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The Hamburg Summit's Challenge of Shaping an Interconnected World in a Way that Works for Migrants and Refugees

John Kirton and Madeline Koch, G20 Research Group
in Berlin
December 1, 2016
See also Comment @ G7G20.com

Germany's G20 sherpa Lars-Hendrik Röller opening the T20 Kickoff conference in BerlinGermany's presidency of the G20 for 2017 began the morning of December 1, 2016, in Berlin, when German sherpa Lars-Hendrik Röller gave the opening keynote address to the kickoff meeting of the Think 20. Among the many issues he identified as forming a core part of Germany's agenda for the Hamburg Summit that will take place next July 7-8 was migration — an issue that will clearly be one of the most difficult of all for G20 members to come to consensus on.

Professor Röller frankly acknowledged that each G20 member has a distinctive migration challenge of its own and thus a distinctive approach to the issue. He alluded to the fact, as recognized by last year's G7 summit in Ise-Shima, Japan, that migration is a global and not just a European issue, thus expanding even more the diversity of the challenges and approaches involved.

T20 plenary session at the historic Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and HumanitiesThis diversity became clear at the breakout session on migration in first afternoon of the T20 conference. Many participants started by telling tell their own personal experience with migration, reinforcing Professor Röller's important point that Germany's G20 agenda is being deliberately constructed to speak directly to the every-day experiences and concerns of average residents of G20 members and beyond. But amid this diversity, only a few signs of a pathway to an ultimate G20 consensus emerged. The morning plenary session learned that although it is difficult to make an evidence-based case that immigrants are a cause of economic growth, the best models available indicate that properly managed and inclusively integrated immigration would raise the receiving country's economic growth country and productivity by 2%. This powerfully confirms the point made firmly by Canada's Justin Trudeau at the 2015 Antalya Summit, which he attended only days after being sworn in as prime minister. Trudeau argued that immigrants benefit a welcoming receiving country in economic ways as well as in ways that enhance the social diversity and thus strengthen their new home countries.

At the T20's afternoon session on migration, Canada was noted as a model, especially its use of public-private partnerships to facilitate the integration of migrants into their welcoming society. To be sure, Canada — partly for geographic reasons — has the luxury of choosing which immigrants it allows in and carefully accepting and screening them before their arrival at the border. However, by making them permanent residents as soon as they arrive, by mobilizing individuals as sponsors and supporters, and by recognizing the economic value as well as the humanitarian duty for fully integrating people who have been forced to migrate, Canada has a success story worth of being shared.

Yet above all, it is Angela Merkel's model of a "we can do this welcoming culture" that must be shared in this interconnected world. Germany has taken more than a million migrants and refugees from the conflict-ridden Middle East and Africa. If Canada is to bear its fair share, as a percentage of its population it should take about 400,000 people, rather than the mere 33,000 it has absorbed so far. And, of course, Turkey with its three million refugees and migrants has the gold medal position among all G20 members, while Germany takes only the silver and Canada the bronze. So all G20 members must avoid any temptation to trumpet triumphalism and must come together in this very global and poignantly human cause.


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