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Migration

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 17 October 2007

1. What assessment his Department has made of the effects of migration on international development projects in Africa. (158517)

As chance would have it, I have with me an excellent DFID publication, which I can commend to my hon. Friend. It is called, “Moving out of Poverty: Making Migration Work Better for Poor People”, and it is the first policy paper of its kind to be produced by the Department for International Development. The report highlights both the positive and negative links between migration and poverty reduction and it encourages developing countries to consider its impact in their national planning. To provide just one example, it examines the positive contribution of migrants through remittances and support for development projects, while also examining the negative impact—the loss of skilled people and the damaging effect it can have on capacity building efforts in sectors such as health and education.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that fascinating answer—[Interruption.]—and I mean that most sincerely. However, the massive levels of migration in sub-Saharan Africa are among the biggest causes of poverty. In 2005, there were 15 million people in sub-Saharan Africa living away from their normal place of residence—in other words, 15 million displaced people, which is more than the combined populations of Berlin, Paris, Madrid and Rome. Surely we need to do far more to make it possible for people to stay where they were born and brought up so that we do not have a constant cycle of poverty and oppression.

My hon. Friend says that he is being sincere—and for the record, I have always known him to be so. [Interruption.] I will continue. As to the 15 million displaced people in sub-Saharan Africa, there are many causes: economic migration, bad governance, conflict, climate change, natural disasters, all of which cause people to believe that they have no option other than to leave and search for a better life elsewhere. Everything that DFID does in sub-Saharan Africa is aimed at addressing the root causes of displacement through poverty reduction, humanitarian relief, reconstruction work, efforts to promote participation and good governance and protection of human rights.

Let me provide a few examples. In 2006-07 alone, we provided some £220 million in humanitarian assistance to sub-Saharan Africa and we have allocated £64.5 million this year to the Africa conflict prevention pool. We are the largest donor to the UN’s central emergency response fund, contributing £42.2 million this year. We have also provided—[Interruption.]

May I draw the Minister’s attention to another excellent publication, produced by the all-party group on population, development and reproductive health? It found that there was a correlation between migration and civil conflict and population growth. Will the Minister add that to his list of causes and, in providing aid to the sub-Saharan region, will he take into account programmes to address the issue of population growth?

To confirm, we certainly look at reproductive health in our programmes and we will continue to do so.

Given the centrality of sexual and reproductive health to country-wide health plans, will my hon. Friend tell us how he is encouraging African Governments to prioritise that issue?

We have regular dialogues with African Governments on these issues and all our African programmes focus on them. That will certainly continue to be the case. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise the issue; we can never do enough in respect of it.

It is estimated that 250,000 people have left Zimbabwe for South Africa and 200,000 Darfur for Chad. As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) says, unofficial figures put the estimate many times higher. This is a human tragedy on a grand scale: it is a human tragedy for the people involved; it is a human tragedy for the countries that have seen those people leave; and it is a human tragedy for the countries to which they are going. What more can the Government do to provide humanitarian assistance not only for the refugees but for the recipient countries, so that those refugees will face a little easier life when they arrive?

My hon. Friend—[Laughter.] I mean the hon. Gentleman, although I am sure that we are friendly. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we recently gave £8 million to the World Food Programme. I outlined some of the measures that we are taking to deal with the issue in my earlier answer, but it is not possible for one country alone to deal with it. The international community must act together to produce the impact that is so desperately needed—the impact that both the hon. Gentleman and we would like to see.