Since its appointment by the General Assembly of United Nations (UN) on 4 December 2000, the 18th of December has been celebrated as the International Migrants Day. The origins of this day date back to 1997, when some Asian migrant organizations started to promote 18 December as the International Day of Solidarity with Migrants, choosing this date because on 18 December 1990 the UN adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
The UN invites member states, international organizations, public and private actors to observe this day by disseminating information on human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, sharing experiences and stories, and undertaking action to ensure the protection of migrants.
Today more than ever, raising awareness on international migration is crucial.
According to UN reports, the number of international migrants has been growing steadily: in 2015 their number surpassed 244 million, growing at a rate faster than the world’s population. However, there are roughly 65 million forcibly displaced persons, including over 21 million refugees, 3 million asylum seekers and over 40 million internally displaced persons. Around two thirds of all international migrants live either in Europe (76 million) or Asia (75 million), followed by North America and Africa.
Following the growth of international migration flows, international organizations, governments and civil society have increasingly given attention to the conditions of migrants in terms of human rights, as well as on the mid- and long-term effects of migrations on societies in both regions of origin and destination.
On a global level, in September 2006, the UN General Assembly held a High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development “to discuss the multidimensional aspects of international migration and development in order to identify appropriate ways and means to maximize its development benefits and minimize its negative impacts”.
Ten years later, in September 2016, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Its introduction reveals the key message to be spread to the world: “we recognized clearly the positive contribution made by migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development. Our world is a better place for that contribution. The benefits and opportunities of safe, orderly and regular migration are substantial and are often underestimated. Forced displacement and irregular migration in large movements, on the other hand, often present complex challenges”.
At the EU level, a fundamental aspect concerns the shared competence of the Union and its Member States on the migration area. Between 2015-2018, 22 billion euros have been allocated by the EU to migration and security (for more information, see EU Budget). Irregular migration flows, migrants risking their lives to reach Europe, seeking legal immigration channels, integration of migrants into the labour market, into the national and local societies and into the educational systems, these are the main challenges currently faced by the EU when it comes to international migrants.
The European Parliament has recently issued several resolutions and statements in which it advocates “humane, solidarity-based and common approach to migration”. In particular, the European Parliament resolution of 12 April 2016 on the situation in the Mediterranean and the Report of 22 February 2017 on Addressing refugee and Migrant movements contain significant guidelines on the issue of migration to Europe. In particular:
- The need for developing safe and lawful routes for asylum-seekers and refugees into the EU, including through resettlement and integration policy;
- Encouraging the development of adequate legal economic migration channels;
- Recalling that international migration can contribute to socio-economic development, as it has done historically;
- Calling on governments to address migration as a regular human phenomenon, taking into account the legitimate concerns of border management, protection of vulnerable groups and integration of all migrants.
A critical point related international migration concerns the integration of migrants into the labour market.
The European Commission, through its Investment Plan for Europe highlights the social impact of the integration of migrants and refugees into EU labour market. This action is to be accomplished through the provision of training and job-matching assistance paired with a risk-sharing between private and public investors to help local, regional and national governments improve efficiency of social and economic inclusion.
In order to promote migrants’ labour market integration, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has launched the IOM Skills2Work project, providing an early validation of migrants’ formal and informal skills and competences. The current progresses of Skills2Work project have been told through a Success Stories Booklet, containing stories from all over Europe as well as quotes from refugees and employers.
Within this context, European organizations like UNITEE – New European Business Confederation – representing entrepreneurs and professionals with a migrant background, can play a pivotal role in sharing good practices of migrants professional integration and mentoring activities to migrant potential entrepreneurs. Furthermore UNITEE’s stories can throw light on the effective contribution of migrants to Europe’s economy in terms of job creation, new products, sustainability and diversity.
Today, 18 December 2017, the UN Secretary António Guterres has pointed out that “Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay. The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and that the human rights of all concerned are properly protected.”
His declaration clearly highlights that on one hand the motivations to migrate can be extremely diverse (escape from a war or poverty, looking for a better job, family reunification); on the other hand, the only way forward to protect human rights and unlock its potential goes through a joint international effort.
So, why dedicating an International Day to migrants? The reasons are countless. Here are my top 3:
- Because despite migration flows are constantly happening around us, we still need to rethink them through different perspectives (less as a threat, more as an opportunity);
- Because today’s migrants and their families are tomorrow’s citizens of our societies;
- Because, if you think about it, we actually all are (or have been) migrants.