Solidarity with migrants has never been more urgent, says António Guterres


Today, more people than ever live in a country other than where they were born. While many people migrate by choice, many others leave their homes out of necessity.

About 281 million people were international migrants in 2020, or 3.6% of the world’s population.

In his message, António Guterres said that people on the move “continue to face widespread stigma, inequalities, xenophobia and racism”.

“Migrant women and girls face an increased risk of gender-based violence and have fewer options to seek support,” he added.

With borders closed due to the pandemic, Guterres recalled that many migrants are stranded without income or shelter, unable to return home, separated from their families and facing an uncertain future.

“Yet throughout the pandemic, migrants have enriched societies around the world and are often on the front lines of the pandemic response, as scientists, health professionals and essential workers,” he said. he declares.

ILO / Marcel Crozet

Migrant workers from Moldova are in charge of the demolition at a site in the Podolsky district of Moscow. (archives)

Exploit the potential

The 2021 International Day edition is under the theme “Harnessing the potential of human mobility”.

For the UN chief, the world needs more effective international cooperation and a more compassionate approach to achieve this goal.

“This means that we must manage borders with humanity, fully respect human rights and the humanitarian needs of everyone and ensure that migrants are included in national Covid-19 vaccination plans,” he said. -he explains.

It also means recognizing regular entry routes and addressing the drivers of migration, such as deep inequalities and human trafficking.

Next year, the International Migration Review Forum will take stock of progress made in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

For the UN chief, this is “an opportunity to advance efforts to ensure the full inclusion of migrants as we seek to build more resilient, fairer and more sustainable societies.”

Mr. Guterres also praised the engagement campaign launched by the United Nations Migration Network to strengthen the Global Compact and encourage member states and other actors to get involved.

UN Women / Ryan Brown

A Central African refugee woman living in Cameroon prepares food for her clients.

Anti-migrant sentiment

This year, International Migrants Day falls almost to the day 70 years after the historic Brussels conference that led to the creation of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In his message, IOM Director General António Vitorino recalled the startling images of closed borders and separated families, amid economic disarray due to COVID, which have become more common in recent years.

According to him, the global pandemic has also spawned a new wave of anti-migrant sentiments and the growing instrumentalization of migrants as political pawns.

“Both are unacceptable,” Vitorino said.

For him, the response to the pandemic also underscored the importance of migrant workers in ensuring the safety of all.

“The positive social and economic impact in the countries where they reside, and the $ 540 billion transferred last year to communities in low- and middle-income countries, are measures of industry, entrepreneurship and the community we all benefit from, ”he explained.

Two requirements

The IOM chief argued that, to realize the full potential of human mobility, two things must happen.

First, governments must walk the talk and include migrants, regardless of their legal status, in their economic and social recovery plans.

Second, they must strengthen legal channels for migration that respect national sovereignty and the human rights of people on the move.

“A holistic approach requires putting aside the defensive postures which too often victimize people throughout their migratory journey,” said Vitorino.

Racism and education

For the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, the need to stop the circulation of the virus should not jeopardize access to a better life.

She recalled that the factors leading to forced migration are accentuating, with the increase in conflicts, growing food insecurity and the climate emergency.

Ms. Azoulay recalled the report published in November by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which shows that the number of forced displacements has doubled in ten years. For her, this shows “the urgency to act to protect these vulnerable populations”.

Stressing that these people are often victims of discrimination and racism, she said that UNESCO was developing a new approach, following the Global Appeal against Racism launched by Member States last year.

Ms Azoulay also highlighted the conclusions of a UNESCO report entitled Migration, displacement and education: building bridges and not walls, affirming that education is “often the first step towards other more stable horizons” .

End the detention of migrants

Around the world, millions of migrants, including women and children, continue to be detained because of their status.

In a statement released on Friday, independent human rights experts urged member states to end the practice and immediately stop detaining migrant children.

“People shouldn’t be treated like criminals just because they have crossed a state border irregularly or have no proper papers. The mass detention of these people cannot be seen as a mere occasional immigration control measure, ”they said.

According to experts, the use of immigration detention has increased significantly since the 1990s, although it is prohibited by international law.

Detention has a significant impact on the health and personal integrity of migrants, including their mental health, including anxiety, depression, exclusion, post-traumatic stress disorder and even the risk of suicide.

Special rapporteurs and independent experts are appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, headquartered in Geneva, to examine and report on a specific human rights issue or the situation of a country. These positions are honorary and experts are not remunerated for their work.  

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