Richard Bourne, Trustee of the Ramphal Institute and a Vice President of the Royal Commonwealth Society, examines the challenges facing the Commonwealth as it strives to contain and reduce undocumented migration, both external and internal, and recommends a multiple approach.
In September 2016, at a panel meeting in New York in the wings of the UN General Assembly, the Commonwealth Secretary-General was asked to create a strategy to end irregular migration and agreed to do so. This may be the toughest assignment Patricia Scotland takes on in her term of office.
Why is this such a difficult task? The International Organization for Migration (IOM, http://www.iom.int) defines irregular migration as “movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving countries. There is no clear or universally accepted definition of irregular migration. From the perspective of destination countries it is entry, stay or work in a country without the necessary authorisation or documents required under immigration regulations. From the perspective of the sending country the irregularity is for example seen in cases in which a person crosses an international boundary without a valid passport or travel document, or does not fulfil the administrative requirements for leaving a country.”
Hence there is a problem of definition. Not all land borders are policed, and some are lengthy. There is therefore also a question of scale. As with fraud and international crime, what lies outside regulation cannot be measured accurately. It can only be estimated. Currently in the UK, with a population of over 64 million in 2013, academic estimates of the ‘irregular’ population of migrants range from around 500,000 to the one million of Migration Watch, which lobbies against largescale immigration…
Trustee of the Ramphal Institute and a Vice President of the Royal Commonwealth Society