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People on the move: safeguarding the rights of migrants

Human Rights High Commissioner, Navi Pillay told the Global Forum on Migration and Development meeting in Mexico that the global community must work together to overcome the problems associated with irregular migration and the demand side of trafficking.

UN Human Rights Chief calls for a human rights-based approach to migration © UN Photo/ Sharon GrobeisenIn her capacity as Chair of the Global Migration Group for the past six months, Pillay adopted as her central theme the centrality of human rights to the complex and multiple problems created by the movement of millions of people globally.

Pillay recalled in her address to the Forum that today, 214 million people or almost three percent of the world’s population are migrants.  She emphasized the economic benefits that flow to countries of origin and destination because of contributions from migrants and described the other ways in which migrants enrich other societies through new practices, ideas and technology, fostering understanding and respect among peoples, and contributing to demographic balance.

“For many, migration is a positive and empowering experience,” Pillay said, “but many others endure human rights violations, discrimination, and exploitation.”

The High Commissioner highlighted the problems faced by irregular migrants.  Their situation, she said, should not deprive them either of their humanity or their rights.  “Government authorities, the media, the general public, often behave as though abuse of a migrant somehow matters less than the abuse of a regular citizen. It does not. A child is a child, a woman is a woman, a man is a man: whoever and wherever they may happen to be, at home or abroad,” Pillay said.

The GMG brings together 14 UN agencies, the International Organization for Migration and the World Bank. Both the GMG and the Global Forum were established in 2006 to find solutions to the many complex issues arising from global migration.

Read the full text of the High Commissioner’s address to the Global Forum on Migration Development.

11 November 2010