Solve Migration Globally: ÖAW Interview with Michael Doyle

Editor's note:

originally in German; accessed online at

Florian Bayer
December 04, 2018

ÖAW Austrian Academy of Sciences

He calls it a "realistic utopia" - US political scientist Michael Doyle is working on a new international convention on migration. At the annual conference on migration and integration research of ÖAW and the University of Vienna Doyle is in Vienna to present his ideas.

With his Model International Mobility Convention (MIMC), Michael Doyle, a political scientist at the prestigious Columbia University in New York, wants to fill gaps in existing agreements on flight and migration, in view of the debates about the UN migration compact, a highly topical project.

At the invitation of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and the University of Vienna, Doyle will be visiting Vienna at the annual conference on migration and integration research (5 to 7 December). He is one of the Keynote Speakers of the conference, which deals with current findings on flight, migration and integration in a total of 21 panels and 73 lectures from a European and international perspective.

How did you come up with the idea for a new international migration convention?

Michael Doyle: In the course of the so-called refugee crisis from 2015, you could see that the vast majority of countries are not sufficiently prepared for the issues of migration and flight. The two major agreements on these issues, the Geneva Convention on Refugees of 1951 and the UN Migrant Workers Convention in 1991, unfortunately have many gaps, and there have also been serious failures in the individual states and institutions in recent years.

What omissions do you mean?

Doyle: To date, there are no uniform and fully valid global standards on how to deal with refugees and migrants. Also, the question of the distribution of responsibility and the supply of people is unresolved. It can not be true that 85 percent of all refugees are admitted to developing countries, but they have to pay almost exclusively for the financial expenses.

What are the lessons of this in your "Model International Mobility Convention" - MIMC for short?

Doyle: First and foremost, there is a binding legal basis for dealing with migration and flight in a uniform way. For example, in the current Refugee Convention, people have to prove their own persecution in order to be considered refugees - but this is often difficult or even impossible. Since you have to sharpen. It also needs a global fund to finance the housing, resettlement and integration of refugees. All states should deposit, but the richer ones pay a larger amount.

It needs a global fund to finance the housing, resettlement and integration of refugees. All states should deposit, but the richer ones pay a larger amount.

In the wake of the refugee crisis, Greece and Italy had the biggest burden to bear, but at the same time little incentive to provide people with reasonable care, let alone integrate, because most of them moved on as soon as possible. This has to change: for all refugees in all countries a decent life should be made possible, whether temporary or permanent. If this is not possible in one place, people have to be resettled by resettlement. That will affect at least 10 percent of people, even at best, according to the UNHCR. With combined efforts, the accommodation would not be a problem.

The agreement also provides to facilitate the employment of foreign workers?

Doyle: Yes, we are thinking about a job platform in which companies can look for specialists nationwide and even worldwide. At the same time, it must be made easier in these professions to obtain a permanent residence and work permit. Last but not least, the host states themselves benefit from this. In addition, there is a need for new ways to apply for asylum and work stays legally from outside Europe, which is hardly possible at present.

For all refugees in all countries a decent life should be made possible.

In the MIMC, you mention that you have to think about migration much broader politically and legally, including tourists and students.

Doyle: That's the way it should apply to all forms of mobility equal fundamental rights and duties. For example, MIMC envisages loosening entry restrictions, for example through visas, worldwide - and ultimately eliminating them as far as possible. Relief alone could increase the turnover of global tourism by half - which would also be a great financial incentive for states.

Should national borders be abolished altogether?

Doyle: Of course, there will still be nation-state boundaries, because borders are what make states out. I always compare states with clubs that can decide for themselves who becomes a member or a citizen and who does not. That will not change and it does not have to. But there is an important exception, and that is the flight from persecution and death. These people need unconditional protection.

At the moment, it does not look as though there will be a global agreement on these issues - keyword UN migration compact, which was also rejected by the US and many European countries.

Doyle: The UN Migration compact is valuable and it puts a lot of work and diplomatic skill behind it. Under the given political circumstances, the negotiators have reached the best possible compromise. Therefore, I greatly regret that there is no consensus and states like the USA and Austria have withdrawn from the compact. Last but not least, it is a declaration of intent that would also be enormously important as a strong international symbol for intensified cooperation. Especially the US, especially since the Iraq war (2003-2011, n.), Has a great responsibility for the destabilization of the Middle East, but it does not do it justice. 

Do you also call your MIMC, which goes much further than the present Migration Compact, a "realistic utopia" for this reason?

Doyle: From the current point of view, of course, it is unrealistic that our convention will be implemented. Under a president like Barack Obama and without Brexit and nationalism everywhere, that might be different. But I think in the longer term and I think that the implementation is not only possible but also necessary.

We must become aware of our global responsibility and mission and build coalitions - between states, regions, institutions.

Occasionally, we also feel very positive signals, such as when we presented the agreement at UNHCR. Some countries, such as Mexico and Ecuador, have already lent their support and Europe, which has traditionally been fairly liberal on migration issues, could once again play a pioneering role.

What is currently involved in the implementation?

Doyle: Unfortunately, political institutions do not appear in the unity and strength necessary for international solutions. For example, the EU does not yet have a single voice, but many often contradictory individual opinions of the member states. In the UN Security Council too, all five permanent member states have an extended veto right, so they can prevent any decision. Last but not least, certain parties are deliberately cultivating prejudices and worries in order to liven things up against immigrants, which, regrettably, is bearing fruit.

What would be further steps towards a worldwide solution?

Doyle: We need to become aware of our global responsibilities and responsibilities and build coalitions - between states, regions, institutions. The relevant decisions should be taken at institutional and supra-regional level, not in individual states. Migration must become a "Brussels" topic. Immigrants should live where they want, but the costs of care and integration are paid out of an EU pot. That would be a first, very important step.