Better integration key to tackling anti-migrant backlash: OECD

Paris (AFP) - Western governments need to tackle a growing anti-migrant backlash by helping newcomers integrate faster, the OECD said, following a sharp increase in immigration to its member states.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, a grouping of mostly developed economies, said around 4.8 million people migrated to member countries in 2015 -- up 10 percent in a year.

In a report to be presented to a UN summit on refugees and migrants opening later in New York, the OECD said the newcomers included a record 1.65 million registered new asylum seekers, nearly 1.3 million of them in Europe where the influx has fanned the rise of right-wing populist parties in France, Germany, Austria and elsewhere.

Across the Atlantic, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has also campaigned heavily on immigration, vowing to build a wall along the Mexican border and deport large numbers of the undocumented.

"The public is losing faith in the capacity of governments to manage migration," the OECD's International Migration Outlook report warned.

While the medium and long-term effects of migration are "generally positive" for economies, "this message is not getting through," the OECD's director for employment, labour and social affairs, Stefano Scarpetta, wrote in his foreword.

Citizens of host countries worry that migration is running out of control, that public services are overstretched, that immigration only benefits the rich and that migrants do not want to integrate, he said.

"Countries must acknowledge and address the fact that the impact of migration is not the same for everyone," Scarpetta said.

This includes recognising that large numbers of low-skilled migrants arriving in an area could damage the job prospects of low-skilled locals.

Host countries need to ensure that employers do not use migrants to circumvent minimum wages and labour laws, the report said.

Migrant arrivals in Europe have fallen dramatically since a March deal between the EU and Turkey to stem the tide of people crossing the Aegean Sea, even as others continue to set sail across the Mediterranean from Africa.

"The big task, the big challenge now is integration," OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said at the launch of the report in Paris.

- Swedish model -

Host countries needed to speed up identification of migrants' qualifications and invest more in language training to help them access work, the report said.

Currently, it takes about 20 years before a migrant's chance of employment in Europe becomes equal to that of a non-migrant.

Gurria cited Sweden, which received more asylum seekers per capita than any other EU member last year, as an example of a country making strides in fast-tracking work initiatives for newcomers.

"They don't wait for migrants to be able to speak Swedish and have qualifications in engineering or whatever. They put them to work and then start teaching them Swedish in the workplace."

The OECD called for greater international cooperation on managing global migration and for destination countries to look at "alternative pathways" for refugees to reach safety without resorting to smuggler boats, by, for example, awarding more student and family migration visas.

The organisation also suggested a form of "lottery" for refugees registered by the UN refugee agency, which would give "everyone the chance to use the legal route."