The conference was introduced by Philippe Orliange, Executive Director for Strategy, Partnerships and Communication, AFD. The debate was coordinated by Emmanuelle Bastide, journalist at RFI. The speakers were Jean-François Corty, Director of French Operations for Médecins du Monde ; Xavier Devictor, Advisor for the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group, World Bank ; François Reybet Degat, Deputy-Director Regional Bureau for the Middle East and North Africa (Syria Situation) at UNHCR ; Serge Snrech, Director of the Amman agency, AFD and Theodora Xenogiani, Senior Economist, International Migration Division, OECD.
In Europe, the migration issue has taken on an entirely new dimension with the escalating number of conflicts in the Southern Mediterranean. Yet a distinction needs to be made between forcibly displaced persons and economic migrants, and solutions need to be devised to allow the people concerned to change from one status to another. This involves coordinating the humanitarian approach, which allows crises to be managed, and the long-term approach, which lays the foundations for sustainable development in host countries.
Migration: A few pointers
“The migration issue has been set out in the policy agenda, which has excessively simplified and sometimes distorted the subject, often in a caricatural way” (P. Orliange). It is necessary to identify the people concerned, the reasons for their displacement, and the geographical realities that this involves.
For 2010-2011, “in OECD countries, there were 113 million migrants, i.e. 40% more than in the early 2000s”. Their profile has changed: “They are increasingly educated”. Furthermore, “many of them are women”. China and India are the main countries of origin.
These general aspects must not mask the difference in nature between two types of migration. In the OECD, “migration for family reunification, free movement in Europe and labor migration continue to account for the majority of permanent flows” (T. Xenogiani). However, it is necessary to make a distinction between these “economic migrants, who often voluntarily leave” and the “forcibly displaced persons who are often compelled to take to the road due to situations of violence and conflict”: they account for “some 60 million people: 20 million refugees, 40 million people displaced within their own countries”. They mainly come from Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria and the two Sudans, and first of all try to reach neighboring countries: Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey… A total of “86% of displaced persons are received by developing countries” (X. Devictor).
Economic migrants and forcibly displaced persons: Situations which are a priori very different
In the case of economic migrants, “the general impact on the labor market in host countries is positive”. These migrants, who are present in large numbers in all sectors, especially in the fundamental sectors of education and health, “contribute to the labor market in host countries through their skills and young age”.
In the case of forcibly displaced persons, the context of distress and emergency poses a specific challenge. In the Middle East, 5 host countries – Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq – “today [host] 19 million people displaced by conflicts or out of fear of persecution” (F. Reybet Degat). The humanitarian crisis is getting worse all the time: “The refugees who had found refuge in these host countries since 2011 have lost all hope due to a growing impoverishment.” A number of them migrate towards Europe, where they often experience extremely hard living conditions: in the North of France, in Grande-Synthe, “3,000 people, including many families […] are sleeping on the ground in shabby tents” (J.-F. Corty).
The international response falls short of addressing the scale of this crisis. This is demonstrated by the financial resources allocated to an institution such as the High Commissioner for Refugees, which “in 2013, 2014 and 2015, only received 45 to 50% of the required financing” (F. Reybet Degat). The lack of overall coordination can also be seen in the practices of “externalizing exile” (J.-F. Corty), which lead certain countries to leave it up to others, which are geographically nearer crisis situations, to absorb the migration flows.
From humanitarian relief to development: Consider migration flows over the long term
This observation of poor management of migration flows should prompt the various actors – governments, NGOs, international institutions and development aid agencies – to change their approach.
It is “right from the start of a crisis that humanitarian and development actors must work together” and consider the sustainable dimension of the responses to emergency situations. In the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan, HCR initially paid a very high price to supply water to communities by trucks, whereas “the obvious answer was to organize a water supply grid that is part of the national system”. It is also necessary to target communities differently via a zonal approach, which “takes into account an area where there are refugees, residents, host communities”: we provide “a humanitarian ingredient and a development ingredient, with the Government playing a leading role” (F. Reybet Degat). Still in Jordan, in the city of Irbid, AFD has set up a program which includes both infrastructure renewal and access to water: “[This] social work will focus on vulnerable households as a whole”, including a third of Jordanians (S. Snrech).
The role of development agencies is also to help countries realize that refugees can become “economic contributors [who] permanently settle in the countries of destination” (T. Xenogiani). The World Bank has produced a study on refugees and the labor market in Turkey: by providing more sophisticated responses than the populist arguments, it makes it possible to “engage in a dialogue with the Turkish authorities, for example, to encourage them to broaden the opportunities for legal work […] for refugees” (X. Devictor). For them to recover a portion of the resources that are generated, it is subsequently necessary for “macro-financial and fiscal work to be conducted” with countries (S. Snrech).
At international level, it is essential to reconsider the issue of financing for overall humanitarian aid. In addition to being insufficient, it is ill-adapted: countries like Jordan or Lebanon “produce a global public good by […] receiving a large number of refugees”, but they “cannot receive long-term structural aid due to their status as middle-income countries” (F. Reybet Degat). The answer also lies in reviewing legal arrangements and greater flexibility in opening borders: by creating humanitarian visas, “the chancelleries of European countries in third countries allow people to travel by plane, rather than by clapped-out boats where they will drown” (J.-F. Corty). HCR, for its part, advocates for “an increase in the number of places for resettlement, but also for student visas […], temporary work permits” (F. Reybet Degat).