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POLITICS

‘Migration forces policy makers to shape up’

The movement of people across borders is a powerful engine for growth, putting pressure on policy makers worldwide to compete to attract talent, argue government ministers Gunilla Karlsson and Tobias Billstrom.

'Migration forces policy makers to shape up'

Day after day, media reports and our minds are filled with the plight of people fleeing – be it from war, conflict, hunger or threat.

But there is another side to people’s mobility. Of the world’s approximately 900 million migrants, it is estimated that more than 90 percent move in search of better jobs and other opportunities.

The movement of people across borders and labour markets is a powerful engine for growth and development. As ministers responsible for migration and development cooperation, we want to promote this form of mobility.

Two months ago, Sweden assumed the chairmanship of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), a leading arena for discussion of global migration issues.

At the same time, work is also under way on the post 2015 development agenda that will carry forward the work begun with the current Millennium Development Goals. The work includes an important discussion on how migration can be used to increase freedom and eradicate poverty.

Today, we are jointly hosting a seminar on the impact of migration on global development, at which some of the world’s foremost experts in the area will be discussing this issue.

A very concrete example of how migration drives development is the billions of dollars in remittances that migrants from low-income countries send home to their families around the world. Every year, millions of people move to work in countries where wages are higher than in their home countries, sending money home to their relatives.

The World Bank estimates that these financial flows amounted to $400 billion last year, and they are expected to rise by about 7 percent per year in the years ahead. They represent the second-largest source of financial flows to low- and middle-income countries.

These remittances are three times the size of international development assistance and in some countries they account for a large share of the total GDP. This money gives many families in the migrants’ home countries the chance to go to better schools, get enough to eat and enjoy a better life.

How can we ensure that financial flows such as these function as smoothly as possible and benefit people living in poverty in the best possible way? We hope to be able to achieve better solutions through the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

Migration is a means to achieve not only economic development but also improved social development. We have both met colleagues from other countries who have expressed their concern about seeing more and more young and educated people moving to other countries in search of a better life.

Around the world, people are moving from societies where the environment prevents them from reaching their full potentials, to countries where better policies have led to better conditions.

Migration puts pressure on policy makers worldwide, who are forced to compete to entice talented people to remain within the country’s borders.

When people migrate, new ideas and thoughts can move across borders, compete with each other and find new platforms. Entrepreneurs from different countries can meet and learn from each other.

There are many examples of people who did not find the right environment for innovation in their countries of birth, but who could accomplish great things when they were able to test their ideas in new countries.

Around the world, many countries are choosing to close their borders more tightly, both to keep citizens in and to keep others out. But countries can cooperate and solve the challenges that may arise as a result of migration and lack of development.

Forums like the GFMD, which Sweden is now chairing, play a key role in this kind of cooperation. It is essential, both for our sake and for the rest of the world.

Gunilla Carlsson, Minister for International Development Cooperation

Tobias Billström, Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy

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IMMIGRATION

INTERVIEW: ‘It’s a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated’

Michael Lindgren, the comedian and producer behind the new Swedish TV quiz show Invandrare för Svenskar, or "Immigrants for Swedes', tells The Local how the seemingly superficial game show is actually very serious indeed.

INTERVIEW: 'It's a way to jokingly show that Sweden is very segregated'

SVT’s new gameshow Invandrare för Svenskar (IFS) began with a simple image on a computer. 

“I wanted to do something to show the simple fact that the category of invandrare [immigrant] is a really stupid category,” says Michael Lindgren, the co-founder of the Swedish comedy group Grotesco, and creator of Invandare för Svenskar

“I was just playing around with pictures of people with different values and professions and personalities to like, show the multitude of humanity, and then I placed an ethnic Swede in the middle and I built a block of people with different backgrounds around that blonde person. and I was thinking it would be fun to put a Swede in the minority.” 

It was only when a friend pointed out that the image he had made looked like the famous quiz game Hollywood Squares, a big 1980s hit in Sweden as Prat i kvadrat, that the idea to turn the image into a game show came about. 

Shortly afterwards, he contacted the show’s host, the comedian Ahmed Berhan, and began working with him and some of the other celebrities with immigrant backgrounds on the concept. 

The panelists on Invandrare för Svenskar.
 

Critics in Sweden are divided over the new gameshow, in which ordinary Swedes have to guess whether celebrity immigrants are lying or telling the truth about their home cultures. 

Karolina Fjellborg, at Aftonbladet, called it a “potential flop”, which was “forced and painfully shallow”. 

“And yet her paper, Aftonbladet, has written about it several times!” Lindgren exclaims when I mention this.  “Some people think it’s too stupid and glossy. It’s had rave reviews and very critical reviews, which I think is perfect.” 

He rejects the charge that the show treats a serious subject in too frivolous a way. 

“I’m an entertainer. I work in comedy. Of course, it’s superficial,” he says. “It’s a glossy game show on the surface, but underneath it’s a way to jokingly address the fact that we still think in these categories, that Sweden is a very segregated society, and we need to address that with more honesty.”

“The other point is that the idea of ‘immigrants’ as a group is absurd. It’s not a homogenous group. I think Swedes need to be faced with that, that the category is false. ‘Immigrants’ is useful as a statistical category, meaning people who actually migrated here. Most panelists in the show are born in Sweden, but Swedes tend to see them as immigrants anyway. For how many generations?”

He says his favourite moments in the show come when the contestants are nervous that they might give an answer that reveals them as prejudiced, and you can feel a slight tension, or the few moments when they do make an embarrassing mistake. 

Even though the atmosphere is deliberately kept as warm and light-hearted as possible, it’s these flashes of awkwardness, he feels, that reveal how uncomfortable many people in Sweden are about ethnic and cultural differences. 

It’s clearly something he thinks about a lot. Unlike immigration to countries like the UK or France, which are the result of long histories of empire, he argues, the immigration to Sweden, at least since the 1970s, has been driven by a sense of Lutheran guilt at the wealth the country amassed as a result of remaining neutral in the Second World War. 

Immigration, he argues, happened too quickly for the ordinary Swedish population to really understand the cultures of those arriving. 

Michael Lindgren, founder of ”IFS-invandrare för svenskar”. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
 
“I like to see Sweden as a little bit like The Shire in The Lord of the Rings,” he says. “It is located up in the corner of the map, peaceful and quite, with a very homogenous, old, peasant population. Historically shielded from the big world outside. Immigration is fairly new to Sweden, from outside Europe basically from the seventies onward, that is just fifty years ago. In what was in large part a political project from above.”
 
“And there is a discrepancy, because the majority population is still that old peasant population, and we didn’t learn a lot about the people coming here. We’re polite and friendly, but culturally very reserved, and I think that’s also about the climate, we don’t intermingle a lot. We don’t invite people into our homes easily.” 

According to Lindgren, the reception of the show has been great. Some of the show’s panel have a big following among Swedes with immigrant backgrounds, meaning it is drawing a demographic to Sweden’s public broadcaster that it normally struggles to reach. 

“The ambition is that the primary audience for this show is Swedes with mixed backgrounds, Swedes with a background in another country,” he says. “It’s a very tough demographic to reach. It’s a demographic that simply doesn’t watch public service, because it’s usually not made for them, and they seem to really enjoy it.” 

He has plans for the next series to include short factual segments. 

“I’m not saying I’m gonna make it serious. It’s supposed to be fun and jokey and entertaining and light, and I’m not going to change it in its core,” he says. “But I think it would add to the entertainment and variety to pause maybe twice in the show and say ‘this is actually true’, just stay at a point of discussion for 30 seconds, and maybe have a graphic to back it up.” 

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