GFMD Civil Society Days 2015: A clear call for equal rights and opportunities for immigrants


Dr.Özge Bilgili
Maastricht Graduate School of Governance & UNU-Merit

This year the Civil Society Days (CSDs) of the Global Forum on Migration and Development 2015 took place in Istanbul, on 12-14 October. During these days, more than 250 Civil Society Organizations coming from 80 countries had their voiced heard on the most prominent issues linking migration and development. This year’s main focus included civil society’s role in fashioning global, national and thematic indicators, protecting migrants in crises and transit, reforming migrant labor employment policies and practices, social inclusion and diaspora engagement.

CapturaIn all the discussions we had during the two days, there was a clear call for equal rights and opportunities for immigrants and the need for sharing best practices and stronger international cooperation to address the needs and wants of migrants. The civil society organizations know exactly what is going on the ground with lots of experience on the challenges at individual and institutional levels. The examples shared by civil society actors coming from all over the world illustrated that the problems are diverse and yet comparable, and there is a lot to be learned from each case. Clearly, today’s problems cannot be defined, understood and solved in isolation from the rest of the world and require a global approach and international comparison. These were also the main messages I wanted to put forward when representing the MIPEX team in the panel discussions on policy indicators and labor market integration.

With the Integration Policies: Who Benefits? Project, we have sought to bring forward the idea that policies on paper matter only to a certain extent. What matters the most is the implementation of these policies and the ways in which they impact the lives of migrants. Especially in the sessions on labor market employment and recruitment, a clear conclusion was that a stronger monitoring and evaluation of existing policies and programs are needed. Civil society organizations, foreign missions as well as the private sector should be included more actively in these processes as independent actors that can implement and strengthen the standards of the labor rights of migrants.

Captura 2MIPEX results have illustrated that migrant women are performing poorly in the labor market due to a large variety of challenges. In the MPG & CIDOB note for the CSDs, we have emphasized in particular that, in the average European country, only 1/3 of working age non-EU citizens, especially women and the low-educated, are not in employment, education or training. CSDs also highlighted the more vulnerable situation of women, and made a strong call for the protection of women’s right in the labor market and the necessity to provide a decent work environment. Even though we talk about the feminization of migration flows, it is not hard to see that women are concentrated in specific sectors. They are highly concentrated in domestic work, health care and education, and are even banned from the right to be recruited in certain jobs in some countries. The evidence also illustrates the prominence of systematic discrimination in the recruitment process and significant wage disparities.

The more vulnerable situation of migrants is indicative of the need for more targeted support for women migrant workers. The analysis I have made previously on the impact evaluations on active labor market programs have also shown that women tend to benefit more from specific labor market programs than men. For example, I have pointed out that women benefit especially from in-class trainings, aptitude tests and skills development as well as private job placements more than men. Targeted labor market policies is one of the policy areas where many countries continue to invest in reform, and migrant women should benefit more systematically from training programs that inform them about their rights and opportunities in the labor market and prepare them for work in different sectors. This measure will definitely complement and feed into the United Nations High Level Dialogue’s Civil Society 5-year action plan of developing mechanisms to guarantee labor rights for migrant workers equal to the rights of nationals and integrating them successfully in the labor market by giving equal pay, decent working conditions as well as the right to form and organize in trade unions.

Taking everything into account, it was a great experience to observe and engage with the dedicated involvement of Civil Society actors in their efforts to improve the experiences of migrants at destination, and enhance the positive effects of migration for all parties involved. The two-day discussions were extremely useful in bringing awareness to concrete problems that are faced on the ground and developing recommendations for governments. As Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations mentioned in his speech on the opening ceremony of the 8th GFMD Summit meeting, it is of extreme importance that we change the discourse on migration and recognize that mobility is at the core of globalization, and if we manage to provide viable roots, build trust and strengthen the political will, we can deal better with the anticipated challenges of migration and enhance the positive links between migration and development, while at the same time mitigating the negative ones. After all, migration is a reality, and if it is managed well, there is not much to be scared of.FullSizeRender (1)IMG_7846