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Call for States to spearhead a new way of thinking, speaking and acting on migration – UN experts

Migrants Day

15 December 2017

GENEVA (15 December 2017) – Migrants’ contribution to society needs to be fully recognized, and States should encourage discussions about them to be positive, inclusive and facts-based, a group of UN human rights experts* has said. In a call to mark International Migrants’ Day on 18 December, the experts said that it is vital for states to recognize migrants as integral members of society and as equal rights holders. Their full statement is as follows:

“States can play a significant role in promoting positive perceptions about migrants in the general public, by using and promoting a positive discourse, and by presenting facts and studies, including about the contribution of migrants to societies. These steps will help combat the negative populist perception of migrants.

It is important to change the narrative and the approach by which migration is viewed. States must stop perpetuating the myth to stop irregular migration, and criminalizing irregular entry and stay, and move from a zero-tolerance attitude to a human rights-based approach to migration, fostering inclusiveness and integration.

This would allow states to develop a much more complex view of why and how people move, information about the various causes for migration and the ways in which migrants move should be disseminated to the public. Demographic shifts lead to serious labour shortages – and migrants often move to fill these jobs. Others move for family reunifications or are compelled to leave their home country due to poverty, violence, discrimination, climate change or poor governance.

We all know that migrants contribute to social and economic development in the countries of destination. Migrants – both adults and children – can only enrich our societies. Their resilience, motivation, energy and drive are an inspiration. We have to provide them a place in our society that allows them to thrive – free from discrimination, racism, exploitation, abuse and suffering and which guarantees their fundamental rights.

Host societies should be able to take into account all benefits and challenges of migration in terms of economic growth, demographic changes, ethnic and cultural diversity, social inclusion, personal freedoms and respect for the rule of law.

Migration is not a threat. It is a daily reality and an opportunity. When the human rights of all migrants, including migrant children’s and women’s rights, are respected, they are able to realize their full potential, and contribute to the development of their new societies in so many meaningful ways.  Respecting and protecting human rights for all migrants, regardless of their race, religion, colour, descent, or national and ethnic origin, plays a pivotal transformative and empowering role in this regard.  

The fundamental rights of migrants, such as the rights to equality and non-discrimination, health, education, to an adequate standard of living as well as their labour rights, need to be respected and protected, in line with the obligations that States have contracted by ratifying legally binding human rights treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. If violations of these rights occur at any point, as equal rights holders, all migrants must have access to justice and to an effective remedy.

Migrant women, children and men's experiences of racial discrimination including structural racism and associated profiling, at all stages in the migration process and in their ongoing daily lives need to be acknowledged and immediately addressed.
Urgent and long-term measures are needed to foster social and economic environments which enable the full inclusion of migrants with the local population, without discrimination on any grounds, while enabling them to preserve their distinct origin and historical experiences without fear or intimidation. We need reforms in the legal, institutional, political, policy and social sectors to foster inclusion and solidarity.

Migration itself is a natural part of human existence. It is not a crime and it is not a problem. This approach to migration governance shifts emphasis away from closing borders and keeping people out, and towards creating accessible, regular, safe and affordable migration channels, and promoting and celebrating diversity.


*The UN experts: Mr. Felipe González Morales; Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Jose S. Brillantes, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; Ms. Anastasia Crickley, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Ms. Renate Winter, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of the Child; Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 18 December 1990. It establishes, in certain areas, the principle of equality of treatment with nationals for all migrant workers and their families, regardless of their legal status. It set forth, for the first time, internationally uniform definitions agreed upon by States for different categories of migrant workers. It also obliged sending, transit and receiving States parties to institute protective action on behalf of migrant workers.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
Alice Ochsenbein (+41 22 917 98 30 / [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Jeremy Laurence – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

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