The Strategic Impact of the Global Movement of People: A Conversation With the Council of Councils

Tuesday, May 21, 2024
Naseer Ahmed/REUTERS

Executive Director, Institute for Security Studies

President, Mexican Council on Foreign Relations

President, Council on Foreign Relations

Analyst, Global Issues Program, The Polish Institute of International Affairs


Donald G. Herzberg Professor of International Migration, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University; CFR Member

Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy and Council of Councils

Foreign policy institute leaders from around the world discuss the dynamics of global migration, including the importance of international cooperation in managing both the documented and undocumented movement of people.

The Council of Councils (CoC) is an international initiative created by the Council on Foreign Relations to connect leading foreign policy institutes from around the world in a dialogue on issues of global governance and multilateral cooperation. The CoC is composed of twenty-eight major policy institutes from some of the world’s most influential countries. It is designed to facilitate candid, not-for-attribution dialogue and consensus-building among influential opinion leaders from both established and emerging nations, with the ultimate purpose of injecting the conclusions of its deliberations into high-level foreign policy circles within members’ countries.


DONATO: OK. Hello and welcome. And thank you to everyone for joining us today. I want to welcome our panelists for the public session of the annual Council of Councils, a conference. So the Council of Councils is an international initiative to connect leading foreign policy—(audio break)—from the audience.  

So right here next to me, on my right, I have Fonteh Akum. He is executive director for the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa. 

And then Sergio—all the way to my right—Alcocer. He is president of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. 

Michael Froman, who is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations here in the United States. 

And then Stefania Kolarz. She is an analyst in the Global Issues Program at the Polish Institute of International Affairs.  

So let me begin. We have a variety of broad, guiding questions. I’d like to start with you, Akum, if that’s possible. Sort of the—one broad question that we have is how is the movement of people affecting politics, both in South Africa and in the—in the continent, perhaps. Talk about that as well from a human security and a conflict perspective. 

AKUM: Thank you very much, Katharine. And thanks again to the Council on Foreign Relations for convening us here.  

A number of—I think it’s worth starting with the context. On the 29th of May, South Africans go to the polls for general elections, in what have been described, in fact, as a referendum on thirty years of ANC governance in South Africa. During which, the promise of fighting poverty, reducing inequality, and providing jobs has gone largely unfulfilled, within an economy which the IMF actually projects in 2024 would be Africa’s largest economy, $373 billion in GDP. So this is the background.  

So the migration question is eminently economic in South Africa, one which is then instrumentalized by different political actors across the policy spectrum to garner the kinds of votes that they need to unseat the ANC, on one hand. But the ANC also finds itself in a position where it has to come out strong on migration, in order not to lose votes. So that kind of—that kind of politicization has led to three principal things.  

The first one is there was recently the publication of a white paper on citizenship, immigration, and refugees in South Africa, which actually looks to completely overhaul the migration system in the country. However, interestingly as well, it cites countries like the United States, Great Britain, and Switzerland, as examples of reducing privileges for migrants and kind of proposing an alternative pathway for South Africa. But that does not, unfortunately, address the fundamental questions of jobs, inequality, and unemployment. 

DONATO: Yeah. (Audio break)—number of serious challenges.  

So perhaps we can move to Sergio. And, you know, one primary concern that many countries around the world have is about unauthorized movement either through their countries or to their countries. So I was wondering if you could touch on the undocumented or unauthorized movement of people in the Americas, certainly in Mexico but also throughout the Americas. And then also perhaps, you know, to some extent, do you see any ties of that movement to the—to the skill level of migrants who are arriving? And to what extent is that linked to particular sectors in the—in the economies of countries, et cetera? 

ALCOCER: Well, first of all, thank you very much, Katharine, for the question. And thank you very much for the Council on Foreign Relations for the invitation. And certainly, immigration in Mexico is not only a domestic issue. It’s a foreign issue as well—it’s a foreign policy issue. And this is related to, of course, the United States. And any immigration that we have in Mexico becomes an immigration issue also for the United States, because most people that come to Mexico would like to come to the United States. (Audio break)—some subtle changes in the past few years. 

We have seen that in the past most people that were moved from Mexico to the U.S. were male people that wanted to come to the U.S. to work. And now we’re seeing more and more, 37 percent last year, being families. And not only from Mexican origin, from other nationalities. According to CBP, you are having 140 nationalities being present in the southern border. Not only Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorians, which have been the case for many years, or Mexicans—and still Mexicans are 30 percent of the encounters at the border. But now you’re seeing Senegalese, for example. We’re seeing Asians. We’re seeing Venezuelans.  

