GENEVA, Switzerland (Jan. 10, 2015) — The International Organization for Migration (IOM) appeals for calm in the wake of the murders of 12 Paris journalists and notes with alarm growing reports of violence against migrants and their places of worship.
At a time when the act of migrating to safety has never been more risky, and the welcome given migrants fleeing danger and oppression has seldom been so harsh, IOM views with alarm the events in Paris and beyond this week.
Wednesday’s unspeakable acts have been universally condemned. Yet the potential for a backlash of panic, mistrust and hatred must also be guarded against. Just as the world searched for common ground in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks, now is a time for restraint, respect and recognition of the huge contribution migrants make to our society.
Migrants today are not invaders, or interlopers. Being youthful, often just starting their work lives, migrants serve as vital partners of the native born. They fill gaps in industries where labour is in short supply; they renew decaying neighbourhoods and they shore up public payments to the elderly and unemployed by putting into government coffers much more wealth than they withdraw.
In fact, much of the world already agrees with this perspective. That’s the clear message coming from a forthcoming IOM report “How the World Views Migration,” based on an analysis of the latest data from the Gallup World Poll, an annual survey of adults in over 140 countries. The report shows that, with the exception of Europe, people are more likely to want immigration levels in their countries to either stay at their present level or to increase, rather than see immigration levels decrease.
People in Europe are the most negative toward immigration, and even there just barely, with a slim majority (52 per cent) saying immigration levels should be decreased. By comparison, the respective figure for North America is 39 per cent.
“We have been watching with dismay as hearts harden towards migrants, and communities begin to turn on each other,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “The world is showing us that there is a higher road to take. Our research with Gallup reinforces this message. After four centuries of being a principle source of the world’s migrants, Europe is adjusting to being the world’s destination. That’s inevitable. It need not be conflictive.”
IOM has noted with dismay a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe in recent years and notes that migrants can easily become a scapegoat for people’s fears at times of high unemployment. Freedom of movement within Europe can also lead to the erroneous perception that migration is out of control.