Introduction Introduction Chapter 5 Chapter 5
Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Notes for Indicators Notes
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Chapter 1 The Good, The Bad, The Promising:
Migration in the 21st Century

A World on the Move

Unequal Opportunities in a Globalizing World

Between a Rock and a Hard Place:Irregular Migration

Forced Migration: Refugees and Asylum-seekers

Harnessing Hope: International Migration, Remittances and Developent

Burden or Boon? Impact on Receiving Countries

Migrant Health

Beyond Difference: Living with Diversity

Beyond Difference: Living with Diversity

A recent UN study shows that the proportion of countries that want to reduce international migration has declined, from 40 to 22 per cent between 1996 and 2005.(133)This is an encouraging sign. Despite numerous controversies, governments and communities are increasingly recognizing the value of international migration. Indeed, several recent analyses agree that, despite drawbacks, cross-border migration can result in substantial benefits—for migrants and for countries of origin and destination.(134)Since migration is, at least in principle, a necessity and a boon for both sides, why is it such a contentious issue? Why are so many nations increasingly focused on restricting immigration?

This is a sensitive issue. The real problem may lie less with the usually cited economic obstacles (most of which can be minimized with appropriate policies) than with social barriers, cultural and ethnic clashes and the growing spectre of escalating public hostility towards immigration in receiving countries.

In much of the 19th and 20th centuries, "assimilation" meant that migrants were often pressured to surrender their identity–that is, deposit their cultural baggage at the destination country door. In the US, for instance, immigrants–quite independently of their origin–were encouraged to become "Americanized" and were given assistance to do so.(135)In the latter part of the 20th century, however, this cultural steamroller approach became untenable, and policymakers began to embrace multiculturalism: the idea that all citizens adopt a common set values and ideals while, at the same time, maintaining their ethnicity and culturally distinctive beliefs in the private sphere.(136)

Ideally, as defined by Canada, "[M]ulticulturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging."(137)In practice, however, multiculturalism has been interpreted in many ways and has been applied in a variety of country contexts, with varying degrees of success and failure.(138)Many fear that mass migration is threatening the very concept of the nation-state. The notion of a national community based on ancestral lineage and cultural heritage is similarly being challenged. Moreover, practical difficulties in the implementation of multiculturalism–i.e., those related to the dominant language and culture in the host society—has prompted considerable backlash from both extreme right and mainstream commentators, especially in Europe.(139)On the other hand, the "ghettoization", or marginalization–socially, culturally, economically, politically and even spatially–of some migrant communities from mainstream society only serves to widen intercultural misunderstandings while, at the same time, thwarting integration.

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Regardless, the tensions witnessed in many immigrant-receiving countries are unquestionably real and are likely to increase as international migration inevitably expands under globalization. What can be done? The presence of sustained, participatory integration policies; representation of migrants' interests and rights by civil society organizations; and cooperation between source and destination countries are key factors determining integration outcomes. Approaches will inevitably vary. What may work in countries that were founded on immigration–such as Australia, Canada and the US–may not for nations characterized by common language, custom and culture that stretch back hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Moreover, some migrant communities are more open to integration than others–depending on religious, cultural and educational affiliation. In all situations, dispelling the myths that fuel discrimination and bolster xenophobia while promoting intercultural understanding is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Whatever the specific approach, in a just society, we have to make it work.