And that really brings a whole host of different attitudes towards immigration, not only vis-à-vis the Mexico-U.S. relation, but also within Mexico itself. Mexico receives about 48 million people in terms of tourism and so forth. And about 900,000 of them are a migrant from—illegal migrants, or undocumented migrants. Out of these, the largest number of migrants that come to Mexico, undocumented, are from Haiti. We have about 110,000 of those in Mexico, throughout Mexico. Just in Mexico City, we have about 45,000 Haitians living in different places. The challenges that we face are different—in different, say, dimensions.  

One of the challenges is the excess flow, which we are not prepared to tackle them. And that creates a real burden to the public services. In some cases we don’t have enough space in the shelters for these people to stay. So they live in—they live in places nearby the shelters, occupying public spaces and, of course, creating tensions with the neighbors. We don’t have enough space in some of the schools, although they are allowed to go to public schools. In some cases, they are not well informed that they can go to classes and take classes in public schools. And the same happens in the health sector.  

And we are seeing more and more xenophobic expressions against these populations based on the color, based on the nationalities, and also based on the idea that they are taking up jobs from the Mexican—from the Mexican labor. And they are taking that. They are pretty much unskilled laborers, and they don’t have the proper skills to have formal employment. So they are more in the informal sector of the economy. But they also create some challenges for the Mexican population.  

So we have seen this sort of pressure for undocumented immigration in Mexico. But also, we have also seen the challenges or the opportunities, I will say, that immigration will pose to Mexico and to the region, if we will take advantage of the immigration, if we will prepare, and provide more information, and better training to these people to include in the—in the economy. 

DONATO: Yeah. We’ll probably return to a few of these issues that we’re raising here, but let me then move and ask Michael to talk a little bit—since we’re talking about the Americas—if you could talk a bit about the movement of people into the U.S., and/or, you know, the political—the geopolitics—(laughs)—related to U.S. migration—whether it’s migrants, whether it’s refugees, people seeking asylum. 

FROMAN: Sure. Well, first of all, I want to thank my colleagues for joining this panel and thank our Council of Council participants from coming, literally, from all over the world in for the last couple of days. A really very productive session. So delighted to be able to do this public event to put the icing on the cake, so to speak.  

Look, we’ve seen an increase in migrants without authorization coming to the United States, largely from our southern border. As Sergio said, they’re not just from Mexico. They’re not just from the Northern Triangle countries. They’re from all over the region, and also from Asia, Africa, even Europe. And so it’s just become a vulnerable place for coming into the United States. And that’s become—and there are lots of reasons for it. There pull factors, there are push factors.  

On the pull side, the U.S. economy is doing relatively well. We have actually a shortage of labor. We have 1.4 open jobs for every person seeking a job right now. Wages have ticked up over the last few years, although inflation has also ticked up significantly. But it is—the economy is doing relatively well, compared to many other places around the world. And on the push factor, whether it’s the crisis in Haiti, or the continued decline of the Cuban economy, or in Venezuela, in the Northern Triangle whether its political—whether it’s violence in the communities or economic strains, that are having people leave for what is a very dangerous journey through the Darien Gap, through Mexico, to the U.S. border. It’s not something that one takes on lightly. It is really quite dangerous. We’re seeing both those push and the pull factors. 

Here in the U.S., it’s become a major political issue. It’s always been somewhat of a political issue but, quite interestingly, despite the fact that the economy’s doing well, despite the fact that we’ve got basically full employment and increased wages, there’s a lot—the immigration issue is among the top issues, and in some polls the number-one issue in the—(audio break)—a lot of migrants coming into their state, necessarily. But it’s still a very, very significant issue.  

I think yesterday we’ve had a presentation on sort of the evolving politics in the U.S. And there was a discussion of technology issues, and geopolitical and economic issues, and social issues. And this is one of those instances where, as some observers have noted, when people are feeling insecure, uncertain about their future, alienated sometimes from the system and institutions, they don’t necessarily move left economically, they move right socially and culturally. And we’re seeing that, I think, on the immigration side, where people become a bit more tribalist, a bit focused on their changing way of life, their changing nature of their communities, and longing for times when there wasn’t an influx of people from outside changing the nature of their—of their towns and cities. And so that’s playing itself out in the—in the politics as well. 

DONATO: Certainly is a complicated issue. And, as you suggest, you know, there are global consequences, there are national, and then very localized consequences in all parts of the world, frankly. 

Stefania, I’m wondering if you might be able to speak a bit on European—the kind of challenges in the European Union, the European context, that migration kind of brings to the contemporary landscape there. 

