The director of the International Organization for Migration warns against "demonization" of migrants and their use as "weapons" for political gain

The incoming director-general of the International Organization for Migration, Amy Pope, has denounced the tendency to "demonize" migrants who are considered among the most vulnerable for political gain, saying she aims to bring about a shift in this regard.

Pope, 49, last month became the first woman elected director-general of the organization, and said in an interview this week that she was deeply concerned about the way some countries and groups use migrants as "weapons" to win political points at home.

Several countries in Europe are facing criticism for their harsh and even illegal dealings with migrants, including Britain, following its plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda and Greece, where a video recording spread last month showed what appeared to be a forceful expulsion of migrants who were left to go to sea without a specific destination.

A group of migrants, including women and children, was also stuck this week at the border between Poland and Belarus, while border guards were accused of preventing them from seeking asylum.

"What we've seen in recent years is people in extremely desperate situations being turned into weapons and using their vulnerability as a way to fuel what would normally be seen as a political conflict," Pope said, when asked about this case.

"I find this tactic very disturbing because it is above all inhumane, and I think in the end it does not lead to a better outcome for any party," she added.

"The main concern is that people have an opportunity to seek protection," said Pope, who will take up her new position in October. "The matter should be considered fairly rather than being used as political leverage."

And when the agency's current deputy director last month won the race to take over its presidency against its current director, Antonio Vitorino, she pledged to adopt a more positive narrative on migration and stress that "the people we talk about are human beings".

"We've all seen that when people acknowledge others as human beings, which I think is the lesson we learned from Ukraine, they show goodwill and a lot more openness," she said.

Pope stressed that more needs to be done to show that immigrants can be the solution, not the problem.

Along with warnings about how immigration can cause stress and pressure on governments, Pope points to the pressures of labor shortages.

"This is a good window," she said, noting that the organization can help connect migrants with opportunity and emphasize "the benefit of migration for economies."

"It must start with identifying the existing labor needs and then the available skills," she said, adding that the United Nations organization can help facilitate skill training, warning that unless this happens, "that demand for labor will fuel irregular migration."


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