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    Tuesday, October 3, 2023

    New UN Chief Embarks on First Official trip to Africa

    Says private sector desperate to take migrants despite negative narrative

    The new head of the United Nation’s migration agency will visit Africa on her first official trip on Sunday to highlight the scale of migration happening around the continent.

    Amy Pope, the first woman elected to lead the International Organization for Migration (IOM), will then head to Brussels as the 27-member European Union (EU) bloc deals with a recent influx of migrant arrivals in Italy.

    The American, who assumed duty on Sunday, will visit headquarters of African Union in Addis Ababa, before meeting Ethiopian officials. She will then travel to Kenya and Djibouti.

    “Over 80 per cent of the migration takes place in Africa,” Pope said at a press briefing in Geneva, at a time when attention is particularly focused on migrants trying to reach Europe.

    She also spoke of the large number of African migrants heading for the Gulf, highlighting “very, very troubling reports” about their treatment there.

    “Ensuring that there is better protection and access for migrants to services in that context is important.

    “The evidence is overwhelming that migration benefits economies,” Pope went on, citing its role in “fueling renovation or revitalization of ageing communities,” while providing manpower and innovation.

    “IOM must begin to engage these partners who recognise the benefits of migration and demonstrate to our member states how that can work in a very pragmatic way, rather than in a political way.”

    She however added that the private sector is desperate for their countries to take in migrants to mop up labour shortages, especially in the West endeavouring to steer a narrative away from reticence and suspicion about migrants.

    Pope played up the economic benefits of migration for rich nations with aging populations and declining workforces in the face of build-the-wall rhetoric in the United States to block migrants from Latin America.

    “We hear from the private sector globally, but especially in Europe and North America, that they are desperate for migration in order to meet their own labour market needs and in order to continue to fuel innovation within their own companies,” she said.

    She said the evidence was fairly overwhelming that migration benefits economies by filling jobs, powering innovation or fuelling the renovation or revitalisation of aging communities.

    “Migration, on the whole, is a benefit. That’s not to say that the rhetoric around migration reflects the fact that it is a tremendous benefit.

    But critics insist such policies are likely to encourage migrants to flock to the United States, and say they take manual and blue-collar jobs and put downward pressure on wages.

    Pope insisted that countries must ensure legal and proper pathways to migration, a longstanding call by UN institutions.

    The difference today is that 30 of the biggest economies have experienced very significant labour shortages and we are seeing it everywhere, she said, adding that agriculture, construction, health care and hospitality were among the sectors affected.

    Pope said her first trip abroad in the job will be to East Africa, where drought and the impacts of climate change have driven many to flee. She said 80 per cent of African migrants stay in Africa, and said her job was not to focus just on south-to-north migration, which I know occupies a lot of the political space and a lot of the print space.

    She pointed to shrinking humanitarian aid budgets, the need to draw in the private sector into the conversation to support migration, and signs that migration is set to continue to grow.

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