KOLARZ: So the context is very challenging. And first word that comes into mind of most of Europeans while thinking about migration is the security context. But we must remember that it’s not only EU policy, as such, but it’s also the story and the experience of twenty-seven member states. And those histories and experiences are very different. You cannot really compare Poland to Italy or Greece, because those twenty-seven member states are of different—are playing different roles in migration. So some of them started as countries of origin for economic migrations. Some of those are transit countries. Some of those—many of those—are destination countries. And the role of respective states was evolving during the time.  

Also, if you look at geography, the challenges on external EU borders are of different types. So in the south, you experience a lot of migration pressure, irregular one, but I would say grassroot driven. Whereas at the eastern border, you have state-organized by Belarus and Russia migration pressure on EU external borders. So you cannot really compare those histories. It’s very challenging to find common—well, shared solutions to this situation, because one country—the country bordering with first states, is responsible to some extent for the security and regularity of immigration for the whole Schengen zone.  

But it’s not only a matter of security. In fact, it’s also a question of human rights. So while facing those migration pressure, how to ensure treatment of people with dignity, with respect of their human rights, with respect of their right to private life, to family life. And how to shorten to the greatest possible extent the procedures, screening of people incoming. Because it’s also a huge issue on the level of procedure, but also, again, regarding the rights of incoming people—be those regular or irregular migrants.  

In addition to this, you have economic dimension, which is present both in intra-EU immigration but also to the EU. And on the top of that, you have dimension of your external actions. So you can use migration policy as stick or carrot, as we often say, in the EU. So when I talk about stick, first thing is sanction policies. So part of sanction packages is banning people from coming to the EU. And when we talk about incentives, it’s to reward some third-country partners and to build bridges between communities to enhance cooperation and to create some partnership that could be useful, both for our economy but also cultural exchange and security. Maybe I will stop here. 

DONATO: So, you know, I’m sitting here and I’m reflecting on—we have had the first twenty minutes on, you know, many of the deep challenges. And we certainly have a sense of, globally speaking, there are—there are deep challenges here with respect to the movement of people. At the same time, in all of these contexts—and usually in all of the contexts worldwide where people are on the move—there are things that are happening that—perhaps new initiatives, perhaps reviving old initiatives—you know, to lead to better predictions about how many people will come or to minimize the negative consequences.  

And so that’s how you ended. So I’m happy you ended there. And let me just say, of course, Poland in particular is facing a huge challenge with respect to the millions of Ukrainians who are coming through, and yet, you know, although that’s from a wartime situation, my travel there and my experience, my knowledge is that it’s—Poland has done an amazing job in registering people at a scale that countries much larger, like the United States, would be challenged to do right now.  

So I guess I want to go around again. If people could speak to either what is working, or new reforms, new initiatives, and/or how they think they can work? Because this is not a problem that doesn’t have solutions. The solutions are complicated because the politics around the issue is complicated. That’s my opinion. But there are real solutions out there. And they are making a difference in certain parts of the world. So I don’t know if, Fonteh, you feel like you can speak to that, or anyone really can freely answer this. 

AKUM: Absolutely. From the African context, there are three levels at which solutions could be applied. At the continental level, there’s an opportunity that’s provided by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to facilitate not just the movement of investment and capital, but also the movement of individuals. But the reflection there is there is a tendency for states to prefer capital to move and not people moving, despite the fact that there are twenty-one million African migrants on the continent itself.  

The second level is at the regional economic community level, where there’s a differentiated appreciation of the freedom of movement protocols. So you’d have a region like the Economic Community of West African States, where it’s commonplace to fly from country to country with an ID card. But then the Arab Maghreb Union has different sets of rules as well. And then the SADC region has different sets of rules, despite the fact that there is some the institutionalization of free movement within protocols.  

The third is at the national level. There needs to be a greater capacity to administer migration processes, including citizenship and refugees. And despite the existence of a continental protocol itself, the domestication of those protocols has proven a challenge. So there is the legal pathway. There is the pathway—that’s a political pathway. But there is also the socioeconomic pathway. And if all those are dealt with, then you move ahead. And then finally, though, there is the question about the extent to which you deal with the issue of movement at country of origin, by shifting the conditions. 

In the southern African context, for example, and South Africa particularly, a lot of the movement comes from Zimbabwe, where there is—there’s been a historical relationship there. But also two liberation movements in South Africa and Zimbabwe leading their countries, with different governance outcomes, creating these flows. So if South Africa took a greater role in actually addressing the governance challenges in Zimbabwe, then it might be a way of dealing with the movement as well. 

DONATO: Sergio. 

