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Labour without borders

The capture of 30 Indians last week as they tried to sneak into France highlights the need for governments to take a closer look at the problem of illegal migration.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2007 22:01 IST

The capture of 30 Indians last week as they tried to sneak into France highlights the need for governments to take a closer look at the problem of illegal migration. French border police discovered the Indians crammed into a small truck that passed into France through the Mont Blanc tunnel under the Alps. From all accounts, the group paid $ 15,000 each to fly to Italy on forged travel documents before being packed into the truck in Turin for the trip across the Belgian border. It is inarguable that the movement of people across borders is almost inevitable in an increasingly globalising world. For international business depends on an international labour force — and the ability of people to move around the world with ease. Most developed countries even look at migration as an answer for their declining birth rates and ageing populations.



But the problem is that there are obviously not enough lawful channels open for those who want to migrate and whose labour may actually be needed. This, alas, allows the criminal smuggling and trafficking networks to slip in their illegal supply of labour to meet the demand in the informal sectors of countries in Europe, the US and elsewhere. These hapless workers often risk life and limb to evade border controls, and end up being victims of exploitation and security risks. The problem is complicated by the fact that illegal immigrants are either deported to their home country or, in the absence of adequate legal instruments, developed countries sometimes try to pass these 'aliens' off to one another. It is high time States got together to develop a global approach to this issue.



The most obvious answer of course also happens to be the most difficult: the problem of illegal migration will only end when the world is equally habitable. Therefore, the next best thing could be for governments to create an exclusive world body to deal with the issue. Such an institution — along the lines of, say, the International Labour Organisation — would be able to chart out a proper roadmap for providing some core values in the treatment of illegal immigrants. That, perhaps, is the best way for us to establish norms for assuring a wider acceptance of the basic rights of illegal migrants at our borders, or in our midst.