Migrants to China on the increase, report shows

Updated: 2014-05-20 04:38

By YANG YAO (China Daily)

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Beijing 'seeking assistance from other nations to better manage the trend'

China is working closely with the international community to deal with challenges posed by changing migration patterns, including an increase in the number of people heading to the country.

There were 685,775 migrants to China in 2010, an increase of 35 percent from 2000, according to the 2013 World Migration Report. The Chinese version of the report was released in Beijing by the International Organization for Migration on Monday.

The number of foreigners holding residence permits in China in 2010 rose by about 29 percent compared with the figure for 2006. William L. Swing, director- general of the organization, of which China has been an observer country since 2001, said Chinese authorities had been seeking expertise from other nations through the organization to better manage the trend.

Two main concerns for the government were irregular migration management and a shortage of skilled migrants, Swing said. The report said that due to economic growth and demographic changes, China was not only a place of origin for migrants to other countries, but also a country of transit and destination for migrants.

Swing said the IOM had been helping the Ministry of Public Security in China by providing expertise and cutting-edge technology for migration management. He said it was important to think of migration in terms of human mobility and to recognize basic human needs. The organization has been working closely with Chinese authorities for the past seven years to reduce the number of illegal immigrants.

Swing said the training included understanding the reasons and needs for different types of immigration and mapping out policies accordingly, measures to deal with fake passports, and using advanced biometric technology like iris recognition in cross-border identity checks.

He said the organization aimed to create dialogue between countries and reduce immigration tension before it became political.

Par Liljert, the organization's chief representative in China, told China Daily the IOM is providing international experience to the Ministry of Public Security. That included assisting with repatriation centers for illegal immigrants that the ministry was considering setting up in major cities, Liljert said.

A source from the Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration, speaking on Monday on condition of anonymity, said the ministry had been working closely with the IOM in recent years on information exchanges and migration issues.

This year, the organization has helped in four cases of human trafficking from African and South American countries to China by repatriating those being trafficked, who were mostly women.

The report also found that the dominant pattern of people migrating from developing to developed countries had changed. Less than half of global migration now takes place from the developing to the developed world. Instead, the numbers migrating from developed to developing countries have increased.

The report said China was an increasingly attractive destination because of its rapid economic growth and demographic changes. Its demand for labor had also outstripped supply, which had led to a rise in wages and greater demand for foreign labor. But China's enormous economic growth was not reflected proportionately in the number of foreigners working in the country, it said.

"Only by recognizing their rights and thinking about their well-being can migration be used for the country's development," Swing said.

Shen Yanjie, an official at the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, a government agency that aims to attract global talent, said the government was competing to attract and retain professionals in the high-technology sector.

But Wang Huiyao, director of Beijing think tank the Center for China and Globalization, which translated the report, said that unlike other countries China still lacked an official policy to attract skilled foreign workers.

"Changes have to be made to create a more friendly and attractive environment for foreign talent," he said. Wang said the working visa policy had not been open to foreign students studying in China. "They could be a great source of talent," he said.