ALCOCER: Well, following the lines that Fonteh was mentioning, I think one of the challenges that we face in Latin America has to do with some of the structural issues that face most of the countries in Latin America. Very, very much related to inequalities. And also, the continent has become very violent. Latin America has about 9 percent of the population in the world. However, it holds 30 percent of the homicides in the world. And about—in terms of the educational level, two-thirds of Latin American students are not proficient enough for mathematics, and one half are not proficient enough for language—for reading. So we have significant breaches that we need to take over, to tackle. So we need to address the roots of this immigration, aside from political instability, aside from repression, and so forth. So if we don’t work together in cooperating those issues, then immigration is going to be there.  

And there is one component which is terrible in Latin America, which has to do with security and organized crime. Organized crime before was related to drug traffickers or drug trafficking. Now, they are very much involved in human smuggling and human trafficking. And so that’s another area of the business of these cartels. And these cartels, as Mike was mentioning, control the Darien. They are the ones that actually can facilitate the movement of people across the Darien in Panama. So that tells you that we should work together and cooperate in a more, I would say, targeted fashion. But really work together.  

Mexico on the U.S. have been working in Guatemala, trying to—and Honduras and Salvador, but most mostly in Guatemala. But what we have learned from a piece that working in COMEXI and the Wilson Center is that we work in separate ways trying to actually complement each other. Well, that doesn’t work. We need to actually develop communist strategies and have similar key performance indices so that we can really tackle, I wouldn’t say solve the immigration problem, but better manage the immigration. That, of course, is a human phenomena. But it has some social roots. But we could use that as a benefit, as I said, for our economies, for our own countries. 


FROMAN: Maybe I could just build on that, because I think there’s—from the U.S. perspective there’s been some good news and some not-so-good news. I think the good news side, as Sergio said, there’s been an effort to look at the root causes of migration. And Vice President Harris launched an effort focused on Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and the economic dimensions of it, and how to mobilize private sector interest in a way in that in those countries to help create economic opportunity so that people, at least, aren’t being pushed because of their economic situation. There still are security situations, crime situations, things of that sort—corruption, other issues—(audio break)—in terms of mobilizing billions of dollars of commitments by U.S. companies into—(audio break)—and financial inclusion, other efforts to try and make it a more hopeful economic situation there. 

I thin on the less-good side, from the U.S. perspective, you know, we have last year of the 2.4 million people who showed up without authorization, about 400,000-500,000 were applying for asylum. And it may take up to three years for their cases to be heard. And that kind of backlog is really very discouraging. And when you look globally, it’s sort of unnecessary. And here, I just would like to commend our European colleagues, because while there’s been a reaction against migration politically in a number of countries—Netherlands, even Sweden, which have traditionally been quite open and quite liberal when it came to immigration, you’ve seen millions of migrants into Europe from Africa, from Syria, Iraq, and now from Ukraine over the last two and a half years.  

And as a general matter, Europe has processed those migrants in a much more efficient way, and integrated them into societies much better than we have in the U.S. There is some effort in the U.S., and there’s been proposals by the administration to put more money into the asylum processing and into the processing more generally, which hopefully will speed things up. And there’s been some progress in communities around the U.S., in various nonprofit organizations, of how to accept and integrate migrants into local communities, which is really quite inspiring. But we have a long way to go, given the numbers that we face and the numbers that have been faced in Europe and elsewhere.  

DONATO: Agreed. Stefania. 

KOLARZ: So you mentioned the bullish reaction to refugee crisis provoked by Russian aggression in Ukraine. So what was working, and I think to some extent still is, is solidarity among Polish society and Ukrainian one. So there was a lot of initiatives that were grassroots initiatives of Polish civil society. And I think that was the key of our response to this massive income of migrants to Poland. Obviously, the government also did the job changing laws and adapting to the situation, but first and foremost the level of accommodation. The whole credit should be attributed to people in Poland.  

So on this level, solidarity works well. I would be more concerned about solidarity, including Poland, on EU level. When we were negotiating the new pact on migration and asylum, Poland was one of the state of three states that voted against. So you see that the need for pan-European regulation is there. But still, you can accept millions of Ukrainian refugees, but still have some reservation to pan-European solutions, which assume a solidarity responsibility for migrants. 

What also worked, especially in the beginning of the crisis provoked by Russia and Belarus on our eastern borders, was having European backup in many countries of origin of migrants that were instrumentally brought on our borders. Because no doubt that Poland, or Lithuania, or Latvia do not have that strong connections with those countries of origin that some of EU states have, or EU delegations in the world have. So there was a huge amount of help to negotiate, to present our point of view with the countries of origin, to somehow stop or at least limit the inflow of migrants used by Russia or Belarus.  

