December 18 marks International Day of Migrants, in remembrance of the thousands of men, women, and children who have lost their lives through treacherous journeys seeking protection and better lives. On December 18, 25 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly approved the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and while the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all countries to sign and ratify the Convention, a mere one-fourth of the UN Member States have done so.
The Secretary-General pushed further regulations for safe transportation, but with little success. In the 15 years since the passing of the Convention, the number of migrants in the world has increased by 60%; from 153 million to 244 million. These numbers will continue to rise, and are mostly due to economic, demographic and environmental issues or crises around the world.
“… We witness unprecedented levels of human suffering associated with migration, particularly due to forced displacement. Furthermore, many migrants are subject to discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance,” said the UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft.
Ban ki-moon speaks about what the UN is doing to help ”… tens of thousands more have been exploited and abused by human traffickers. And millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric… With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders vowed to protect the labour rights of migrant workers, combat transnational criminal human trafficking networks, and promote well-regulated migration and mobility.” The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has ambitious goals to end poverty and hunger, sustainably manage the earth’s resources, bring a high quality of life to all individuals, and prevent violence through fostering peace. The Agenda works with the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.
“We are in the midst of the largest exodus of people since World War II fleeing their homes for reasons of conflict and destitute of life,” stated the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson. “Human mobility is a defining feature of our world today,” the Deputy Secretary-General stated.
When it comes to the international community, national leaders, and all communities of the societies, “They must address the root causes of forced displacement including by ending conflict. And they must speak out in support of the rights of migrants and against all forms of discrimination,” UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, standing behind the Secretary-General.
The International Organization of Migration (IOM) sent a call for the world to recognize those who lost their lives fleeing their home for better lives, and candlelight vigils have been held around the world on the date.
“On International Migrants Day, let us commit to coherent, comprehensive and human rights-based responses guided by international law and standards and a shared resolve to leave no one behind,” said Ban ki-moon. “Each person has a name, a story and left their homelands seeking better opportunities and safety for themselves and in many cases for their families – aspirations that all of us strive for,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing in his message.