International Migration

In 2017, there were over 62 million migrants in countries of the ESCAP region, and almost 102 million migrants from ESCAP countries living outside their countries of birth, 40 per cent of all migrants in the world. These figures include labour migrants, refugees, and students engaging in temporary or permanent migration, both within the region and beyond.

Well-managed migration can be a key driver of sustainable development: countries of destination to benefit from migrants’ skills and fill gaps in their labour forces, while communities in countries of origin can benefit from the remittances sent by migrants, and the links they create between countries of origin and destination.

However, maximizing these potential benefits and minimizing the potential negative impacts of migration remains a challenge in the Asia-Pacific region. Much migration in the region is irregular, resulting in migrants being vulnerable to abuse of their rights and exploitation. This not only harms migrants themselves, but all members of society.

Recognizing these challenges, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for member States to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”. To meet this target, States will work to ensure that the laws, regulations and procedures governing migration respect the rights of migrants and meet labour market needs efficiently, while building their capacity to implement these reforms.

International migration being a cross-border issue, work at the national level can be complemented through regional cooperation among countries of origin and those of destination so that migration meets the needs of all. As the intergovernmental platform for the Asia-Pacific region, ESCAP aims to support this process of dialogue and cooperation to meet this target. It supports preparations for and follow-up to global conferences related to international migration such as the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development and the International Conference on Population and Development. It also directly supports regional and global dialogue initiatives such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

Priorities include advocating for ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families and enhancing the knowledge and evidence-base related to international migration in the region through producing reports such as the Asia-Pacific Migration Report. ESCAP also provides technical support to governments to strengthen their capacity in this field provides advice on appropriate policies to harness the benefits of migration while mitigating its costs.

As part of its coordinating role in the Asian and Pacific region, ESCAP also co-chairs the Asia-Pacific Regional Thematic Working Group on Sustainable Societies with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The Working Group, comprising 16 United Nations regional entities, works together to ensure a coherent United Nations system response to sustainable development-related population and development issues, including international migration.