So, I think it was very important development, showing that—the importance of being a member of the EU. And depending on the other criteria you use to measure success or—of the reaction. A few weeks ago—well, a few days ago, we adopted the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum. As I mentioned, three out of twenty-seven states were against. But still, the reform is here. So now it’s for us to see how it will work. But we came to some solutions and changes in our system. 

DONATO: Yeah. I mean, I will point out, I mean, so much variation just represented by the four of you in terms of how the world and how countries and regions are managing migration. I will point out, though, that there really are ways to do this. And Europe does stand out as a continent that has managed it fairly well, despite a number of challenges, right, in the last twenty years. I will, however, say that in the U.S. context and in the Americas context, but especially in the U.S., that a lot of change to our system has to come through Congress. So that has been an obstacle for the United States to get enough—you know, a consensus in Congress to get something done. But actually what to do, I would—I would say we have models around the world of what can help minimize the stress that comes from all of the mismanagement, right? Whether it’s intended or not.  

So right now, I’d like to open up the floor to questions. You have a sense of our speakers and what they are, and perhaps my, expertise is. So please raise your hand and we would be happy to answer your questions. There’s a microphone, so. 

Q: Hi. Good afternoon. My name is Jalina. I’m a term member here at CFR, also an alum of the CFR congressional program spearheaded by the amazing Patrick Costello. Thank you so much for being here.  

My question is actually, for Sergio. I actually just wrapped up a bipartisan delegation to Mexico City, like, literally a few days ago, with the American Council on young political leaders and sponsored by U.S.-Mexico Foundation. And so on this trip we had amazing meetings with local politicians and business leaders. And it was interesting to hear what their priorities were for their upcoming elections. But we had one meeting that stood out from the rest, and that was with the chief of staff at IOM. And, candidly, our feedback—and as, of course, the backlog was already mentioned. But the feedback was that the challenge resides with the United States, as far as this, you know, migration issue. 

You know, obviously, from the backlog turns into, you know, forced illegal labor, lots of violence against women and children, and just keeps on perpetuating issues. And they said they’re used to, you know, Haitians and other nationalities. They have materials translated in French. So, again, it pointed back to the United States. My question for you is, what’s your message to American voters? And what can they do? And what can they say to their members of Congress to really champion this as a human rights issue, not just a political issue? 

ALCOCER: Well, that’s a very tough question, because I’m not anyone to say what an American voter should do, or a congressman—or congresswoman. But I would say that immigration has been one of the basic roots of United States. And, of course, the dream of coming to United States is based on immigration. Over the past fifty years, there has been an increase—four times immigration has increased towards the United States. Fifty-one million people have come to the U.S. over the past fifty years. So immigration is part of the U.S.  

Now I think immigration is one of the challenges that, well used, could sort of foster competitiveness and the dynamism that the U.S. and the region needs to compete with other blocs, trading blocs, and all that. So in that regard, if I were a voter, I will ask the Congress why just to look at how can we take advantage of immigration, and, of course, train those immigrants to come to the U.S. and become a part of the economy that will actually move the economy? At one time we had worked—or, we had thought about having—(audio break)—of the workforce development issue, not only in the region, in Mexico, U.S., and Canada, but also why not including all Central America and part of South America? And which we can identify what are the needs, the skills, the sectors, the trainings that there are needed. And in that regard, having the private sector—(audio break)—having this observatory and then develop policies in which we can—(audio break)—workers. 

And it works very well. And we have done that for thirty years. And why not, we try to do that not only between Mexico and the U.S. and Canada, but also with other countries and—for the immigration, but take advantage of the immigration in the sense that they will be better skilled and better wages—better wages, but also will improve the dynamism and the competitiveness of the economy, of the regional economy and, of course, of the U.S. economy. 

FROMAN: Can I just add on to what Sergio said, because I completely agree with that. And I think it’s—while we need to secure our borders, while immigration needs to be orderly, when you look at the demographics and the demographic trends around the world, China will be about half the size that it is now. Europe will be smaller. Japan will be significantly smaller. Africa will be much bigger—Nigeria, and the continent—the rest of the continent of Africa. And the U.S. has the opportunity to be—to continue to grow, which is important for being able to support a social safety net and for the dynamism of the economy, provided we have a sensible immigration policy.  

And so I think it’s making the case of why it’s in the U.S. interest. And whether it’s the entrepreneurs—and we go out to Silicon Valley and see how many of them are immigrants from all over the world—or the impact that even low-wage laborers have on keeping inflation down and under control in the United States, and adding incredible dynamism and entrepreneurship at all levels of the U.S. economy. And so I think we need to make that case to our members of Congress very much on the case of U.S. interests. And there’s a lot of evidence out there of why sensible immigration policy, combined with having orderly, secure borders, can be a pathway forward that’s very good for the United States.  

