Guest Speakers Orateurs Invites Oradores Invitados
Minister of Migration Affairs and Equality Between Women and Men, Sweden
Presidente de la Cornision Nacional de Repatriacion, Uruguay
A. KAPPEYNE Undersecretary of State for Social Affairs and VAN DE COPPELLO Employment, Ministry of Social Affairs,
MARIA MANUELA AGUIAR Secretaire dEtat aux CommunautCs portugaises, Portugal
LEARCO SAPORITO Member of the Commission of Constitutional Affairs of the Senate, Italy
GAETANO ADINOLFI Secretaire GCneral Adjoint, Conseil de 1Europe
ADEBAYO ADEDEJI * Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
* Statement read by Mr. C. Grey-Johnson, Economic Affairs Officer, Human Resources Development Section, Addis Ababa
MINISTER O F MIGRATION AFFAIRS AND EQUALITY BETWEEN WOMEN AND MEN,
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Director General, distinguished representatives, It is a great honour for me to have the privilege to address, for the third time, a seminar
arranged by the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration. It is also a particular pleasure for me to note that this important seminar is chaired by the Swedish Under-Secretary of State for Immigration, Mr. Jonas Widgren. At the last ICM seminar, in April 1983, we discussed Undocumented Migrants or Migrants in an Irregular Situation, a topic which has since then become of ever increasing concern to many countries. The topic for this seminar, Economic and Social Aspects of Voluntary Return Migration is an equally timely choice. As we have seen, return migration is of increasing importance to individuals as well as to countries concerned.
I would also like to say a word of appreciation of the documents prepared for this seminar. They contain a wealth of information and many interesting analyses, views and thoughts on the subject matter. They also spell out very aptly the many problems and dilemmas that we face with regard to return migration.
My own view on this complex subject matter is the following. We must, first and foremost, see to safeguarding the interests and wellbeing of the individuals involved in return migration. We are dealing here with people who are often vulnerable and exposed and perhaps filled with agony over the decision they are about to make. Humanitarian considerations must therefore have priority over crass economic interests of the state. It should be recalled that immigrants have contributed substantially in building our modem, industrial societies and that certain responsibilities follow thereof on the part of the host countries.
Similarly, our commitments to refugees, who have received a safe haven in our countries, should be ofa lasting nature. Even ifconditions in their country oforigin should be restored to normalcy, they should not feel compelled to break up and once more have to go through the process of getting settled. The return must be their own choice.
In short, what we are to deal with at this seminar is voluntary return migration. The reasons behind migratory and refugee flows are today increasingly complex and
intertwined. Denial of human rights, political instability, internal strife, natural calamaties, social and economic injustice and unemployment can all give rise to involuntary movements of people, and one cause often perpetuates the other. Those who are forced to leave their home and country have one thing in common: they all seek to escape an intolerable situation that their governments have been unable or unwilling to remedy.
It is therefore the duty of all governments represented here, and many others, to seek to eliminate all these underlying root causes in the adequate fora, within or outside the UN system. We must be able to convince all governments of their responsibilities towards their own people, with regard to human rights as well as to basic economic and social conditions. Where needed, all international support should be provided to help create the conditions where people can live in safety and dignity. Ifwe succeed in our endeavours, we will see a cessation of involuntary flows and also a voluntary return movement by those who have been driven away from their home countries.
It has been most encouraging to follow developments in the last few years in Latin America. Many people have been able to return as democratic regimes have come to power. I saw a glimpse of this process myself when I visited Uruguay about a year ago, right before the election that also formally installed democracy in that country. Those who return bring new ideas, experiences and knowledge, essential for the building of a new society. This must be borne in mind when we assume responsibility for refugees in our countries. What they are able to learn in exile about the functioning ofa democratic society is most certainly the best capital they can bring back to their countries of origin.
Sweden has during the post war period received over a million immigrants, refugees included. This means that some 12 per cent of the population in Sweden has been born abroad or has at least one parent of non-Swedish descent. Issues related to return migration to countries of origin have, generally speaking, played a subordinated role in the general Swedish policy debate on immigration and on the position of immigrants in society. This follows from the basic standpoint, established by the Government and the Parliament already in 1968, that the legal position of foreign workers in Sweden should not be made dependent on economic trends. This implies that a foreigner, who once has been given a residence permit, basically should enjoy the same rights as Swedes, and that those permits, for humanitarian and egalitarian reasons, should not be withdrawn during recessions. The notion offoreign workers as guest-workers was rejected already at the end of the 1960s. Thus, a State interest in promoting return migration factually takes place.
Furthermore, one of the basic principles of the Swedish immigration policy is freedom ofchoice. This means that immigrants domiciled in Sweden should have a genuine choice between assuming a Swedish cultural identity or retaining and developing their cultural identity. This is achieved, we believe, by assisting the immigrant in learning Swedish and in asserting himself on the Swedish labour market and, at the same time, help him preserve his original language and cultural or professional abilities which he has brought to Sweden.
Our basic attitude vis-a-vis return migration has been maintained in spite of a less favourable labour market situation and signs of xenophobia. The practice of offering a sum of money to immigrants as an inducement to return has consequently not been considered in Sweden. We fear that pressures of that kind may lead to hasty, uncontemplated decisions, resulting in disappointment and remorse and, possibly, a determination to emigrate a second time. A lot ofhuman suffering - and waste of resources - could be avoided if those who consider to return could be adequately informed about what they can realistically expect in their country of origin.
This special situation of returning migrants and refugee women has not received much attention, although their problems have been recognized. Returning women often do not work for pay to the same extent in the home country as in the receiving country. Available evidence from Europe shows that the participation of many groups of migrant women in the labour force is often higher than that of national females. But when they return, their participation rate drops, partly because unemployment is particularly high for women in most sending countries. Another important issue in this respect is the changes of attitudes
to sex roles due to emigration and return. Women, who have experienced greater personal possibilities in a receiving country may face difficulties upon return. This fact calls for sincere efforts to assure women the same rights and possibilities as male migrants and returnees. However, once that the decision to return has been made, however, host countries should assist in every way they can, for example in co-operating with the labour market authorities in the country of origin to see to it that the returnees get a proper job. Naturally, due consideration should always be given to the guidelines which have been developed in different international fora, obliging host and sending countries to act in migration policies whether by men or women, in order to see to it that the long term needs of the countries of origin be taken into account.
It is also often essential to support the country of origin in order to facilitate the reinsertion of the returnees. There is no standard pattern in administering such aid. Conditions in the varous countries vary a lot, and so do the priorities and policies of the countries concerned. Direct support to returnees may cause problems in relation to local inhabitants who have stayed behind and endured hardship but may be in equal, if not greater, need for rehabilitation. Ideally, returnee programmes should therefore be integrated in or planned to complement other development programmes in the area. We are encouraged to note the active participation of non-governmental organizations in this type of work. Given their flexibility, their field experience and motivation there would no doubt be further scope for operations of this kind, if funds are forthcoming.
As I mentioned a while ago, a lot ofthe ground work for a successful reinsertion could be made by the host country before the return. Many constructive ideas and concrete suggestions are in the documents before us. Not least important