Migration is a fact of life and a ‘force for good’
Migration is a “fact of life” and a “force for good”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday, calling for safer options for the millions seeking opportunities to improve their lives in the face of danger and despair.
In a message marking International Migrants Day, the UN chief emphasized that migration promotes the exchange of knowledge and contributes to economic growth, but at the same time, “poorly governed migration is a cause of great suffering.”
“It forces people into the cruel realm of traffickers, where they face exploitation, abuse, and even death. It undermines trust in governance and institutions, inflames social tensions, and corrodes our common humanity,” he added.
Recalling the Global Compact
Mr. Guterres recalled the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, adopted by scores of countries five years ago, as an “important reference point and resource” to enhance cooperation among countries and expand rights-based pathways for migration.
“Yet such measures remain the exception, not the norm,” he said, urging everyone to work towards a more humane and orderly management of migration for the benefit of all, including communities of origin, transit, and destination.
“Together, let us secure a safer and more prosperous future for all,” he said.
Contributing nearly $650 billion
According to the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), about 3.6 per cent of the world’s population are migrants – defined as those who move away from their place of usual residence, within the country or internationally, temporarily or permanently.
Many among them move for better opportunities and in doing so, sustain their families and communities back home.
For instance, migrants remitted some $647 billion back to their homelands, according to 2022 data.
‘As old as humanity itself’
Amy Pope, Director-General of IOM, highlighted that migration “is as old as humanity itself”, with people often seeking to flee conflict and escape persecution.
“Yet today, migration is getting more complex,” she said, noting that 2023 saw “historic increases” in the number of people on the move.
“Because of climate change and pronounced economic disparity, many people have little choice but to find livelihoods elsewhere by moving,” she added.
For people on the move now, for those who will be on the move in the future and for those who want to stay, the IOM head urged solutions rooted in evidence and centered on people.
“Solutions that will work for people to stay in their communities, and for those who want to or must move,” she said.
The International Day
In 2000, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 18 December as International Migrants Day, recognizing the contributions made by migrants to societies globally.
The choice of date marks the day on which the Assembly adopted, in 1990, the treaty known as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Recognize their rights, protect them
The UN independent Committee on Migrant Workers called on nations to better address the effects of climate change and environmental disasters as drivers of migration.
The message comes against the backdrop that the changing climate could force as many as 216 million people to move, according to estimates by the World Bank, exacerbating migrants’ vulnerability and exposing them to human rights abuses.
“[We] recommend that States address climate change, environmental degradation, and natural catastrophes as drivers of migration, ensuring they do not impair the human rights of migrants and their families, among other recommendations,” the Committee said.
Similarly, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrants, Gehad Madi called for addressing prejudice, racism and xenophobia against migrants and their families.
“We must empower and recognize the role of migrants in positive interaction, particularly their social, economic, and cultural contributions to transit and receiving societies as well as their communities of origin,” he highlighted.
The members of the Committee and the Special Rapporteur are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to serve in an individual capacity. They are not UN staff and draw no salary.