Migration in focus

Migration has many faces. Millions of people leave their homes in search of safety, work and a better future.  Switzerland worked for safe, legal migration in 2017.

A Sri Lankan woman reading from a large sheet of paper to a group of seated women.
In the financial literacy training families learn how to set up a budget with the received money from family members abroad. © SWOAD

From Batticaloa to New York: Linking personal and global solutions for safe and regular migration

Sevanthy is caring for her three children in eastern Sri Lanka while her husband works in Qatar. The money he sends home is the only way for the family to send their children to school and to cover their basic needs. Through the SDC-funded Safe Labour Migration Programme, Sevanthy attended financial literacy training which now helps her to manage the money she receives once a month. Before she took the training, she found it a challenge to manage the remittances. Now she has learned to set spending priorities and to budget. 

This initiative started in Sri Lanka in 2013. It contributes to the SDC’s overall strategy to ensure that migrants’ work benefits the development of countries and their communities, ensuring that no one is left behind.

Well-informed and employed under fair conditions

Taking up jobs abroad, mainly in the Middle East, is the only way for many Sri Lankans to sustain their families. But working in a foreign country comes with many challenges, especially for low skilled workers and the families they leave behind. The SDC helps people who feel compelled to migrate to understand their rights and obligations, and learn how to respond to difficult situations – in their job abroad and on their return. Their families receive help locally to cope with the absence of a father or mother and advice on managing the money received from abroad. Labour recruitment processes are made more transparent and compliant with international standards. 

From personal experiences to global solutions

While challenges remain, the SDC has helped to bring governments, the private sector, employers and civil society together to improve the situation of migrant workers and their families. Its work with individuals, districts and governments is all embedded in regional processes in the Middle East and South East Asia. The regional dialogues bring national governments together to help ensure that migrants’ work benefits sustainable development. 

Personal experiences and individual stories feed into global efforts to establish a common framework for migration governance. Efforts are under way to establish a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration (GCM).  Switzerland is facilitating this process as part of its work to reduce inequality (under Sustainable Development Goal 10 of the 2030 Agenda). The GCM efforts entail stocktaking followed by negotiations. 

Taking realities from the small Sri Lankan village of Batticaloa – Sevanthy’s home town – to the international negotiations in New York means that experiences from all levels inform the comprehensive Global Compact on Migration. Including experiences of ordinary people will help make the Global Compact relevant and inclusive for everyone.

Economic migration – establishing decent working conditions

Mobility: a factor for development

A group of mainly men sit on benches under a woven grass roof looking towards the front of the assembly.

West Africans have historically been among the world’s most mobile populations, although most of this migration has taken place within the region. "Mobility has traditionally been a factor in the development of West Africa. The SDC focuses its activities mainly on this circular migration, facilitating the free movement of goods and people in the region", explains Chantal Nicod, the head of the West Africa division.

SECO is helping create economic opportunities

SECO is helping create economic opportunities for people in its partner countries so that they do not feel compelled to emigrate. It supports programmes to this end that promote entrepreneurship and improve job seekers' skills and qualifications. It also provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to long-term capital and improves the environment in which they do business. Through such programmes, SECO is working to address the structural causes of migration in the long term.