Cathryn Costello, Cornelia Woll, Reem Alabali-Radovan, & Michael Doyle

Cathryn Costello, Cornelia Woll, Reem Alabali-Radovan, & Michael Doyle at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, October 2022. CREDIT: Hertie School of Governance.

Revising MIMC: Finding Solutions to the Challenges of Today's Migration

Dec 15, 2022

On October 13-14, 2022, the Model International Mobility Convention (MIMC), Carnegie Council's migration Impact Initiative, convened a workshop to find solutions to the most pressing challenges of migration in today’s world. The workshop took place at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and was held in collaboration with the Centre for Fundamental Rights, the RefMig Project, and the Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB).

The program of the workshop began with a keynote speech by Reem Alabali-Radovan, Germany's minister of state for migration, refugees and integration and government commissioner for anti-racism. In her speech she spoke candidly about the striking successes and occasional problems in the European Union response to Ukrainian refugees, the rise of right-wing extremism and anti-migrant sentiments in Italy, and the need for more skilled labor and family reunification programs in Germany.

The keynote speech was followed by a workshop attended by prominent migration scholars (click here to view the entire attendee list). The purpose of the workshop was to open a space for identifying and expanding key debates around migration and to start conceptualizing the necessary revisions that should be incorporated into a third version of the Model International Mobility Convention (MIMC 3.0). By focussing on three emerging and prominent challenges–labor migration, climate-related displacement, and "digital nomads"–it furthered much needed research and provided valuable new directions for thinking about future revisions of the Model International Mobility Convention.

1. Labor Migration Challenges for MIMC

Temporary labor migration programs regularly limit the rights of temporary migrants to increase the number of workers destination countries are willing to receive. Limiting migrant workers’ rights has been controversial, as it has been criticized for creating a set of "second-class residents" who have diminished rights and participation, for the sake of expanding the access of migrants from developing countries to the labor opportunities of the wealthier countries. The current version of MIMC ensures a number of substantive rights that apply to all migrants, but also includes permissible modifications that can be placed on the rights of temporary workers, such as access to education or social and health services. This was criticized by participant Prof. Anuscheh Farahat as she suggested that MIMC’s list of limitations for temporary workers pose obstacles to integration and empowerment rather than facilitating it. This allowed for a debate as to whether MIMC has “drawn the line” at the correct place or whether it limits too many rights for the sake of incentivizing destination countries to open their borders to temporary migrants (the theme of Prof. Baubock's paper). Conversations about whether MIMC should be more aspirational in its nature suggested re-examining which rights MIMC has so far considered essential for temporary labor and which rights could be compromised or limited for the sake of increasing numbers of migrants.

Secondly, both Prof. Farahat and Prof. Rainer Baubock suggested participation of temporary laborers into the decision processes of MIMC, especially as it relates to deciding which rights are limited. This caused a debate on how we decide who represents temporary laborers and how to integrate them. Prof. Cathryn Costello suggested taking inspiration from the ways domestic workers were able to contribute to the domestic worker's convention and how indigenous people represent themselves in UN system. You can view Rainer Baubock's paper here.

2. The Limits of Refugee Protection and Climate-Related Displacement

In the current version of MIMC there is no section addressing the impact of climate change on migration. As such the workshop sought to explore what kind of assistance and asylum climate-forced migrants can and should claim and amend the standards developed by the Model International Mobility Convention. In the paper presented by Prof. Michael Doyle he suggests four ways to amend MIMC to protect climate forced migrants, borrowing standards from Teitiota, Torres Straits Islanders and the "likely standard" from the Case of A. He defines a climate-forced migrant as someone liable to being returned to a country experiencing adverse climate effects that were:

  • contributing to increased threat of a likely loss of life, even if they were not necessarily presently, imminently life threatening, (supplementing Teitiota); or
  • resulting in harms to family life or indigenous culture (the Torres Straits Islanders standards); and
  • not being adequately addressed by local policy measures; or
  • not supported by global measures for enhancing resilience, these "global measures" would be along the lines of those promised at the Paris Conference (including the Green Climate Fund) and extended at the Glasgow Summit.

Further issues to be explored as potential points to be included in MIMC were raised by Prof. Tamara Wood, Prof. Alex Aleinikoff, and Prof. Nora Markard. These points included discussing whether MIMC should include provisions for collective evacuation, what happens to residual self-determination if a state's territory is lost due to climate change, and which strategies and duties of adaptation should be included in MIMC.

3. New Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly increased the number of so-called "digital nomads," people who work remotely while traveling. Kate Hooper presented a paper discussing the implications digital nomads have for immigration systems: The rules of current work visas are poorly attuned to remote work and leave many legal questions unanswered. As such, taxation regimes governing remote workers remain unclear and so does their employment status. Digital nomads are not currently included in MIMC, which will be amended in a future version. It needs to be decided whether remote work regulations will be mainstreamed into MIMC or whether a new chapter will be dedicated to them.

Secondly, Prof. Megan Bradley and Prof. Angela Sherwood questioned the role assigned to international organizations in MIMC. Specifically, they suggested that MIMC should re-examine the role it assigns to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), urging the process that may produce a MIMC 3.0 to consider whether it is asking the IOM to do too much or too little. Their memo, co-written with Prof. Costello, can be found here.

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