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United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants

United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants

19 September 2016

“I am here to urge you to stand up for a society free from xenophobia and racism. To defend the rights of vulnerable people who have abandoned everything they have ever known.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Every day, migrants from all over the world cross or attempt to cross land, air and sea borders to escape poverty, discrimination, persecution, violence, lack of access to rights, including health, education, and decent work, the consequences of climate change and other environmental factors, or to reunite with their families. Many move for a combination of these reasons.

The world is witnessing a historic level of large-scale and precarious human mobility: more refugees and migrants are leaving their homes, traveling along dangerous routes in search of safety and dignity, often to face abuse and exploitation in transit and at destination.

Other alarming trends are being noticed: migration is being criminalised and more States are adopting a military response to large movements of population including through enhanced barriers to entry at borders, increased detention and accelerated returns; a hostile and often blatantly xenophobic public narrative on migration is being stoked by political and public figures who are keen to gain electoral and other advantages by scapegoating migrants; human beings are being divided into ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ categories, juxtaposing one vulnerable individual against another.

Human rights are inalienable entitlements held by all human beings. Every migrant and refugee, including in the context of large movements, is a human rights-holder entitled to claim their rights. Regardless of the motives people have for crossing international borders, how they do so and where they come from, States have binding obligations towards all migrants and refugees at all stages of their migration.

At the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, the world should come together around one plan: a solemn promise to protect the human rights of all people on the move - refugees and migrants. States should vow to end immigration detention, particularly of children, by implementing alternatives to detention; counter intolerance and the social exclusion of migrants through sustained initiatives to build empathy and confront discrimination; and give specific protection to all migrants in a vulnerable situation.

For more information about the Summit, visit the official website: