India has asked the UN to make a clear distinction between regular and illegal migrants who cannot be treated at par with legal immigrants, who contribute significantly to the economic and cultural fabric of their host and origin countries.
India's Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Tanmaya Lal said that Mahatma Gandhi, who studied, worked and lived in South Africa and England for considerable periods of time, was among the most well-known international migrants who contributed hugely to our collective progress.
Addressing a conference on the Global Compact on migration in the UN General Assembly yesterday, he said that most nation states and societies have been built upon waves of migration over the past several centuries, but today it has become a "complex" and "divisive" issue.
"We are talking about the regular or legal migrants here. Regrettably, we find that the current discourse on this Global Compact is not only coloured negatively in the contexts of ongoing large movement of refugees in certain parts of the world and the uneven impact of economic globalisation, but also the context of the phenomenon of illegal migration in some countries," he said.
Lal said that it was unfortunate, since this negative narrative was not at all helpful and, in fact, hurts the genuine interests and concerns of regular, legal migrants.
"But the ongoing contributions by them to both, their host and origin countries, were well-documented but risks being ignored," he told the Intergovernmental Conference and its Preparatory Process to adopt a Global Compact for safe and regular migration.
He said "undoubtedly" there is a small percentage of illegal or undocumented migrants across countries and in many instances, such illegal migration is based on criminal networks engaged in human trafficking.
Lal called on the international community to step up cooperation among agencies to control this international challenge from such criminal networks.
"We fully agree that the basic human rights of this category of migrants, especially the more vulnerable sections such as women and children, must be respected and protected and that they should have access to due process of law.
"However, at the same time, it needs to be stressed and made clear that this category of migrants cannot be treated at par under national laws with the legal migrants, he said.
Lal warned that any attempts to "blur any sort of distinction" of legal status between regular and the numerically far fewer irregular migrants can only disadvantage the larger interests of regular migrants and even incentivise irregular migration.
Stressing that a humane treatment of irregular migrants was essential, he said, it was also important to not let the focus on regular migrants and their contributions be diluted in the Global Compact that the UN nations are working on.
Lal pointed out that the current draft Global Compact provides much greater attention than necessary to the discussion on what rights the irregular migrants should be entitled to.
"It must, instead, focus more on how to facilitate regular migration. This needs to be corrected. We strongly urge the co-facilitators to rework and rearrange the narrative in the draft Global Compact to highlight the overwhelming positive contribution of international migration upfront in the document and be provided adequate space in the text, he said.
He said that the Global Compact negotiations are taking place against a difficult backdrop of large movements of refugees fleeing armed conflicts in different parts of the world.
They come at a time when there is a growing "angst" among sections of people in many developed economies who are unable to adapt effectively to the uneven impacts of integration of economies, and the rapid pace of technological change leading to changes in various economic sectors, he said.
"Both these situations have contributed to a rise in nationalist sentiments in many parts of the world, especially the developed economies, that is feeding a certain anti-immigrant narrative.
"This negative sentiment has, unfortunately, clouded the deliberations on this Global Compact. We need to change this narrative, especially at the UN,"
Lal also added that nations recognize hundreds of examples of foreign-born scientists, inventors, businesspersons, artistes, sportspersons, authors, academics, doctors and political leaders who have made an indelible mark not only on societies where they lived but globally.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)