Honduran leader urges UN Assembly to address migration as human rights issue

25 September 2007

The President of Honduras today urged national leaders attending the General Assembly's annual high-level debate to deal with migration not as a threat or problem but as a human rights issue.

Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales said it is a great paradox of the current age that while borders are opening for commerce and goods, they are closing for people and migrants. The issue of migration should be a central concern to both sending and receiving countries, he said.

He said Honduras had authority to speak on the issue, given its history as a multi-ethnic and multiracial society that has a served as a place of transit and refuge. “Migration never has been and never should be considered a crime or a threat,” he said. The issue should not be on the security agenda of countries but rather should be considered in the context of development, he added.

“Migration is a right, a simple and elemental human right,” he declared, adding that it would be “myopic” to view the problem only from the perspective of family remittances or other narrow issues. “The problem is more complex and difficult” involving factors such as economic and political structures, natural disasters, wars, violence, poverty and unemployment, he said.

Migrants, above all, are “human beings who have done nothing other than look for better opportunities.” They must be recognized as such, and treated with fundamental respect, he said.

The President appealed to those present to forge consensus on the issue, and called on the UN to build a world where migrants could realize their objectives in life.

President Daniel Ortega Saavedra of Nicaragua also spoke out in favour of migrants' rights. The amount of money sent back to families by immigrants “is a miserable amount compared to the volume of wealth that is extracted on a daily basis by forms of institutionalized oppression,” he said.

Immigrants in the United States and Europe “work harder than anyone else ? they are doing the jobs that the Europeans and Americans don't want, for miserable wages. Who is doing them a favour?”

He said no one was helping those poor people who managed to put aside a bit of money to send to their families. “These companies are simply using cheap labour.”

President Ortega said a “capitalist imperialist minority” was “imposing global capitalism to impoverish the world and impose apartheid against Latin American immigrants, and against African immigrants in Europe.”

He called global capitalism a “beast” which “has tentacles everywhere.”

Recalling his last speech before the Assembly 18 years ago, he said then as now “the enemy is the same one: this enemy is called global imperialist capitalism? It is only we the peoples that can change this.”

The President of Paraguay, Nicanor Duarte Frutos, said South America must become stronger “to claim its rights in this asymmetrical globalization.”

He called for a more just distribution of financing for development. “Speculative investment has shifted to the countries and regions where production is exploited and then we are invaded, and through dishonest business deals our industries are endangered and closed. At the same time our raw material is undervalued.”

He called for capital to be invested in updating industries in developing countries. “At the very least, the terms of exchange should be more just and should not be imposed unilaterally.”

The international economic order must promote a more equitable world economy through cooperation and fair treatment for all countries, he said. “All countries should be allowed in the club to develop mankind.”

The UN must respect this philosophy, he stressed, calling for priority attention to programmes to end poverty and unemployment.

President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina said the world cannot ensure peace based on a military approach, and called for respect for human rights and democracy. He urged a better distribution of wealth, saying “each country must have the right to seek out its own model for development, without external interference.”

He called for a change in the structure of global financial institutions, particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “We need to grow and to improve the standards of living in our societies,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of talks in the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). “We want to see equity in the world markets; we want to see discrimination towards our products removed.”

 

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