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Boys fetching water in a makeshift migrants' camp in the Greek island of Chios. Boys fetching water in a makeshift migrants' camp in the Greek island of Chios.   (AFP or licensors)

On International Migrants Day UN urges protection of their rights

Several heads of UN bodies have called for the protection of the rights of migrants and urged countries to implement the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

By Robin Gomes

Stressing that “all migrants are entitled to equal protection of all their human rights,” the United Nations Secretary-General is urging countries to realize the goals of a global agreement that promotes enhanced international cooperation on migration. 

António Guterres made the invitation in a video message for International Migrants Day, observed annually on 18 December.

The UN General Assembly on December 4, 2000, declared December 18 as International Migrants Day, in commemoration of the day in 1990, when the Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. 

“Safe, orderly and regular migration,” Guterres said, “is in the interest of all”.  “And national priorities on migration are best achieved through international cooperation.”

Last December, countries agreed on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration following 18 months of consultation and negotiation.   It addresses the issue of migration at all levels, including mitigating factors that compel people to leave their homelands, whether to find work or for other reasons.

The protection of the rights of migrants and their safe, orderly and regular movements, Guterres said, are principles that are enshrined in the Global Compact.

Unfounded fears

He lamented “ we often hear narratives around migrants that are harmful and false”. “We often witness migrants facing unspeakable hardship as a result of policies shaped more by fear than by fact.”

“Migrants,” he pointed out, “are integral members of society, contributing to mutual understanding and sustainable development in communities of both origin and destination”.  

Guterres thus urged “leaders and people everywhere to bring the Global Compact to life, so that migration works for all”.

Thriving host communities

In a separate move on International Migrants Day, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reiterated the need to remember migrants and respect their rights and dignity. 

Migrants are an integral element of thriving communities that embrace change and adjust to it, wrote IOM Executive Director António Vitorino in an op-ed.  He also noted that migrants can become “champions of resilience”, for example, during times of disaster, environmental change, unemployment, and political turmoil. 

Vitorino said that the UN has set aside a day to recognize the estimated 272 million migrants that are integral members of all our societies today. 

Longing to belong

In a separate message for International Migrants Day,  the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet encouraged people everywhere to celebrate “what unites us”, adding that when we come together, we can overcome differences and struggles.  

“It is here where all of us find that we belong,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, in a video message.

Citing the story of her own family, she said that her great-grandfather had migrated from France to Chile, where she was born.   Bachelet who served for 2 terms as Chile’s president, was forced to leave her homeland for a period, during which, she said, the solidarity and generosity of her hosts helped her develop hope and a new sense of belonging.

Stories like these, she said, show how all people share what the UN rights chief described as “a longing to belong”, which includes caring for loved ones but also connecting with friends and communities.

Bachelet said she has frequently expressed her concern about the attitudes and behaviour that reject, dehumanize, exclude and attack migrants.  “A few try to divide us and shout down more moderate opinions” against the mainstream view of migration, she said.   

Every person who migrates, the UN rights chief said, has his or her own reasons for leaving behind homes and families, and each one of them has his or her own unique experiences along the journey and their own personal story of exile and belonging. (Source: UN News)

18 December 2019, 15:04