By Robin Gomes
The chief of the United Nations has called for solidarity with migrants whose rights need to be protected and urged for cooperation in managing migration to ensure its benefits are most widely distributed. “On International Migrants Day, we recognize the contributions and celebrate the vitality of the world’s 258 million migrants,” noted UN Secretary-General António Guterres in his message on International Migrants Day, marked annually on Dec. 18. The theme of this year’s observance is “Safe Migration in a World on the Move.”
Climate change, instability and growing inequalities mean “[migration] is here to stay,” Guterres stated. He called for effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed and that human rights of all concerned are properly protected – as recognized by the UN 2030 Agenda.
International Organization of Migration
For his part, the Director-General of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, made an urgent call for safe migration in a world on the move. Calling migration a human reality to be managed, not a problem to be solved, Swing emphasized the need to assist migrants, warning “if we don't come up with solutions, the smugglers will do it for us, at great cost to human life and to the fabric of our societies.”
In a separate message for the annual observance, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said her agency is acting to advance the migration-related commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” and is working with UN partners in shaping a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
The UNESCO chief said the 2030 Agenda promises to leave no one behind, which must include every migrant. “Fundamentally, this is about defending our common humanity through solidarity in action,” Azoulay added.
Pope Francis too made his voice heard on International Migration Day with a tweet: “Every stranger that knocks at our door is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ.”
The cause of migrants has been a hallmark of the Argentine Pope who turned 81 on Sunday. In fact, his first ever visit outside the Vatican after his election on 13 March 2013, was to the Italian island of Lampedusa on July 8, where he paid homage to the migrants and refugees, mainly from Africa, many of whom drowned while undertaking perilous journeys across the Mediterranean trying to make it to Europe.
Pope Francis has also dedicated his message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, Jan. 1, to migrants and refugees. Entitled, “Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace,” the message warns that exploiting the fear of migrants and refugees for political gain increases the possibility of violence and discrimination and does nothing to build a culture of peace.
The Pope’s message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees calls on Catholics to lobby their governments to relax their immigration laws and to be more welcoming to people entering their territories. “The principle of the centrality of the human person… obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security,” the Pope wrote.