International Migrants Day is celebrated

Today, December 18, is International Migrants Day. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly established this commemorative day in 2000 in recognition of the large number of people around the world who leave their countries due to poverty, war or human rights violations.

Currently, there are an estimated 214 million migrants around the world, 49% of whom are women. These migrants send remittances in excess of US$$440 billion annually.

Ten years earlier, on December 18, 1990, the General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, a resolution establishing the collaboration of the various UN member countries to ensure and protect the human rights of migrants.

As one of those migrants, today I send you a big greeting and my best wishes to all the immigrants in the world who are forced to leave their countries in search of a better life.

Below is the message from the UN Secretary General celebrating "International Migrants Day":

Secretary General's message for 2012

People around the world are constantly leaving their countries in search of a safer or better life. Globally, there are more than 214 million people on the move. Many of them are fleeing difficult living conditions but end up facing even greater problems, such as human rights violations, poverty and discrimination. However, these migrants harbor more than fear and uncertainty; they also possess hope, courage and the determination to achieve a better life. With the right support, they can contribute to the progress of society.

Migration is a global issue that is gaining increasing attention everywhere, and rightly so. Next year, the United Nations General Assembly will hold its second High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, which will provide an opportunity for Member States and their partners to discuss practical measures to facilitate labor mobility, promote sustainable development and protect the rights of migrants, especially women and children.

Attention to the rights of migrants is particularly important at this time of severe economic and financial hardship in the world. With budget constraints, we see the implementation of austerity measures that discriminate against migrant workers, xenophobic rhetoric that encourages violence against irregular migrants, and proposed immigration laws that allow police to profile migrants with impunity. During economic crises, it is worth remembering that entire sectors of the economy depend on migrant workers and that migrant entrepreneurs contribute to job creation.

When migration policies are formulated without addressing vulnerability, marginalization and discrimination, millions of migrants become cheap and expendable labor, scapegoats for the failure of economic and social policies, and even victims of the ill-defined war against "illegal migration".

With the increasing complexity of human mobility and the dangerousness of the journeys undertaken by many migrants, it is all the more pressing to devise national policies that address migration on the basis of human rights principles.

In the run-up to the HLD, I hope that Member States will address human rights as a key issue for migration governance; at the national level, I encourage them to take steps to decriminalize irregular migration, establish effective alternatives to migrant detention and ensure that the roles of public service providers, such as nurses or teachers, are kept strictly separate from those performed by immigration authorities. I also hope that participants will give due consideration to the issue of migration in the context of the post-2015 global development agenda.

On this International Migrants Day, I call on States to ratify and implement all instruments related to this issue. Furthermore, I encourage everyone to contribute to a principled, practical and creative discussion on how we can ensure the protection of the rights of all migrants, wherever they are and whatever their situation.

Ban Ki-Moon