Monday, April 27, 2009

Immigrants’ Choice of Place Residence: Canadian Perspective

Geetisha Dasgupta

In an intriguing news piece, the argument that whether a state should try and regulate immigrant settlement in other ways than is natural and guided by market forces, comes through. Are migrants to Canada showing tendencies of skipping past the traditional stops at the heart of big cities and in stead opting for smaller hamlets and suburban areas? “New data from the Canadian Federation of Municipalities (CFM) suggests they might be. The CFM measures social indicators in 24 of Canada's largest communities, ranging in size from Toronto and Montreal down to Regina and Sudbury. These urban centres took in 90% of all immigrants in 2002. In 2006, the figure was 83%. Most of the change was ascribable to economic-class immigrants, who make up around half of Canada's intake; the flow of refugees and family-class immigrants into the cities remained largely unchanged over the period.” What happens in the bargain is that, in stead of larger cities, which need them most, the skilled immigrants choose to settle in the outskirts, whereas, the less self sufficient ones opt for the former. The smaller municipalities are also less equipped to offer “up-front help and on-the-ground social services” that are required to attract aspiring citizens to maximize their contribution to the development of the country. “In the CFM's big-24 communities, nearly 70% of recent immigrant households are in rented accommodation. Outside them, the figure is less than 50% -- meaning that if they skip the cities, immigrants to Canada have a better-than-even chance of becoming homeowners almost immediately.” This continues to be the puzzle because, no matter what the municipalities think to be serving their own purposes, they cannot peremptorily tell the immigrants where to live and where not. The municipalities would like to have a bigger share of the tax money and also a greater say in immigration policies, but once the migrants arrive, they must be allowed to make free, informed choices of that support maximization of their own benefits.

The Representative of the UN Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, has called for more attention to be paid to some of the world's most serious displacement crises. He cited a number of the worst-affected countries, including Somalia (1.3 million IDPs), Sudan (2.7 million IDPs) and Sri Lanka, where IDPs are struggling to survive and many find themselves in a life-threatening situation due to lack of water, food and medical assistance. He also expressed concern about the Government of Sudan's recent decision to expel 13 major international humanitarian organizations and feared that the Sudanese Government would be unable to provide enough food, drinking water or basic healthcare for an extremely vulnerable population.

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