DONATO: Yeah. I’ll add that people have tried to make that case—(laughs)—but making that case, and making it over and over again, and having some leadership to make that case over and over again. Because that’s—ultimately the solution is to recognize the strength of immigrants. All of the social scientists, many of them who study this, show it’s a net gain. If you think on an aggregate level of immigrants coming into the U.S. economy and—you know, whatever time, it’s a net gain. So how do you make that case effectively? All of you—all of us, right, really need to think about doing that.  

And, yeah. And meanwhile, you know, the country like the U.S. is trying maybe on the perimeter of the structural basis that they have to manage migrants. They’ve set up processing centers in different countries, in Latin America, with Spain, with Canada, so that people don’t have to go through the Darien Gap if they believe they’re eligible for a visa, or if they want to inquire that they—and apply for a visa. They can go within their region, rather than having people put themselves, you know, at significant danger and fuel the cartels, and fuel of the violence.  

Other questions? 

Q: Hi. My name is Diep Nguyen-van Houtte. I’m with the International Finance Corporation.  

Obviously, this is a very difficult issue, but I’ve just been thinking through and I’m brainstorming here. There are the demographic trends in many of the countries which Michael also has mentioned, where the birth rate is incredibly low—especially in Europe, but also in in China, and Japan, and other countries in Asia. So you have the demographic trend, with countries if they want to grow they need workers. Then you have the climate trend, where there are plenty of people in the world migrating because the climate has changed their environment and they can’t make a living anymore. And so the—and obviously, the current system is rife with problems, including political economy issues at home.  

And so what if we create a system where, as you referred to earlier, you have a clearance system where countries can just put in a database—we create an international system with a database where countries mentioned the number of positions they have available or spaces they have with the type of jobs and skills that they need, and then have people apply from all around the world. It’s really a global clearance system. And people can apply from where they are. And so the application process, the clearance process, can happen before they even make the physical move. And, obviously, you have to address the equality of access issue. Not everybody knows how to access these systems, so you need to address those capacity, and knowledge, and access issues. But this does allow you to basically address—(audio break)—obviously not working. 

DONATO: Anybody want to take that? I mean, I will say, you know, national sovereignty is, by most of the world if not every country in the world, recognizes that all other countries are sovereign states. And controlling who comes in is what—is their major responsibility. However, I will say there are models on the African continent. There was the Los Angeles Declaration in the Americas. There is movement to do regional work along these lines, which is—which is where these processing centers now, this idea for these processing centers, came out of that regional thinking.  

I don’t know if we’ll ever get to a global level. Perhaps. But, you know, we’re many decades away from that. I think these regional centers—one in Guatemala, for example. So if somebody feels like they can no longer stay in Honduras, they can go to Guatemala and apply, rather than try to go through Mexico. So they’re—you know, and there’s lots of restrictions and constraints, et cetera. I don’t mean to imply it’s straightforward and easy. But I think perhaps decades from now, maybe. But countries have—we all recognize that countries control their borders and who’s allowed in and who’s not.  

I think we have a question in the back. 

Q: Hi. Jeremy Young. I’m with Al Jazeera English.  

I wanted to kind of gently push back against Michael’s assertion on Europe. There’s a new article in the Washington Post today. I was just going to read the headline, “Europe supports, finances, and is directly involved in clandestine operations in North African countries to dump tens of thousands of Black people in the desert or remote areas each year to prevent them from coming to the EU.” So I’d be curious if anyone is familiar with this phenomenon, but maybe there’s more that meets the eye with how Europe is handling the migrant crisis. Thanks. 

DONATO: Europe definitely is uneven, but I don’t know if, Michael, you want to speak to this? Stefania. 

FROMAN: I won’t speak to Europe, no. (Laughter.) I’ll let the Europeans speak for Europe. 

KOLARZ: Well, it’s hard to comment on that particular article for me. But as far as I know, EU is concluding partnerships with North African countries. But same also with western Balkan countries. So all countries that on the way to Europe for migrants. And it’s kind of an attempt to tackle the root causes of migration. So it’s—they employ different models of—(inaudible)—for some technical support, for some economic support, also to strengthen border controls. But that’s, as far as I know, so. 

FROMAN: Andrea wants to— 


Q: Hello, everybody. Andrea Renda. I’m the director of research at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. I don’t deal with migration, but I follow, of course, all EU policies. 

