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UN/Canadian-media: Travel restrictions and other curbs to movement put in place in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put a significant dent in migration figures, but the overall trend shows 100 million more people living outside their countries of origin in 2020, compared to the year 2000, a new UN report revealed on Friday.
Syrian refugees in Jordan are being resettled in Canada. Image credit: IOM/Muse Mohammed
‘Migration is part of today’s world’
International Migration 2020 Highlights, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), shows that the pandemic may have slowed migration flows by around two million people last year, cutting the annual growth expected since mid-2019 by around 27 per cent.
Since the year 2000, however, there has been a major increase in migration. That year some 173 million people lived outside of their countries of origin. Twenty years later, that figure had risen to 281 million.
In a statement, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said “The report affirms that migration is a part of today’s globalized world and shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, and undermined progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
Less money sent home
The economic crisis that following in the wake of the pandemic has had a major impact on remittances, the money migrants send home to their countries of origin. The World Bank projects that remittances sent back to low- and middle-income countries may see a $78 billion dip, around 14 per cent of the total amount.
This will negatively affect the livelihoods of millions of migrants and their families, especially in those countries with a big diaspora. India, for example, has the largest diaspora in the world: 18 million people born in India live outside the country. Other nations with significant diasporas include Mexico, the Russian Federation (11 million each), China (10 million) and Syria (eight million).
US and Germany top destinations
Unsurprisingly, high income countries are the most coveted destinations for migrants. The US takes the top spot with 51 million migrants hosted in 2020.
Germany hosted the second largest number of migrants worldwide, at around 16 million, followed by Saudi Arabia (13 million), the Russian Federation (12 million) and the United Kingdom (nine million).
Many migrants do not travel far, however. Nearly half of them remain in the region from which they originated. For example, in Europe 70 per cent of migrants come from another European country. Similarly, some 63 per cent of migrants in sub-Saharan Africa come from a country in the same region.
Most refugees in lower income countries
Contrary to some perceptions, the vast majority of refugees, around 80 per cent, are hosted in low- and middle-income countries, and constitute some 12 per cent of all international migrants.
The number of refugees is rising faster than voluntary migration: the number of people forced to leave home due to conflict, crises, persecution, violence or human rights violations has doubled from 17 to 34 million since the beginning of the 21st Century.
In recognition of the need to better manage migration, the General Assembly has adopted several landmark agreements, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. DESA says that around 60 countries have begun to adopt measures to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration.
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UNHCR/Canadian-Media: As Portugal assumes the presidency of the European Union (EU), to be followed by Slovenia later this year, the UN refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Tuesday called on them to lead the effort to forge a better protection system for those seeking refuge across the continent and beyond.
A UNHCR staffer welcomes resettled refugees originally from Syria and South Sudan at Lisbon airport in Portugal. (file) Image credit: © UNHCR/José Ventura
Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Representative for EU Affairs, also called for reform to be central during negotiations over a new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum, and highlighted the importance of “an EU that saves lives, protects refugees in Europe and globally, and finds solutions to end forced displacement and build resilient societies is needed more than ever”.
To this end, the UN agency recommended that the EU Presidency propose predictable, principled and solidarity-focused measures for a rights-based and sustainable asylum system.
They also stressed the need to address root causes of forced displacement and irregular migration and revitalize political and financial support in countries and regions, where most of those forcibly displaced people live.
“We hope that 2021 will be a new chapter for refugee protection, with the EU showing leadership in Europe and globally”, said Mr. Vargas Llosa.
UNHCR hopes the proposed EU Pact will be adopted quickly, which includes enhancing search and rescue operations and ensuring predictable disembarkation.
“As negotiations on the EU Pact continue, we trust that EU Member States will seize the opportunity to lead by example and better protect people seeking asylum in Europe”, said Mr. Vargas Llosa.
More asks UNHCR encouraged the presidencies to explore avenues for progress on issues, such as solidarity and border procedures and advocate for fair and fast asylum procedures for international protection; dignified returns for those who wish to return to their countries of origin; and predictable solidarity mechanisms for States that receive a disproportionate number of asylum claims.
With 85 per cent of the world’s refugees living in developing countries, UNHCR is also calling on the EU presidencies to ensure predictable, flexible, development, together with humanitarian-based financial aid, as well as support to host States, including strengthening asylum systems.
Renewed action plan Against the backdrop that fewer people might undertake dangerous journeys if countries demonstrated greater commitment to resettlement and family reunification, UNHCR welcomed the European Commission’s renewed Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion, 2021-27.
“The 2021 EU Presidencies have a pivotal role to facilitate discussions that pave the way to a common and workable EU asylum system that protects people fleeing war and persecution”, said the UNHCR Representative.
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United States/Canadian-Media: It was announced by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the Department of State (DOS) list of countries whose nationals are eligible to participate in the H-2A and H-2B visa programs in 2021.
Department of Homeland Security. Image credit: Twitter handle
DHS maintains its authority to add countries to the eligible countries list at any time, and to remove any country at the time it publishes a new list, if these fails to meet the requirements for continued designation as determined by the DHS and DOS determine.
Factors including fraud, abuse, denial rates, overstay rates, human trafficking concerns, and other forms of noncompliance with the terms and conditions of the H-2 visa programs could result in the exclusion of a country or the removal of a country from the list.
The H-2A and H-2B visa programs allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural and nonagricultural jobs, respectively.
Typically, USCIS approves H-2A and H-2B petitions only for nationals of countries that the secretary of Homeland Security has designated as eligible to participate in the programs.
However, H-2A and H-2B petitions may be approved by USCIS, including those that were pending as of the date of the Federal Register notice, for nationals of countries not on the list on a case-by-case basis only if it is in the interest of the United States based on submitted evidence.
The notice listing the eligible countries will be published in the Federal Register on Jan. 13, 2021.