Migration is a continuous process that has been the subject of political debate worldwide. Migration has shown an unbroken upward trend, be it of people who have left their homelands voluntarily for economic or other reasons, or of those who have been forced to leave their homes (refugees, displaced persons, etc.). Managing human mobility is one of the greatest challenges for destination countries worldwide, in developed and developing countries. This is further exacerbated in cities where migrants typically seek a better quality of life. The causes and routes of migration flows for different types of migration are difficult to distinguish, posing difficulties for governments. With refugees protected by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and voluntary migrants admitted into destination labour markets through the sovereign decision of host countries, governments need to plan for different types of migrants accordingly.
This report focuses on the state of migration (internal and international, voluntary and involuntary) and attempts to highlight the different types and causes of migration in the world today. Migration trends, both internal and international, are presented, along with global migration projections. The number is expected only to increase, from an estimated 244 million international migrants in 2015. Internal migration is three times that of international migration (763 million according to the latest official estimates), affecting the lives of far more people, although it is given much less attention in political debates and planning processes.
Migrants overwhelmingly settle in cities once they arrive in their destination country. Yet the statistics on the number of migrants in cities are limited, particularly those pertaining to developing economies where such information could feed into urban planning to better prepare cities to manage migration. Cities address the immediate needs of migrants and respond to some of the challenges of integration. Given the projected increases in urbanization and migration, cities will continue to play an integral part in human mobility in the next few decades. Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General (2007-2016), United Nations, at the 2013 High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development
Although the key role of cities as first responders to migration is uncontested, they are in general far from adequately involved in national and international migration decisions. With a high volume of migrants arriving in cities, city leaders are faced with the challenge of providing vital urban infrastructure and services to meet the needs of the migrant population. This includes affordable and social housing, quality education and health services, simple access to basic utilities (water, power, etc.), robust and congestion-free roads and transportation infrastructure as well as, finally, ensuring integration and social cohesion for the increased diversity.
As part of this study, we reached out to 68 cities across the world to capture their story on migration. Of these, 22 volunteered to contribute to the initiative. Stories from these cities reveal they are under pressure to provide affordable and social housing for their population; the wait time in cities like Paris is over 10 years. The health services of most cities also require personnel and infrastructure improvements, while the education sector faces challenges related to migrants not speaking the language of the host city or country. Access to the labour market is a particular challenge for cities, like Amman, that host many undocumented migrants or refugees. Finally, integration and social cohesion is a big concern for city leaders in developed countries, as witnessed by Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and Berlin who have the most initiatives focusing on integration and social cohesion.
Housing – Housing should be viewed as a human right, and can open avenues to repurpose vacant spaces, apartments or underutilized buildings. Innovative methods and alternative materials for the construction of safe and affordable housing for migrants can go a long way to address its affordability in cities.
Education and employment – City stakeholders can foster innovation and promote unconventional methods of providing education to migrants and their children. Educational institutions and employers need to partner on initiatives addressing the career development of migrants, bridge the gap between formal education and labour market access, and raise awareness among employers and civil society organizations on working with migrants, supported by appropriate investments in building infrastructure, including academic institutions, innovation centres and industrial parks, cultural institutions, healthcare institutions, etc. Cities must take measures to avoid segregation in schools, which could result in community clusters. Further, as fostering migrant entrepreneurship can help the local economy, cities should ease the administrative and regulatory burdens of starting a business and provide training and mentoring support to entrepreneurs.