Date of Meeting: 18 December 2017

Meeting Organizer: Global Migration Group, led by IOM and UN-DESA

ISJC Staff Present: Jacob Hevenor

Reporter: Jacob Hevenor

Which SDG does this topic cover? 5,8, 10, 16, 17

Type of meeting: Panel Presentation

Brief summary of presentation of information made

Christina McElwaine, Moderator. Visiting Fellow of the UN University

  • The handbook is purposefully launched on 18 December because it is International Migrants Day
  • Timely, reliable and impactful data are of the utmost importance for the development of adequate responses to migration. Article 40 of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants calls for comprehensive data collection, disaggregated by sex, age and numerous other variables.
  • The handbook displays the potential of inter-agency collaboration. Different organisations contributed their expertise to relevant chapters. For example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) contributed to the chapter on labor markets, and the World Health Organization (WHO) contributed to the chapter on health.


Bela Hovy, Chief of the Migration Section Population Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA)

  • When you unpack the name of the handbook, you see that it takes a bottom-up approach that is helpful for practitioners – any progress begins with the production and/or collection of data.
  • We should not only produce the data, but use them as well. There are a lot of valuable migration data that are not utilised. The data, especially census data, can be helpful in designing policy responses.
  • We need to disaggregate development data by migratory status. This means including a separate variable on data sets for place of birth. Without this separation, averages could make migrants invisible, if positive development indicators for the rest of the population counteracted a lack of development among migrants. Disaggregation makes the situation of migrants much more visible and ensures that they are not left behind in reaching the SDGs.
    • Separation by country of birth would be most helpful, but at the very least, statistical indicators should at least measure for “non-nationals”.
  • There is also a striking lack of programs for understanding migration data. Other census data, whether demographic or development-related, has taken priority. We have capacity-building programmes for statistics, but not specifically around migration surveys.
  • In total, this handbook is a testament to the collaboration of all the organisations in the GMG.


Susanne Melde, Senior Analyst at the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre of IOM

  • In recent years, the whole idea of “data” has changed dramatically: “big data” captures how new sources of data collection surround us at all times. Considering this, there should be no trouble gathering data.
  • The handbook provides a number of valuable resources. It brings together existing standards and definitions for a clear picture of the issue, gives practical guidance, shows the collective experience of engaged agencies and summarises best practice.
  • The handbook also monitors the sources of existing migration data.
  • After considering all sources, each chapter identifies the gaps. It summarises the available statistical indicators and highlights a greater need for comparable quantitative data on all migration-related topics.

Melde then presented the online extension of the handbook, the Global Migration Portal. The Portal will help widely distribute the handbook’s information.


Sonia Plaza, Senior Economist, World Bank Group. Co-chair on the Diaspora, Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development (KNOMAD)

  • First, statistics are important to break down misperceptions. Many Europeans would claim that Europe has been “invaded” by migrants and refugees.
    • In fact, South-South migration is more common than South-North. Chile is receiving a comparable amount of migrants from Peru, Haiti and Venezuela.
    • Most migrants are not forcibly displaced, but moving for economic reasons.
  • Migration also brings plenty of overlooked benefits to the receiving country. It can serve to counteract the demographic decline (aging) that is putting financial stress on the governments of developed countries.
  • To reiterate, disaggregation of data by migratory status is very important. Marking by citizenship would be ideal, but not every country’s census tracks citizenship. The USA, for instance, tracks ethnicity. States’ census systems must be on board in order to generate comparable quantitative data.
  • A forgotten aspect of migration is remittances, and the economic benefits they bring to developing countries. Remittances are not recorded well, making us miss potential benefits.
    • Countries have to update their categorisation systems. For example, many African states are using old standards and systems. Meanwhile, 70% of remittances sent to Africa go through informal channels, and therefore go uncounted.
    • Remittances could even be included in census data. In Bangladesh, remittance data convinced the government that remittances were making a meaningful contribution towards ending poverty (SDG 1).


Question time

Question: Many countries are failing to register babies at birth. Yet many people consider birth registration a human right (the only measurement with such a distinction; few people would consider the right to have your poverty measured to be a human right). Despite this distinction, why are so many babies going unregistered? What can we do about it?

Responses: SDG 16.9 mentions birth registration. We have no excuse to allow babies to go unregistered. This is critical to later in life, in ensuring a legal identity and therefore protection before the law, as explained by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC). It also relates to migration issues: statelessness is a result of a failure to register a birth. If a migrant cannot prove citizenship or a country of origin, how do we provide the correct rights and legal protection?

Question: Now that we have the handbook, what are the next steps?

Responses: We must spread it widely (including the online Portal) and operationalise it. Be on the lookout for more side events related to the handbook. Another next step is to start a capacity-building task force for the implementation of some of the best practices.

Question: Is there statistical analysis of social integration after a migrant’s arrival? Has anyone been able to quantify the effects of xenophobia?

Responses: In this area especially, different agencies (including a large number of NGOs) measure different things. The data sets are small, limited and incomparable and tend to focus only on developed countries. The first step to quantifying this data on a large scale would be to start a coordination effort.

What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?

If nothing else, the handbook provides some valuable numbers and figures to make people aware of the scale of international migration in the world today. Being informed is the first step towards getting involved in one of the most important issues of our time. For the most part, however, the handbook stays away from the numbers themselves and focuses more on the methods and shortcomings of current data collection.

Although states are meant to fill in the gaps, The Salvation Army can draw from the idea of disaggregation, to make certain groups less invisible. In data collection and measurement of activity, disaggregating a number of different categories can show which cohorts our programs are leaving behind.

The online portal includes a periodical, the Data Bulletin ( that is looking for contributors. If migration data collection becomes a serious focus of The Salvation Army in the future, it could look to contribute to the data bulletin and add to the conversation.

Web links for more information The GMG’s online supplement to the handbook. Includes an interactive map, information on different types of migration, a database of resources, migration’s relationship to the SDGs and more. New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a GA Resolution from 2016 UN-DESA page for International Migration IOM’s Data Analysis Centre. Parent page of the Migration Data Portal

Tags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals