Shirine Arab, Ph.D. Scholar in Public International Law, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, Aix-Marseille University
On 23 and 24 May 2019, the Migration Policy Centre (MPC) at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy, organized an annual conference on Migration between Africa and Europe: Knowledge Production, attitudes, and governance. The MPC aims at conducting research on the transnational governance of international migration, asylum, and mobility to inform global policy debates.
I had the opportunity to take part of the 2019 annual conference, which gathered academics, policy-makers, and practitioners to discuss ideas and views on some of the migration policy questions in Europe and beyond, and to engage in the debate. The two-day round-table aimed at understanding the gaps between migration debates held by researchers, those held by decision-makers, and migration realities.
The relationships between knowledge production, attitudes, and governance on migration is complex because of the diversity of migration, links to other key policy challenges and to the input of a diverse of public and private actors across levels of governance. As Ambassador Ajay Bramdeo, Permanent Representative of the African Union to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations, highlighted, migration has been part of the human experience throughout history and the large gaps between the world of research and access to policy-makers should be reduced. In fact, unless it fits with existing political agendas, the role for research is limited, nowadays.
The participants addressed the aspects of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (CGM), a non-binding, State-led process, but broad consensus. The Global Compact aims at ensuring a better cooperation and founding principles, including of States’ sovereignty and protection of human rights. The Compact is built upon years of structured dialogues, initiatives and cooperation between States at the regional and global levels. While the Global Compact on Refugees focuses on specific challenges of large movements of refugees, including situations of protracted displacement, the Global Compact on Migration addresses migration in all its dimensions (Marie McAuliffe, Head, Migration Policy Research Division, IOM UN Migration). Furthermore, it also aims at strengthening the global evidence base on international migration by improving and investing in the collection, analysis and dissemination of accurate, reliable, comparable data, disaggregated by sex, age, migration status and other characteristics relevant in national contexts, while upholding the right to privacy under international human rights law and protecting personal data, all necessary for the implementation of commitments over time. Princelle Dasappa, from “Statistics South Africa” addressed the role of data in the Global Compact for Migration and highlighted that “where African migration discourse is widely depicted by images of over-crowded boats, the reality shows that 80% of African migration is intra-continental. Most African migrants and refugees still move within the region and never leave the continent because they cannot afford it”. They prefer to stay in their regions for cultural, historical and geographical proximity reasons.
African migration to the European Union (EU) has remained stable, around 450, 000 a year, since the late 2000s, as Heliodoro Temprano Arroyo, Adviser at the European Commission, mentioned. However, its composition has shifted markedly from regular to irregular migration. The EU is considered as a dominant destination because of the geographical proximity, reflecting population trends, economic factors and climate change. He highlighted that the EU’s policy on African migration is supporting intra-African legal migration, remittances and regional economic integration at both sub regional and continental levels (African Union, etc.) while opening, in a limited manner, new legal pathways for migration to the EU, throughout the “pilot projects on legal migration”. He highlighted that, by promoting stronger border management by the African countries involved in the main irregular migration routes, the EU might make it harder for Africans to move within the continent (2016 Partnership Framework; Khartoum / Rabat processes).
Jean-Christophe Dumont, Head of the International Migration Division, Directorate for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs at OECD highlighted that migration contributed to labor force growth in the OECD and Europe in the past decade. In fact, immigrants represented 92% of the increase in the labor force in Europe, noting, however, that the EU admits fewer permanent-type skilled economic migrants than many other OECD countries.
The round-table debate was concluded with recommendations to navigate between social science research and policymaking. This includes the creation of a “scientific hub” regarding attitudes to migration and a go-to place to find resources about what has been published in academic journals across disciplines. Furthermore, the necessity to provide evidence and consultancy to European and international organizations has been mentioned to maintain policy dialogues.
The objectives of the “Pilot Projects initiative” (by Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Lithuania) are to rebalance mix towards legal migration, to encourage cooperation by third countries. It considers a financial assistance for pilot training and employment schemes agreed between EU countries and selected African countries, also for African partners demonstrating good cooperation in combatting irregular flows and the returns.