Although many migrants have worked on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, risking their own lives to save others, they have sometimes been denied access to basic services and excluded from recovery plans, said said Thursday in New York the Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres.
Mr. Guterres was addressing the official opening of a meeting to review progress in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, adopted by governments in 2018.
The first International Migration Review Forum will also examine the interplay between migration and broader concerns, including the pandemic, conflict, financing for development and the climate emergency.
The lessons of the pandemic
While welcoming efforts to improve the lives of migrants, such as helping them integrate into host countries, Mr. Guterres noted that these measures are too often the exception and not the norm.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully demonstrated how far we are still from achieving rights-based, child-sensitive and gender-responsive governance of international migration,” he said.
Globally, there is a estimated 281 million international migrants worldwidewho have left their home country for travel, work or other opportunities, or due to conflict, poverty, natural disasters or other crises.
Migration is a reality, said the Secretary-General, but too often it has been mismanaged, uncoordinated, misunderstood and reviled.
Make migration safer
“Today, more than 80% of migrants in the world move from one country to another in a safe and orderly manner. But unregulated migration – the cruel realm of traffickers – continues to have a terrible cost,” Mr. Guterres said.
He underscored the humanitarian, moral and legal imperatives of safe and orderly migration as thousands of people still die each year in search of opportunity, greater dignity and a better way of life.
“We need to do more to break the grip of the smugglers and better protect migrants in vulnerable situations, especially women and girls,” he said.
Countries must also expand and diversify what the UN chief called “rights-based migration pathways” and ensure returns and readmissions are safe and fully in line with international law.
The Global Compact represents the determination of the international community to put human rights into practice to transform the way we understand and manage migration, he said.
Mr. Guterres said that migrants are part of society and must also be part of the renewed social contract, described in his Our common program report, to build trust, increase participation and strengthen social cohesion.
Support for governments
“The Global Compact goes to the heart of the United Nations mission. It is a global response to a global phenomenon for which we must be much better prepared.
The Secretary-General also highlighted support to Member States through the UN Network on Migration, which has established a mechanism to provide technical, financial and human resources for the implementation of the Compact.
The four-day International Migration Review Forum began on Tuesday and will end on Friday. Round tables and a policy debate took place on the first two days, with the last two days devoted to plenary meetings. A progress statement should be adopted
The Secretary-General urged participants to achieve a strong political outcome through concrete pledges and strong monitoring and follow-up mechanisms.
“Let’s keep the momentum going as we work together for a safer and more prosperous future for all of us, including migrants,” he said.
“Terrible human cost”
In his address, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, stressed the need to act now, drawing attention to “the terrible human cost”.
He said at least 8,436 migrant deaths were recorded worldwide between January 1, 2019 and November 24, 2021. Another 5,534 migrants went missing and are presumed dead, adding that these were only the numbers reported.
“Behind each number hides a family, a community, a life. They are looking for what we are looking for. They dream what we dream – Opportunity. Dignity. A better life,” Mr. Shahid said.
“Our ability to protect and integrate migrants is not just a barometer of the health of our institutions – but of the empathy we feel for our fellow human beings; of our will to do good by our own conscience; of our commitment to defend the fundamental human rights of all.
Shahid told the conference that as countries strive to recover from the pandemic and achieve sustainable development by 2030, they will need the contribution of all members of society, including including migrants.