IOM: Facebook and Twitter new drivers of migration

IOM Director General William Lacy Swing has said that an increasingly connected and mobile world, changing demographics, more frequent natural and man-made disasters – are contributing to a massive rise in migration.

Addressing an international conference on border management in Bangkok, Thailand, he said migration must be managed in a legal, regulated and responsible manner.

In a wide-ranging speech under the theme Travel and Reducing Risks through Effective Pre-Departure Data Management, Mr. Swing stressed that “migration is here to stay, make no bones about it.”

He underlined that “historically, migration has been overwhelmingly positive” in human development and stressed the need to work – in partnership – in a “whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach in the best interests of countries, communities and people, in particular migrants themselves.”

This would be ever more vital in a world where “the multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious country will be the norm rather than the exception,” he noted.

Mr. Swing continued that as airline passenger movement rises from 800 million journeys in 2009 to an expected 3.3 billion in 2014, another phenomenon is equally noteworthy: the growth of access to the internet from 300 million in 2000 to two billion today.

“One in three people in the world is connected,” he told the conference. “They know where the jobs are and the problems are. Facebook with 800 million users and Twitter with up to 600 million users have become drivers of global migration. And if we as IOM are not part of that dialogue then we are not doing our job.”

The mismatch in global labour demand and supply was a trend that would become more and more evident, Mr. Swing predicted, which underscored the necessity of a comprehensive global approach. “The growth in population will be in the poorest and youngest countries which cannot produce jobs. There will be more irregular migration and a propensity to make claims for asylum as a way to gain entry to labour markets.”

He cautioned against an approach which concentrated only on tighter visa regulations and closed borders which he said would “drive people into the hands of the great criminals of our day: the people smugglers and traffickers.”

Migration was also being influenced by natural and man-made disasters, declining birth rates in the developed world, as well as food, water and energy insecurity, said Mr. Swing. He cited the example of the Horn of Africa “where it is all happening at once. You have a scarcity of food and water, terrorism, insecurity and poor human rights.”

While welcoming the huge advances in technology and data management, which have allowed ever-increasing numbers of people to pass through borders, reduced queues at border choke points and facilitated the  interdiction of those of interest, Mr. Swing also cautioned on the need to protect personal information.

He quoted the figure of 15 million US citizens who are victims of identity theft every year. “Identity theft has been characterized as the world’s fastest-growing crime and costs Governments and taxpayers millions, if not billions, of dollars each year.”

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