Canada seen as global leader in immigration policies
Published Monday, October 5, 2009 8:29PM EDT
Canada is a model to the rest of the world of how to accept new immigrants and migrant workers, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Programme.
Canada is among a small group of nations that has generally fair and open immigration policies, the report contends, that benefit both prospective immigrants looking for a new home, and our own labour force.
"All Canadians can be proud of what the report says about Canada," says David Morrison, the executive secretary of the United Nations Capital Development Fund.
The report, entitled "Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development," argues that immigration should be viewed not as a scourge, but as beneficial to both the countries that migrants move to and the ones they leave behind.
And as populations age, wealthy countries are likely to face an increase in demand for expatriate labour as they pull out of recession, the report notes.
"There are 1 billion people on the move and that number is going to grow as we look to the future," Morrison explained to Canada AM Monday. "So the report argues that migration is a process to be managed rather than problem to be solved."
Morrison says there are many reasons why people choose to say goodbye to their home countries, either for good or to find temporary work.
"Some are pushed by wars, famines, natural disasters and the like. But overwhelmingly, if you look historically, people are pulled to other places by a chance of a better life," he said.
The report notes that many nations make it both difficult to leave and difficult for new immigrants to enter. The costs of moving from Vietnam to Japan, for example, are six times the annual income per capita.
"In one in 10 countries, the costs of a passport are about 10 per cent of the money you could expect to make on an annual basis," Morrison said. "So just preparing to become a legal migrant can be burdensome, which is why we have so many people migrating through illegal channels."
While receiving countries may think such restrictions control immigration, they can have the unintended effect of encouraging illegal border crossings and human trafficking, the report notes.
Canada, on the other hand, is much more welcoming, and has generally fair immigration policies.
"The report really singles out Canada as a model as a receiving country," Morrison said.
"Canada is historically a very open country. It is a country based on immigration to a very great extent. Today, Canada is one of the most open countries to migration in the world and accepts a large number of migrants each year, both on a permanent basis and as temporary workers. It also accepts a large number, per capita given Canada's population size, of asylum seekers," he said.
Of course, all countries want to regulate who comes into their countries and the report does not advocate open borders, Morrison noted. But migrants can fill labour demands in receiving countries. And countries from where migrants leave can benefit as well, since income is often sent back home.
"In many cases, this is in the form of cash -- remittances -- but the families of migrants may benefit in other ways too. These 'social remittances', as they are called, include reductions in fertility, higher school enrolment rates and the empowerment of women," the report says.
The 217-page report puts forward a six-point package calling for opening up existing channels to more workers and pulling down the "paper wall" and cutting the bureaucratic red tape that can hinder migration.
The report also argues for measures to ensure migrant worker protection and rights once they arrive in a new country, noting that many face limited access to government services, as well as widespread discrimination and vilification.
"The report argues that migrants should have the same access to health and education -- if they arrive legally -- that citizens do. And Canada is again singled out in that regard for what it offers migrants once they arrive," Morrison said.
The UNDP's Human Development Report issues "agenda-setting analyses" to call international attention to the issues and challenges of development. In previous years, the Report has focused on climate change and the global water crisis.