Marking International Migrants Day, United Nations officials today called attention to the abuses suffered by millions of people who have left their home countries, and urged greater international efforts to protect them.
"There is abundant evidence that migrants, and in particular migrant women and unaccompanied children, are often denied access to health and education; subjected to physical, psychological, and sexual abuse; prevented from reuniting with their families, and detained and deported in conditions that violate international human rights standards and make them vulnerable to networks of smuggling and trafficking in persons," Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in his message on the occasion.
He noted that the suffering endured by migrants is often compounded by bigotry. "Discrimination may be both implicit, in the lack of mechanisms of protection for migrants, and explicit, in the form of discriminatory national legislations and outright acts of racism or xenophobia," he said.
Mr. Annan called for intensified efforts to achieve widespread adherence to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which recently entered into force. "I call upon Member States who have not yet ratified or acceded to the Convention to do so, as soon as possible, as a way to ensure the full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants," he said.
Jan Kavan, the President of the UN General Assembly, also called on States to join that treaty, pointing out that "the protection of human rights of migrants is not incompatible with either the exercise of sovereignty by States or the practical implementation of national security."
According to the UN, in 2000, an estimated 175 million people lived outside their country of birth. Of these, about 159 million were deemed international migrants, while 16 million were recognized refugees fleeing a well-founded fear of persecution.