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Regional level

Despite the growing number of protocols on free movement (see Box 2.1), the actual movement of people remains hindered by administrative obstacles. While free movement of workers seems optimal on paper, in reality national concerns tend to trump regional ones, mostly for security-related reasons. For instance, ASEAN leaders adopted a Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers in 2007, but they were highly criticised during a forum on migration in Jakarta in 2011 for having done little to push it forward.3

Another problem is that immigrant integration and citizenship are being left out of regional discussions and are rarely a policy objective. Removing the barriers to movement is only half the equation of a successful regionally integrated labour force. As noted by Sadiq (2009), problems of citizenship are one of the primary reasons for the segregation of immigrants in society, the prevalence of informality and the high level of trafficking of illegal goods and people. The ambiguous notion of the path to citizenship has been a major determinant in many of the wars in West Africa, notably in Cote d'Ivoire.

Regions must continue to work to facilitate movement to maximise the new regional opportunities brought about by economic growth, demographic booms and globalisation. In this respect, regional co-operation should aim for functional labour liberalisation rather than a simple normative approach. This supposes the suppression of rigid formalities at the borders, making it easier and quicker to cross them legally. This would deter potential irregular immigrants from entering countries through informal channels.

Regions also need to work more closely together to help people get to the available jobs, enjoy the benefits of working, and minimise the exploitation of, and discrimination against, immigrants. Because the surest way to ensure integration is to get people jobs, the creation of regional job centres, which provide information directly to immigrants before emigration decisions are made, further reduces labour market frictions. Sending and receiving countries may also sign bilateral agreements to foster the international portability of pensions and social benefits (OECD, 2009), at least in the areas where such benefits actually exist.

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