Geneva, 15th October, 2015 (WAM) — Parliamentarians from nearly 130 countries will focus on parliamentary action on the increasingly complex and often divisive issue of migration at a global conference in Geneva later this week.

Although the more than 230 million migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the world today represent a small percentage of the global population, rising xenophobia combined with the ongoing impact of the global economic crisis continue to warp any reasoned debate and policy response on the migration phenomenon. Anti-migration policies and sentiment are at odds with global demographic trends, skills shortages and the reality of an increasingly mobile workforce. That mobility in response to the push and pull factors of migration has in turn increased the vulnerability of migrants to trafficking and human smuggling.

Meeting at the 133rd Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly in Geneva (17-21 October), more than 680 MPs, including 47 Speakers of Parliament and 219 women parliamentarians, will identify parliamentary action on the moral and economic imperative for fairer, smarter and more humane migration. How to enhance the many benefits of migration for both the countries of origin and destination as well as migrants and their families will be a particular focus.

With the IPU Assembly taking place against the backdrop of a political and humanitarian crisis caused by an unprecedented flow of people into Europe and displacement crises around the world, the MPs will also outline parliamentary action to ensure protection of large flows of asylum-seekers and refugees in a series of events at the IPU Assembly. Although there were more than 21 million refugees and asylum-seekers in the world in 2014 according to UNHCR, the arrival of nearly 600,000 migrants and asylum-seekers into Europe by sea this year, with an estimated 3,000 either dead or missing according to IOM figures, has put the spotlight on the urgent need for global political and humanitarian solutions to migration crises.

During a busy five-day IPU Assembly, IPU Members will also adopt a resolution on democracy in the digital era and the threat to privacy and individual freedoms. In addition, they will examine other major global issues such as counter-terrorism, the protection of cultural heritage and will also look at ways to strengthen parliament’s ability to oversee government. This will be particularly relevant given the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at a recent UN Summit that include targets on the building of accountable and inclusive institutions needed to ensure peace, justice and the effective implementation of all development objectives.

The 133rd Assembly will convene several IPU bodies including the Meeting of Women Parliamentarians (#womenMPs), IPU’s Forum of Young Parliamentarians (#youngMPs), the Committee on Middle East Questions as well as the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. Cases involving the violations of the human rights of nearly 120 MPs from 21 countries will be examined by the IPU Committee, which will also hold up to 12 hearings with parliamentary authorities, victims and others who could assist in investigations.

As in 2014, the Geneva Assembly will host the Future Policy Award, a unique annual international celebration of effective policies on a specific issue. This year’s award, which focuses on innovative policies that protect children, will be presented on 20 October.