If migrants are excluded from the communities in which they live, they find themselves in difficult situations which can lead to criminality. However, migration is not a cause and criminality not an effect. It’s rather about the question of how people who had to leave their homes and experienced traumatic events or even war are treated and able to integrate and recover in their host community.
Integration, education and the prevention of inequality and injustice are the most effective ways to work against criminality. Radicalisation to violent extremism among migrants and refugees and their descendants is a symptom of social exclusion driven by unequal power relationships on economic, political, social and cultural levels, so let’s combat it!
5. “With the Global Compact on migration, States lose control of their sovereignty and borders”
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was adopted by the international community in 2018. One of its goal is to protect migrants, especially children, by prioritising cooperation between countries in the immigration process and by improving regular migration paths, preventing immigration detention for children and keeping families together. This way, no child should stay alone or without adequate services to support it. Switzerland, one of the compact’s initiators hasn’t signed it yet. It is, however, not impeding the state’s sovereignty: it is a foundation to regulate migration between countries by tackling irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking and for addressing deaths at sea - and is in no way increasing migration.
“This is a step towards a new policy reality that will help us deliver services to children in a more effective way, across borders and in partnership with governments who believe children’s rights are important.” - Pierre Cazenave, Tdh Regional Manager of our Children and Youth in Migration Programme
Migration is a global phenomenon, instead of fighting against it alone, we should accept it as the reality it is and states should collaborate to regulate it so that families, children and all other people on the move, fleeing from natural disasters or migrating because of poverty, get protection and the dignity they deserve. Tdh, together with other organisations around the world, is committed to support its implementation so that migration can work for everyone – children and families on the move, as well as societies in destination countries.