Another report? Yes! Because we believe that the Belgian public debate and discourse on migration and development could be more balanced and should be based on reliable data. Via this publication we want to acknowledge the migrants’ vital contribution to our society’s development and well-being.
A DIVERSIFIED CONTRIBUTION
Literature is clear: migration contributes to the migrants’ country of residence as well as their country of origin’s economic development. The main effects are the following:
- more goods and services available on the Belgian market,
- an important source of labour – all the more important for bottleneck sectors and in a context of an ageing population,
- positive effects for the governmental finances – 0.8% of the Belgian GDP,
- more bilateral exchanges between Belgium and countries of origin,
- transfer of funds for countries of origin – in 2017, migrants sent about 4.16 billion euros from Belgium.
The migrants’ social contribution is fundamental as well, as migration allows ideas to circulate. That way, lots of financial transfers are used to fund education – especially girls’ education – in countries of origin. In doing so, migration contributes to gender equality.
At a political level, migration has a strong impact on the Belgian political atmosphere, as evidenced by the presence of Italian immigrants, but also by the increasing influence of first generation immigrants (and their descendants) of Turkish, Moroccan and Congolese origin.
To conclude, migration also shapes Belgium’s cultural identity. Numerous artists and athletes from diverse backgrounds – like the singer Stromae or some of the Red Devils’ soccer players, just to name a few – can influence the Belgian public stage.
A CONTRIBUTION DESPITE THE OBSTACLES
The report’s results illustrate the urgency to react to the obstacles that prevent migration – and the migrants themselves – to fully contribute to the development of Belgium.
The first obstacle refers to the lack of safe and legal pathways, both for migrants who want to work, study or live with their family, and for the persons who are eligible for a protection status (subsidiary protection or refugee). This explains why certain people have no other choice but to take informal routes. Some don’t make it, and others make it in a different way. “Only by respecting the migrants’ dignity – throughout the whole migration procedure – they can contribute to their own human development and the society’s development,” policy officer Elise Kervyn explains.
Some migrants’ basic needs are not being met. Because of a certain policy or practices it is difficult for migrants to live together with their family, to have qualitative and affordable housing, or to find a job where their rights are as much respected as those of who were born here. The reasons are diverse: administrative obstacles, lack of network, discrimination based on ethnics…
A COURSE TO BE PURSUED
Migrants need to have dignified living conditions in order to valorize migration’s potential. This necessity does not only meet a moral obligation. People who have to struggle every day to make ends meet, can hardly valorize their competences and knowledge so that society benefits from it. Our recommendations respond to these major concerns and aim to build a more just and solidarity-based society. These are the main recommendations:
- More safe and legal pathways
- To guarantee qualitative shelter for applicants and beneficiaries of international protection
- To protect the fundamental rights of all migrants
- To draw up and execute a policy that aims for a better integration of migrants
- To fight discrimination and xenophobia
- To support the migrants’ contribution to the countries of origin.
A PLACE FOR EVERYONE
This report emphasises Belgium’s needs and dependency regarding migration. Caritas International is convinced that our solidarity regarding migrants should not depend on the level of contribution. We believe indeed that everyone, educated or less educated, can contribute to the development of society if it provides them with the means and opportunities to do so.
You can read the full report here: OUR COMMON HOME:MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT IN BELGIUM.
This article was written as a part of the #whatishome campaign, in which we look for the link between migration and development. #whatishome is a three-year social media campaign, funded by the European Union, for development education and awareness raising (DEAR) as part of the MIND project. 11 countries and 12 Caritas organizations are taking part in this campaign. More information here. The content of this campaign is part of Caritas International’s responsibility and does not necessarily reflect the official points of view of the European Union.