International migration is a powerful tool for reducing poverty and enhancing opportunity. That is why there are now some 232 million international migrants bringing consistent benefits to countries of destination and origin through their essential labour and remittances. Yet, this important population remains largely invisible and unheard in society. Too many live and work in the worst conditions with the least access to basic services and fundamental rights, making them disproportionately vulnerable to extortion, violence, discrimination and marginalization.
Almost half of migrants are women; one in ten is under the age of 15; forty per cent live in developing countries. Poor and low-skilled migrants face the highest barriers to social mobility. The United Nations is acting to safeguard the rights of migrants, lower the social and economic costs of migration, and promote policies that maximize the benefits of mobility. Migrants should not be forced to risk lives and dignity seeking better lives. Earlier this year, the Convention Concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, many of whom are migrants, came into force. And, in October, United Nations Member States called for the post-2015 UN development agenda to take full account of the positive impact of international migration. They also committed to develop a framework for protecting migrants affected by humanitarian crises and recognized the need to facilitate international cooperation to address the challenges of migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner, with full respect for human rights.
On this International Migrants Day, I urge Governments to ratify and implement all core international human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. And I call on people and Governments everywhere to reject xenophobia and embrace migration as a key enabler for equitable, inclusive and sustainable social and economic development. Migration is a reality of the 21st century. It is essential that we conduct an open debate on this important subject. Let us make migration work for the benefit of migrants and countries alike. We owe this to the millions of migrants who, through their courage, vitality and dreams, help make our societies more prosperous, resilient and diverse.
This year was costliest on record for lives of migrants who died while crossing international borders IOM says.
|Calculating migrant deaths in border regions is a great challenge and the true number of deaths remains unknown.|
For several years I have been saying that migration can be summed up by a series of D words: Demographics, Disasters, Demand, Disparities and Dreams. This year I am adding a new D: Desperation.
The world watched in horror in October when some 360 African migrants lost their lives within sight of land while attempting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa. Untold hundreds have perished on the journey from Indonesia to Australia, or off the coast of Thailand. Migrants from Central America are raped, robbed, beaten and killed as they try to enter the USA from Mexico. African migrants die of thirst in the vast desert reaches – their bones the only testimony to their failed journey. Why do people risk their lives and the lives of their families, over and over, every hour of every day when the best that awaits them is a frosty welcome? The answer is simple: Desperation. They fear staying in a land where they face persecution, or where their family starves. That desperation makes the risk of death a gamble they believe worth taking. Migrants face death, danger and disappointment in search of their dreams. They may be materially poor, and lack hope, they may take on massive debts from corrupt recruitment agencies or traffickers and smugglers in the hope of getting to a safe place, for a new start. They are often forced by economics and lack of land to the most dangerous places – the shoreline, the mountain slope, the riverside – and migrate because their shacks are washed away by climate extremes. We believe that 2013 may have been the worst on record for migrant deaths. We will never know the true total, as many migrants died anonymously in deserts, in oceans or other accidents. However, our figures show that at least 2,360 migrants died this year, chasing the dream of a new life. That’s over six a day; one every four hours. We live in an era of unprecedented human mobility, with more people on the move than any other time in recorded history. Natural disasters and conflict are adding to levels of migration: some 5,000 people a day left the Central Philippines following typhoon Haiyan last month. A further 100,000 fled fighting in the Central African Republic in December alone. For the poorest, most desperate migrants, borders have been shut over the years as countries respond to political drumbeats of alarm and move to curtail immigration.
The paradox is that at a time when one in seven people around the world are migrants in one form or another (and more than 232 million people live outside their country of birth), we are seeing a harsh response to migration in the developed world. The few developed countries that are prepared to increase immigration levels generally want only highly-skilled, knowledge workers. The result is tightened border surveillance and reduced opportunities for would-be migrants. This, combined with political and economic upheaval, drives people into the hands of people smugglers whose unscrupulous trade is the fastest-growing sector in the organized crime world, estimated to be worth $35 billion a year. Migration is as old as humanity but we need to start thinking about it in new, smarter ways.
On this International Day we focus on the well-being and safety of migrants, IOM calls for strengthening of existing policies or develop new ones to protect human rights of those who leave home to seek better opportunities. We are ready to assist our member states and other partners in the development and implementation of those policies. We need measures that will enable employers in countries with labor shortages to access people desperate to work, and we need to ensure that these people are not exploited or exposed to gender based violence. We must work in a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach in the best interests of countries, communities and people, in particular migrants themselves. I am not naïve. Managing migration is complicated and we may need hybrid scenarios. Short-term migration visas, seasonal visas, portable social welfare – all these things are being pioneered in different parts of the world and I believe they are moves in the right direction. In 2016 there will be a World Humanitarian Summit: IOM will be asking how the global humanitarian community can ensure that political upheaval, economic stress and natural calamities do not always lead to a second round of challenges whereby desperate migrants, abandoned to their fate, are forced to take desperate measures.
On the occasion of International Migrants Day, the UN Human Rights Office and the International Labour Organization launch a series of cartoons to challenge myths and encourage a positive public perception of migration.ILO/OHCHR Cartoon key messages
“The public debate is dominated by xenophobic attitudes and discrimination, both in and outside the workplace,” said UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay and ILO Director-General Guy Ryder in a joint statement.
Reject Xenophobia, Embrace Migration as Key Development Enabler, United Nations Secretary-General Says in Message on International Migrants Day 2013.
United Nations Audio Library : Special event on the occasion of the International Migrants Day on “Classroom conversation on migration and development”