ILC Migration side event

“There is no easy fix” to the migration crisis

ILO Deputy-Director Sandra Polaski at ILC Migration side event: “We must focus on systems of governance that provide regular and safe migration to meet migrants’ rights and labour market needs.

Audio | 05 June 2015
The migration crisis brought together high-level panelists at a side event at the International Labour Conference today.

Opening the event, the ILO Deputy Director for Policy, Sandra Polaski, called on the global community to have the courage to act in the face of migrants’ journeys of desperation.

No one can remain unaffected when we see the pictures of the tragedies unfolding in the Mediterranean and the Andaman seas and beyond. Men, women and children driven by conflict, persecution, poverty or marginalization continue to risk their lives in search of adequate livelihoods and shelter.

The event was held on day five of the 13-day conference hosted by the International Labour Organization in Geneva. The ILO last year held the chair of the Global Migration Group, an inter-agency body seeking better measures to govern migration.

Of the world’s population of 7 billion, 1.5 billion people are estimated to be living in conflict and fragility-affected states, and that number is still growing.

Last year, seafarers rescued over 44,000 migrants. The EU has increased its rescue operations in the Mediterranean but since January, almost 2,000 people have died.

Polaski said the first priority was to save lives but that the problems which lead to migrants seeking work through irregular channels needed to be addressed.

There is no easy fix. We must focus on systems of governance that provide regular and safe migration to meet migrants’ needs and labour market needs. We must also work to ensure creation of more and better jobs in countries of origin, to address the root causes of migration.

The UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Volker Turk, said that addressing labour issues was vital in protecting refugees.

Anything to do with labour, work and decent work conditions is at the very center of their human dignity but also the sustainability of them being productive members of a social and economic framework.

In closing the event, ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said the economic case for migration was stronger now than ever before, even amid growing political and social barriers.

It’s no use in us making an appeal to economic rationality in dealing with migration because you miss a lot of the story and you fall into the trap of treating labour as a commodity if you deal with migration as a purely economic equation. It has economic benefits. We need to make sure those are understood. But there are a whole surrounding package of social issues that we have to deal with because we’re not dealing with commodities. We’re dealing with human beings.

Reporting for the ILO at the Palais des Nations, this is Carla Drysdale.