I would not agree necessarily the language of the article—(audio break). I also would caution you from taking the EU as, you know, a very high standard in dealing with migration issues. One thing is this approach that has been reproposed in a recently agreed pact on migration, that is basically paying countries of last departure for keeping the migrants at their borders, and without really checking on the conditions, in particular the respect for human rights. You know, we’ve seen in Libya, Turkey as well has had its own problems. Mamadou (ph) can bounce back, if he wants. But—and so there is a lot of discontent in Europe for the fact that Europe, that stands for specific values, also loses its face on a daily basis in the Mediterranean, in particular. 

That doesn’t apply to Poland. Poland, I also have spoken with, for example, the city of Warsaw, in particular, the way they handled the inflow of Ukrainians, but also the problems they’ve had in a weaponization, especially on Belarus’ frontier, of migration. This is a different story. So these are—these are two different stories. But the way in which the EU’s been handling the Mediterranean, the burden sharing of migrants, the reallocation of migrants over time, and in particular being in denial of the problem by paying countries on the southern part of the Mediterranean so that they—we can turn our face, this, for me, is one of the open wounds of the European Union as of today. 

DONATO: No, I agree. There’s nothing—there is nothing even about this process. So when I said, you know, the processing of migrants in Europe is quite different than in the U.S. (Audio break)—coming in. And some—and as you suggested—some countries do it much better than others. But the European Union does it much differently than the United States. So I do think we need to reflect, really seriously, on how countries do manage differently. And there is a solution out there. It’s not perfect. I don’t mean to imply Europe has the solution fully, because you could never take what works in one place and just move it to another part of the hemisphere. So I appreciate these comments. It is uneven, for sure. But there are times—when I’m in the Americas and I look to what Europe has been able to do with respect to the Syrians, and the Afghans, and now the Ukrainians, I mean, the numbers are large. And the U.S. would be a big disappointment in comparison. 

AKUM: So, if I may, the first observation is immigration is a political issue in Europe. Yeah. In some—in the majority of the twenty-seven EU countries. The second observation is, the response or the negotiation of migration between Europe and Africa remains a contentious issue because, in some cases, it’s been over-securitized. The third observation is the need to address a lot of the root causes of migration from departure countries. If we assume, taking as a point of departure, that migration is driven by some mainly economic factors, survival, we have climate, we’ve got conflict.  

In Africa, rather than enhancing the capability of people actually moving for jobs, the African Development Bank argues that if you move productivity in Africa two up the value chain, a lot of that unskilled labor would stay on the continent, right? Rather than extracting for transformation elsewhere, why don’t—why not invest in primary industry on the continent that actually creates public-private partnerships to absorb the majority of this youth population—which at the moment 75 percent of which is under thirty-five years old? So I think those kinds of responses should really be prioritized, as opposed to creating a global clearinghouse that then creates a different kind of extraction, which is the extraction of labor from the African continent.  


Q: I think that you need some hierarchy on the problem. You have to put some hierarchy on the subjects. You have wanted immigration, not wanted immigration. You have expected immigration, you have unexpected immigration. That’s from the side of a country that receive immigrants. Of course, there is a similar occasion for other countries that send immigrants. If you don’t do that, we are going in circles. And you can say, well, the U.S. does this and that, but doesn’t do that and that. And how do you balance these things? So I think that most of the discussion that I listened to about immigration—and we have some of that—few, of course. Little, of course, in Brazil. It doesn’t make the necessary dichotomy of different subjects that are involved. You cannot treat one thing without classifying it properly and comparing over different issues that you have. 

DONATO: I mean, I will go back and say—I agree with you. And so much of the conversation about migration in countries is not actually public too. So, in part, because of the politics. People are afraid. They’re say this and not that, et cetera. But I do think that’s where the promise of taking a regional perspective can maybe bring us there, where countries come together—whether it’s just a few or it’s a larger group across one part of the world. Where countries can begin to say, OK, here’s—you know, here’s what we need, here’s what we want from the movement of people. Here’s what we expect.  

And I—you know, these kinds of conversations at the regional level haven’t happened for very long. I would say, what, in the African case, maybe then years? Yeah, it started maybe ten years with the Global Compact of Migration, the African regional networks were important in getting that compact across the finish line. The Global Compact on migration, there’s never been a global compact on migration. Meaning there’s never been a group of countries that represent the global to really talk about this. And now there are more—there’s more regional dialogue. I believe, Sergio, you can—you can probably speak to this more than I, at least, you know, with respect to Mexico and the United States and Canada, which used to be the three. The conversation used to be only those three. And now there are more countries from the south that are part of that dialogue.  

