‘Take Back Control of Immigration’ Rallying Cry for Leavers

The catchphrase “Take Back Control” which turbocharged the "Brexit" campaign for Britain to leave the EU brilliantly exploited an anxious nation’s concerns about sovereignty and change in an encroaching multicultural world. Fears about immigration provided much of the oxygen for today’s vote. A frighteningly high number of voters it seems, believed the exaggerated statements made about refugees and migrants to be true.

By turning the Brexit catchphrase “Take Back Control” on its head in the run up to the forthcoming UN Summit on Refuges and Migrants on 19 September, IOM intends to demonstrate that the answer to the migration ‘crisis’ is indeed already a well managed process.

The Leavers won't tell you but those who have most successfully  “Taken Back Control” of their lives  are the very people who are on the move – refugees and migrants. ‘Dog whistle’ politics is an underhand way of using phrases that mean something anodyne to the general population but something quite sinister to targeted members of the electorate.

This is something that bears repeating when populist politicians and the click-bait media are telling us we need to take control of immigration. In fact most migration around the world is legal and orderly and managed by nations states, often with IOM support and training. The same can be said for refugees where UNHCR and IOM so often partner.

While there are indeed more refugees and migrants than ever before (65 million refugees, 700 million internal and 232 million people are international migrants) - approximately one in seven people alive today is a migrant. But the notion that it is a world out of control is simply false.  What's out of control are the rumours, falsehoods and exaggerated fears about migrants.

A net 330,000 inflow of migrants to the UK is blamed in voters minds for low  wages, expensive housing, and everything from overcrowded schools to waiting lists for  doctor appointments. And it’s not just in Britain.

Record-breaking numbers of refugees and migrants are moving across international borders, fleeing conflict, persecution, poverty, climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. They are also fleeing other life-threatening situations, or responding to labor and skill shortages and demographic changes and seeking better opportunities elsewhere.

Their journeys can be fraught with peril; appalling tales of tragedies feature daily in the headlines. Those that make it to a destination are frequently met with hostility and intolerance. Those host communities making an effort to provide relief are often unprepared and overburdened by the sheer numbers arriving. Responsibilities are not well distributed: a small number of countries and individual communities host disproportionate numbers of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

And migrants typically do not rely on handouts. Indeed te World Bank maintains that migrants send three times more money home than all aid budgets. [Remittances sent to all countries in 2012 (developing and high income) was $534bn, three times greater than overseas development budgets.  In 2016, the World Bank expects remittances to reach over $600bn, with over $440bn being sent to developing countries].

As a footnote migrants also pay exorbitant fees to send money to their loved ones.  An African migrant in Europe or the US pays some $23 to send $200 of savings to their family in Africa.  Banks can charge up to $50 per transaction to transfer money home.  This "super tax" reportedly costs the African diaspora alone some $586 million a year.

In short there are plenty of problems to deal with without having to contend with lies and exaggerations. What we’re learning is that migrants are already “tacking back control” of their lives. Over the next two months IOM and UN Agencies preparing for the summit will explain why ‘Taking Back Control’ is exactly the right phrase to describe the work of IOM and UN Agencies in both protecting vulnerable migrants and ensuring that they are well integrated into the societies they join.


Leonard Doyle is the Director of IOM's Media and Communication Division and Spokesperson of IOM's Director General