The migration debate in Norway focuses on Norwegian asylum policy and says little about the diversity of reasons causing people to migrate. The perspective should be expanded, because migration is about some of the most central questions of our time: the need for labour, financial and democratic development, trade, integration, human rights and community security.
At the moment it is estimated that there are approximately 200 million people who have lived outside their home country for more than a year. A common designation for them is migrants. Migration, immigration and emigration, cover both voluntary and forced movement, legal and illegal. Students, construction workers, asylum seekers, directors in international companies and illegal migrant labour are all part of the international migration picture.
Increasing globalisation with growing travel activity, internationalisation of the education system and increased international trade give more and more people the opportunity and need to reside outside their home country periodically. Other important reasons for migration are conflicts and poverty, which sends millions of people fleeing or in search of a better life.
Experience shows that people will move, regardless of whether states attempt to close their borders or not. In this reality, one must attempt to manage and handle migration in the best possible way in order to take advantage of the benefits and minimalise the negative effects of migration.
In October 2005 The Global Commission for International Migration (GCIM) published its final report Migration in an interconnected world: New directions for action, written on commission by the UN (www.gcim.com
). The report concludes that international society has neither been able to realise the potential nor grasped the challenges which lie in international migration. The Commission is looking for a greater coherence in the migration policy on a national, regional and global level. The report leads up to a high-level dialogue on international migration and development in the UN General Assembly in the Autumn of 2006.
There is a clear connection between migration and development. This becomes clear when one looks at the contribution made by migrants to economic growth in their home country. It is estimated that migrants' registered financial transfers to their country of origin is in the region of USD 150 billion per year. In addition, it is estimated that unofficial transfers can be in the region of USD 300 billion per year. The registered transfers alone amount to nearly three times as much as official development aid. In addition, migration leads to the circulation of knowledge and expertise.
The past five years have seen considerable changes in the EU's migration policy and handling, and there are warnings of even greater changes in the years to come. With the Hague programme, which was adopted in November of 2004, the EU countries have set a definite watershed. From now on they will not only cooperate on asylum and immigration policy, but in the whole of the field of migration. The programme outlines a vision for the future regarding a common policy on asylum, a common approach to labour immigration, common return policy and improved border controls and partnership with refugee-producing states by 2010.
The changes which are taking place in the EU are relevant for Norway because we are affected by developments in the EU through the Schengen agreement. This was the theme at the UDI's spring conference in 2005, EU's asylum and immigration policy undergoing change – what consequences will this have for Norway?
A central theme concerning migration to Europe is the need for labour. Prognoses show that the EU's labour force will be reduced by 20 million by 2030. At the same time, the number of elderly will increase drastically. This could have serious consequences for the economic development in our part of the world. Therefore, there is discussion on whether one should establish a more pro-active system for labour immigration within the EU.