The 18th December 2016 is International Migrants Day, a day observed annually by the United Nations and countries throughout the world to acknowledge and celebrate the rights of migrants and to draw attention to the current issues and opportunities surrounding global migration.
The United Nations recently (September 2016) adopted a set of committments known as the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (NY Declaration). According to the United Nations, “the NY Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international protection regime and represents a commitment by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move.”
This has been another turbulent year for refugees and migrants. We have seen the continued devastating effect of armed conflict on civilian populations, leading to death, destruction and displacement. We have witnessed the unacceptable loss of thousands of lives of people in transit in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. And, to add insult to injury, we have witnessed the rise of populist movements that seek to alienate and expel migrants and refugees, and to blame them for various ills of society.
Yet, within this turbulence we also find rays of hope, with concerned citizens and communities opening their arms and hearts. We have also seen a promising international response, culminating with the New York Declaration adopted in September at the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants. It is now crucial that governments honour and build on their commitments to govern large movements of refugees and migrants in a way that is compassionate, people-centred, gender-responsive and rooted in fundamental human rights.
Every migrant is a human being with human rights. Protecting and upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their status, is a foundational element of the New York Declaration. To accomplish this, we need stronger international cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination that is guided by international law and standards. We must reject intolerance, discrimination and policies driven by xenophobic rhetoric and the scapegoating of migrants. Those who abuse and seek to harm migrants must be held to account…. [Continue reading]
– United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, Message for International Migrants Day 2016
This day is a reminder to respect the human rights of all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers around the world, including those who seeking to come to Australia. It is a chance to reflect on the current policies of the Australian government and whether they show respect for the inherent dignity of worth of all who seek asylum in Australia and elsewhere.
The 2015-16 Social Justice Statement from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) is a exploration of the current Australian approach to refugees and asylum seekers, and a message encourageing all Australians to welcome the stranger as their neighbour. You can read the statement here.
For more information about International Migrants Day and the United Nations actions in regards to global migration, head to www.un.org/en/events/migrantsday and www.iom.int (the International Organization for Migration).