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Celebrating International Migrants’ Day 2021

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In the year 2020, there were an estimated 281 million international migrants around the world. This number represented 3.6 percent of the global population at the time and a 60 million increase in international migrants from 2010.

Human mobility and migration activities were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the effects of which are still felt by migrants around the world. International governing bodies such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) continue to seek ways to improve migrants’ lives as the world celebrates International Migrants Day on 18th December 2021.

Understanding the Factors Driving Migration

Migrants make sometimes voluntary but most often forced decisions to leave their countries due to various factors. Increasingly driving the forced movements of migrants are factors such as lack of access to healthcare, potable water, education, food, housing, poverty, degrading effects of environmental pollution, climate change, and internal conflicts. 

At the core of most migration activity is the search for greener pastures which is usually a positive and enlightening experience for many. However, there are multiple ways in which migrants can be left vulnerable in their destination countries. Some of these vulnerabilities are evidenced by human rights violations such as exploitation, marginalization, and discrimination. Therefore they are forced to live and work in the shadows, unable to make formal complaints, and are ultimately denied access to fundamental human rights and freedom.

Some of the human rights violations experienced by migrants include the denial of political and civil rights, detention, torture, and denial of economic, social, and cultural rights like healthcare, education, and housing. These fundamental human rights are systematically refused due to the existence of discriminatory laws and prevalent prejudice among natives of destination countries.

Migrants Contribute Greatly

Migrants help build stronger and more resilient communities in countries of destination through their contribution, knowledge, networks, and skills. Regardless of a country’s level of development, the benefits of welcoming migrants and refugees include increased innovation, higher productivity, and higher incomes and employment rates for natives.

According to the UNDP Human Development Report for 2020, it is vital to ensure that individual migrants settle in well on arrival, while the communities they join should not feel unfairly burdened by the additional demands they place on key services.

With the right policies in place, countries can benefit greatly from international human mobility while ensuring the wellbeing of migrants. Therefore, it has become pertinent that countries develop policies and strategies to harness the potential of migration and ensure that the fundamental human rights of migrants are protected. One such internationally recognized agreement that governs international migration is the Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration (GCM).

The Global Compact for Safe and Orderly Migration (GCM). 

International discussions on issues related to migration and refugees started in September 2016, at the UN General Assembly. Leaders of the 193 UN member states recognized the need to urgently address international human mobility issues at the meeting.

Using the Annex II of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as a case study, the process of deliberations and proceedings began towards the development of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. A series of further deliberation on the formulation and development of the GCM held up until December 2018. On December 10, 2018, the GCM was initially adopted by the majority of UN member states in an intergovernmental conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco. Subsequently, the GCM was endorsed at the UN General Assembly on December 19, 2018.

Foundation Guide - International Migrants Day

The GCM, which was premised on the need for a holistic approach to human mobility and enhanced international cooperation, became the first internationally negotiated agreement under the UN. It covers the various aspects of international migration including the exclusive rights of UN member states to establish and enforce entry and habitation requirements for migrants.

The Global Compact establishes an international commitment to global cooperation on migration. It offers a great opportunity to better the governance of migration, address pressing migration challenges today, and bolster the contribution of migration and migrants to global sustainable development.

International Migrants’ Day 2021: Harnessing the Potential of Human Mobility

The theme of this year’s International Migrants Day was “Harnessing the Potential of Human Mobility.” It is expected that the growing number of the world’s population designated as migrants and global occurrences such as the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to shape the dynamics of future migration activities.

The annual International Migrants’ Day celebration on the December 18 coincides with the date the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 1990. 

International Migrants’ Day 2021 also coincides with the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Brussels conference, which lead to the establishment of the organization that was renamed International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 1989. The IOM is therefore focused on mitigating the socio-impacts of COVID-19 on migrants and harnessing the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of migrants as it marks its 70th year.