I was invited by the Bangladesh High Commission, London, to speak at a meeting celebrating International Migrants Day. It was encouraging to participate in an event hosted by a foreign embassy in London marking International Migrants Day. I had previously wondered why, despite the existence of numerous national and international organisations in London – including our own, this day passes silently every year.
The Bangladesh High Commission of course deserves credit for this initiative – it was a welcome departure from foreign embassy ambassadorial parties that are usually reserved for hobnobbing with the higher echelons of society. I was feeling rather proud and encouraged by this progressive initiative by the representative of my country of origin and hence impulsively at the outset of my speech congratulated and praised His Excellency, the High Commissioner of Bangladesh and his staff for such an excellent endeavour.
The meeting was chaired by the High Commissioner himself and started with a detailed power point presentation by an official of the High Commission explaining the background, the meaning and importance of International Migrants Day. Many aspects that I had prepared for my speech were covered in this presentation. Therefore, I decided to be more succinct and made the following points in my deliberation:
Importance of migration in the globalised world
Migration is not a new phenomenon and for generations migrants have made an immensely positive contribution to Britain economically, socially and culturally. In the 21st century, the era of globalisation, young enterprising people are crossing borders to further their aims, bringing benefit to themselves and the economies they work within. In the light of this I emphasised the importance of managed progressive migration policy in the present world.
I highlighted economic benefits of migration by citing various undisputed evidence. In Britain migrant workers per capita produce more than native workers (at a ratio of 1:1.5) and therefore help create prosperity for all. Migrant workers also help fill skill gaps, for example, the NHS would have collapsed without foreign health professionals.
I also explained that all research from national and international organisations (such as the World Bank) point to the fact that international migration has created a “win-win” economic benefit for both migrant producing and receiving countries. In this respect I cited examples that migrant workers worldwide remitted to their countries of origin an estimated $351 billion this year, whereas the total overseas development aid from world’s rich countries to impoverished developing countries in 2010 amounted to the half of that amount, around $128 billion.
I added that international students contribute to the British economy and academic institutions estimate that contribution to be around £40 billion a year, £6 to £8 billion in fees alone. Therefore the economic benefits of migration in the globalised world are enormous and these should be celebrated with pride.
JCWI’s role in fighting for migrants rights in the UK
I then highlighted the history and work of JCWI. Stating examples of our strategic policy, campaign and case work successes ranging from abolition of the heinous virginity test on female spouses from the Sub-continent in 1979 to more recently this year our victory in the Supreme Court to achieve equality of marriageable age of 18 for non EU spouses and civil partners. The human rights aspect of immigration debate has been central to our work at JCWI.
Current campaigns for migrant rights in the UK
I then turned to the current British Government’s political ambition to bring down net inward migration to tens of thousands. This policy is driven at the behest of irresponsible tabloid propaganda and to satisfy the anti migrant populist lobby. The Government is powerless to control EU migration. Therefore they are concentrating on limiting non-EU migration and have been busy introducing barriers such as the language test for non EU spouses and civil partners and are currently considering proposals to increase the income threshold for sponsors to bring their spouses and families to the UK to further deny chances for people to reunite with loved ones.
I also covered the prohibitive fee hike for immigration and nationality applications. These restrictive and discriminatory measures are bound to infringe migrant rights in the UK and therefore I urged those present to work together to preserve rights of migrants and to achieve equal rights for all in our society irrespective of their background.
I ended my speech by echoing the UN Secretary General’s, Excellency Ban Ki-moon, statement on the International Migrants day, he said:
“I urge the very many states that have yet to do so to ratify the International Convention on the protection of Rights of All migrant Workers and their Families. I also call on parties to the convention to step up their efforts to help realise the rights guaranteed in the Convention. The irregular situation of many international migrants should not deprive them either of their humanity or their rights. Together, let us reaffirm the fundamental principle of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.
I emphasised the Secretary General’s statement calling for the rights of all migrants, including irregular migrants, to be respected.