- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 2, 2005

GENEVA - Migration flows are increasingly a win-win situation for both the departure and destination coun-tries, with benefits estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars each year through remittances, lower labor costs and efficiency gains.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, deputy U.S. assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, told delegates at a conference here last month that the U.S. government’s position on international migration is straightforward.

“We support — and advocate for — humane, orderly legal migration. We believe it is beneficial to both sending and receiving countries, as well as to migrants themselves.”

Recent projections by international agencies, including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, put the annual remittances — the money that migrants send to their home countries — from the world’s 176 million international migrants in 2002 at $130 billion a year, $79 billion of which went to developing countries.

However, Brunson McKinley, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), reckons the real figure could be close to $300 billion per year if transfers and transactions not measured by traditional financial channels are included.

Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco told reporters that remittances from the 4.3 million Colombians living in the United States, Spain and elsewhere totaled $3.2 billion in 2003 and are expected to total $4 billion for the past year.

According to an IOM report, remittances to Mexico in 2003 totaled $14.5 billion and were the country’s second largest source of income after oil. According to some analysts, a 3 percent increase in international migrant workers in the United States and other wealthy countries could result in gains of $156 billion a year.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz H. Khokhar said recent migrants to New Zealand had generated a fiscal impact of $1.7 billion there, and a British government study found that migrants in the United Kingdom contributed the equivalent of $60 billion in taxes and consumed the equivalent of $54 billion in benefits and state services.

Looking to the migration challenges ahead, Mr. McKinley, a former U.S. diplomat, told delegates, “Migration in the 21st century challenges the capacity of societies to integrate migrants of a different culture and religion, especially as the idea of permanent stay and assimilation weakens.”

He also noted that the struggle to abolish trafficking and smuggling “is far from won.” Illegal migration networks develop wherever international cooperation is weak, he said.

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