Migrants deserve respect, safety and dignity

There are more international migrants today than at any other time in human history, with an estimated more 232 million people living and working outside their own countries. But many migrants face exploitation, discrimination and violence as they move, as well as in countries of destination where they live and work.

In a joint statement to commemorate International Migrants’ Day, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein and International Labour Organization Director Guy Ryder, have called on States to recognize and adopt all core international human rights and international labour rights standards.

“A powerful means to reduce inequality, particularly affecting migrants, is through the protection of human rights and labour rights, which form the cornerstone of fairer migration policies,” the statement read.

The UN Human Rights Chief and ILO Director-General noted that the post-2015 UN development agenda will be a pivotal opportunity to deliver more equitable and sustainable development. “To be truly sustainable, development must be people-centred and inclusive. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said unequivocally that the post-2015 agenda must leave ‘no one behind’ and ‘must not exclude migrants’. It must address inequalities in all areas and must apply to all social and economic groups,” the statement added.

The United Nations first initiated International Migrants Day in 2000, when it took note of the situation of the large and increasing number of migrants around the world. This day is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the rights and achievements of migrants, regardless of their status.  

In sharp contrast, the negative public rhetoric surrounding migration in many countries has tended to demonise and stigmatise migrants. In a speech to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Zeid said migrants are depicted as invasive, that they are “flooding”, “jumping the queue” or “threatening our way of life.” They are even called illegal. All this does it to allow the exploitative and dangerous practices toward migrants to flourish, he said.

“There is no such thing as an illegal human being,” Zeid said. “On the contrary, all migrants – regular or irregular – have an inalienable claim to dignity, to justice, to freedom and to all other human rights.”

The UN Human Rights Office has advocated that States and all stakeholders promote and protect the human rights of all migrants, including through the design of concrete policies that combat xenophobia and improve negative public perceptions of migration and migrants.

18 December 2014

See also