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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 253
September 2, 2006

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Migrants' security

Sadia Samad

Ideas and thoughts on security have been changing over the years. Much has changed in the concept of security in the post cold war period. Traditional security thought is very much about geo-politics, deterrence, power balance and military strategy, and state remains the centre concern of this perspective. However, a new school of security studies focuses primarily on non-military challenges to security that includes economic security, security against environmental degradation, HIV-AIDS, drug trafficking, migratory pressures, ethnic conflicts, arms smuggling, sea piracy and others. Non-traditional security (NTS) also acknowledges that a majority of challenges are transnational with regard to their origins, conception and effects. In both analytical and policy terms, NTS incorporates the state as a primary referrent object of security but also moves beyond it by incorporating other referrent objects like human collectivities. Professor Amitav Acharya, Deputy Director and Head of Research of the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore was speaking on Theoretical Construct of Securitisation at the regional workshop organised by the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) on 21-22 August 2006 at the BRAC Centre Inn to mark the conclusion of a project on Population Movements: Non-traditional Issue in South Asian Security Discourse that was supported by the Ford Foundation.

In some quarters migration has been perceived as a source of insecurity to some state and society. For this reason migration is being brought into the security discourse. The speakers at the workshop expressed the view that increased securitisation of migration in post 9/11 world has contributed to undermining human security of migrants in many parts of the world. They stated that there was no empirical evidence to support claims that migrants are linked to terrorism and other crimes. In this workshop eight research papers were presented by the scholars of different South Asian countries depicting different scenarios of migration in the region. Each of the research studies focused on a particular aspect of migration in the South Asian region. The researches that were carried out areMigration and Non-traditional Threats to State Security: The Case of Karachi, Perceived Bangladeshi Domestic Workers in Delhi , Migration for Livelihood between India and Nepal , Human Security of Trafficked in Persons of South Asia, Bangladeshi Workers in Irregular Status, Migration from India and Neighbouring Countries: Nature, Dimensions and Policy Issues, Experiences of Return from Italy in Irregular Sri Lankan Migrants. The participants in the workshop acknowledged that South Asian borders are prone to migration. Cross-border movement is a very common phenomenon between the countries.

Professor Rehman Sobhan in his address as chair of one of the sessions stated geographical affinity of the border although encouraging cross border migration but the labours have demands in the receiving countries due to various reasons. He also suggested that the labour sending countries could collaborate with each other to ensure better protection of the migrants as there is a demand for labours from across the border in different types of professions. The workshop addressed that international migration is growing at the rate 3 percent of the world's population or about 175 million persons (WB 2006) per year and $167 billion has been transferred to developing countries as remittances in 2005 up 73 percent from 2001. In this context migration has become an important factor in the process of globalisation. At the concluding ceremony of the workshop Foreign Secretary Mr. Hemayetuddin was the chief guest who stated that migration should not be viewed as a zero-sum game, rather, “we should focus on the positive-sum aspect of migration creating a win-win situation for both sending and receiving states.” He also stated that a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society can foster greater understanding and tolerance. The linkages between migration, remittances and economic development are more than obvious and by the same token, there is positive correlation between economic development and security, the foreign secretary noted.

Mr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director, Transparency International, Bangladesh and advisor to the NTS also underscored the need to re-visit the concept of security. He stated that the current reality demands more attention to the fulfilment of human security.

The author is Programme Officer, RMMRU.


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