United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has told diplomats that migration is a “a defining feature of humanity and our world”. He was speaking at the General Assembly while launching his second report on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
“Migration is a fact of life” and a “positive phenomenon” that enriches societies and economies, the UN chief said, arguing that if poorly managed, it generates huge challenges, he added, “from tragic loss of life, to rights abuses and social tensions”, which is why effectively managing migration and protecting their rights, requires “strengthened international cooperation”.
“The Global Compact reflects the commitment of the international community to make migration work for all – to make it a source of prosperity and solidarity, not a byword for inhumanity”, he stated.
Three years on, this task remains as urgent as ever.
The UN chief commended all who have helped migrants integrate into host countries, facilitated regular pathways, and advanced collaboration between countries of origin, transit and destination.
However, he underscored that “much more can and should be done”.
Guterres’ outlined report recommendations that encompassed four priorities, beginning with promoting inclusive societies and include migrants in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.
Despite playing an “outsized heroic role” in frontline response and providing a “vital lifeline” for families with scarce resources through their remittances, migrants are often excluded from recovery measures and denied access to basic services.
Moreover, many experience growing stigmatization, racism, and xenophobia.
As women and child face higher risks of trafficking along with gender-based violence, abuse and exploitation, others are forcibly returned, “with insufficient regard to health risks, due process or procedural safeguards”, he said.
It is imperative that all governments better protect migrants’ human rights, break down barriers for access to essential services, expand migration pathways and suspend forced returns, he added.
Although over 80 per cent of the world’s migrants move between countries in a safe and orderly fashion, unregulated migration continues to extract a terrible human cost.
“Large migration flows today are essentially managed by smugglers and human traffickers. This is totally unacceptable”, said Guterres, stressing the need for safe and regular migration.
He painted a grim picture of “these criminals” robbing people of their fundamental rights, stealing their dreams, and causing serious problems around the world, with “women and girls targeted again and again”.
The only way to break the stranglehold of smugglers and traffickers is to establish pathways for regular migration in close cooperation between countries of origin and destination, according to the UN chief.
“We must better protect migrants in vulnerable situations, including those affected by disasters and the climate crisis expands, and diversifies rights-based pathways for regular migration to address labour market shortages, and advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.
He said more needed to done “to ensure returns and readmissions are safe, dignified and in full accordance with obligations under international law.”
All governments must also work together to ensure their safe and sustainable reintegration into home communities, he added.
In the last seven years, nearly 50,000 migrant deaths have been recorded across the world, although the actual numbers are higher.
“Behind each number is a human being”, said the UN chief, outlining the priority of preventing loss of life and other tragedies during migration, and ending the exploitation of the vulnerable.
Calling their deaths “a source of collective shame”, the UN chief said it is “a humanitarian imperative and a moral and legal obligation” to eliminate smuggling and human trafficking.
His final priority focused on building capacity.
Describing “collaboration and cooperation” across all States as “the cornerstones” of the Global Compact, the Secretary-General drew attention to the UN Network for Migration, which has established a Capacity Building Mechanism – with a Migration Network Hub and Multi-Partner Trust Fund – to help achieve this.
Guterres expressed hope that during the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) – which kicked off on Thursday closes this Friday. His report should help prepare “tangible, ambitious and actionable pledges” for a “strong political outcome” that fosters “global solidarity towards migrants…and build[s] more resilient and inclusive societies.”
“Together – and only together – can we safeguard our common humanity and secure the rights and dignity of all.”
Hosting the briefing, General Assembly Abdulla Shahid said the report would play a key role during the IMRF.
“As we anticipate the first review of the Global Compact, we must aspire to far reaching and ambitious outcomes”, he said, adding that the forum must be “a space to discuss common challenges, rectify failures, and explore avenues to strengthen partnerships between States and stakeholders”.
This requires international cooperation and the strengthening of human rights-based, gender-responsive, child-sensitive migration policies that prioritize the dignity of all people.
Shahid called on member states to take “concrete actions” to foster bilateral and regional cooperation accelerate the implementation of the selected programmes in the Migration Multi-Partner Trust Fund and contribute to the dedicated funding window.
As “a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach is vital” for the IMRF, he encouraged the participants to consult with their national counterparts in preparing national strategies and invite local stakeholders to join their delegations.
In view of the progress already made, he also called on member states to maintain strong momentum going forward by “harnessing the power of multilateralism”, to achieve the Global Compact’s goals and address the needs of “all migrants and host-communities alike”.