Immigrants are good - UN

2006-06-30 19:59

Rome - A United Nations conference on migration has closed with a call to countries to take advantage of the economic boost that immigrants offer and not consider them a burden.

"Migration is not going to stop," said Hania Zlotnik, head of the UN population division, on Friday. "There are many good measures that can be taken to take advantage of this phenomenon."

The three-day conference in the northern Italian city of Turin brought 300 experts and national delegates together to discuss immigration policies.

The discussions are preparation for a high-level meeting on migration and development at the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

"International migration, if managed properly, can be an important source of development for immigrants' countries of origin and for those they travel to," said Zlotnik.

The number of international migrants reached 191 million in 2005 - up from 175 million in 2000. About 60% of them live in the developed world.

Immigrants sent home $173bn in 2005

UN officials say they are not pressuring rich nations to accept more people but are trying to clear common misconceptions about migration and highlight its advantages.

"We realise the decision to admit someone is a sovereign decision and each nation must decide for itself whether migration is more or less desirable," said Zlotnik.

Documents prepared for the conference said immigrants in developed countries were filling a growing labour void, caused by falling birth rates.

Without an influx of workers the developed world would see a 22% decline in its labour force.

At the same time, the economies of developing countries benefit from the money sent home by migrant workers - an amount estimated at $173bn for 2005.

Although the exodus of talent toward richer countries can have a negative impact, found the conference, this is later compensated by the migrants' return or investment in their home countries to establish successful businesses.