So, again, I would say that I don’t—you’re right. That’s not being discussed publicly. But I think we now have a few regional forums where that conversation can happen. I imagine it’s happened in Europe. But, again, maybe I’m being too optimistic, at least for some countries in Europe. I see that really is as the main mechanism for the dialogue to take place. 

Q: Hi. This is Diane. I’m the Latin American immigration writer for  

My broader question is just, with a new Mexican administration coming in in a few weeks, and then a potentially new U.S. administration in the fall, how you guys might see U.S.-Mexican immigration kind of cooperation either strengthening or weakening, even more than it already has? Thank you. 

ALCOCER: The disadvantage of that question is that the Mexican elections are first, then the Americans elections. So you have to think about your answer. But in our case, I think there will be very different approaches, whether the ruling party wins in two weeks or the opposition wins. Now, what would be on the other side, on the American side? I think, in my opinion, they will be much tougher to what they have been right now. Because both possible presidents, Biden and Trump, don’t have a second term. And so they cannot be held hostage, because right now I think the U.S. government is being held hostage by the Mexican government sort of controlling immigration, and sort of controlling the southern border issue.  

And that has been well managed by the Mexican government. Nothing that I agree on. But that’s the politics between our countries. So the short answer is, I don’t know what the difference would be in real terms. I mean, philosophically, they will be different. The leading candidate from the ruling party, I think, will follow what has been done. And I don’t think that’s a system that is sustainable anymore, because more and more Mexicans are coming to the U.S. because of violence and lack of opportunities in Mexico. Of course, the ruling party won’t accept that, but that’s what is happening. And whereas the opposition will have a much—I would say, a flexible approach towards immigration, more towards talking and, and cooperating with the U.S. in this regard, and working together really on trying to address the root causes of immigration. 

DONATO: I think there’s a question here. 

Q: Hi. My name is Sophie Rutenbar. I’m a CFR international affairs fellow for this year.  

I’m studying Haitian political dynamics, but I will not tackle that kind of issue that’s been touched on tangentially so far. I am really curious about kind of—there was a question sort of about the global level. I’m really interested in the ground level of integration. I was fortunate to go to the CFR event in New York a few weeks ago, the refugee resettlement event, heard about the Welcome Corps. And I guess that is a question on my mind, how at the most fundamental level do you sort of integrate refugees effectively, or immigrants just generally—migrants in general—into a new society. And I know, Fonteh, I know you’re not a native South African, but South Africa has dealt for a long time with xenophobia and some serious issues with kind of Congolese populations and other populations in South Africa. But would love to hear, just as a way to round out, about kind of innovative initiatives you’ve heard about before kind of local level integration of migrants. Thanks so much.  

DONATO: Fonteh, do you want to start? 

AKUM: That’s a tough one. (Laughter.) Yeah, because, again, I welcome the comment about different kinds of migrants. So you have the regular migrants, you have irregular migrants, and then you have illegal migrants as well. And so with reference to elements of xenophobia, in fact it takes place in very localized settings, in a very limited period as well—generally around the offset of—the beginning of the winter season, so to speak, in southern Africa, which basically exacerbate the needs and discord between host communities and communities of migrants. So that’s the first observation.  

The second is, from the African continent movement has been a reality for hundreds of years. So the erection of national borders might have changed that slightly, but there’s almost an organic process through which people move across borders, integrate like communities. Most people move to join family or to integrate a member of their community who moved to that country as well. And so it takes place really organically, informally. And it doesn’t always work well. Don’t get me wrong.  

But there could be a more systematized way, with new border management authorities emerging across the continent to actually deal with integrating those migrants, providing them access to education, health care, and making—ensuring that their rights are met, and providing them with a specific status. Because that matters as well, a status that allows them to function in the society and be productive members of those societies as well. At the moment, a lot of work could be done in that space. 

DONATO: One other, Stefania? I was—I was just thinking, with respect to the Ukrainians that are going to Ireland, or Spain, or the integration story there is fairly positive, isn’t it? In part because they have legal status, right? And many countries around the world offer this kind of temporary protective status. 

KOLARZ: So it is. But let me be here a little bit provocative. Is it because of regulations or facilities we have, or it’s rather because of a shared enemy? And I think that’s a very unifying factor, especially if you look also at Polish experience right after the outbreak of war. Sharing the same enemy and giving refugees, it’s interlinked. It’s our way to oppose what Russia is doing in Ukraine. And so that’s very powerful factor. But otherwise, if you look at the current EU framework, I think the topic is too little discussed. And that’s the point we are really missing in the longer term. 

DONATO: Yeah. OK. I think that’s all we have time for. Let me thank our panelists. Thank you so much for being here. And thank all of you for attending. And we look forward to the next venue. Thank you. (Applause.) 


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